John Durham failed because the anti-Trump ‘Russiagate’ conspiracy never happened

By | October 19, 2022

Jonathan Chait writes:

John Durham’s latest, and presumably final, humiliation is the capstone of his failed attempt to prove a conspiracy theory that has long been accepted as settled fact in the conservative universe. This theory holds that, in 2016, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, or James Comey (or maybe all of them — the mastermind changes in different iterations) devised a plot to smear Donald Trump by ginning up an FBI investigation into his completely innocent and superficial connections to Russia. The purpose of the scheme was to paint Trump as a Russian stooge. Somehow, the plotters forgot to activate its key step: leaking the existence of the FBI probe before the election. In any event, the planned October surprise became a January surprise, hampering Trump’s presidency until Robert Mueller was eventually forced to admit there was no collusion, after which the damage had already been done.

The actual events of this period are clear. Trump began exhibiting a suspicious pattern of behavior in relation to Russia. He lavished its dictator with praise, surrounded himself with people who were sympathetic to and/or paid by Moscow, hinted at his own business deals with Russia but defied precedent by refusing to publish his tax returns, and appointed a man who had managed the presidential run of a Russian puppet in another country as his own campaign manager.

Many people were alarmed by these things and wanted to get to the bottom of them. It is true that the same people also did not want Trump to win the election, but it completely misapprehends their motives to assume that their only goal for investigating his deeply suspicious Russia connections was a desire to smear him. If anything, this rationale is backward: Trump’s ties to Russia made national security officials oppose him. What national security official would be happy about having a president who was in bed with, and creepily submissive to, one of the country’s biggest global enemies?

The Justice Department appointed an inspector general to investigate the FBI’s probe of Trump’s ties to Russia and found that, despite some low-level mistakes, the probe had been adequately predicated. There was no evidence it was directed by Trump’s enemies, undertaken for political reasons, or fundamentally improper in conception.

But Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr refused to accept these findings and instead appointed a special counsel, John Durham, who would be tasked with confirming their conspiracy theory. Durham failed to uncover any conspiracy because it did not exist. [Continue reading…]

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