Anticipation or dread — depending on one’s political affiliation — heralds news of any progress in U.S. Attorney John Durham‘s criminal probe into possible FBI misconduct concerning surveillance of the Trump campaign in 2016. There have been some recent murmurs that Durham won’t release his findings until after Nov. 3 to avoid the appearance of partisan gamesmanship and the inevitable howls from the left about election tampering. Still, some Republicans seem to be signaling otherwise — or possibly urging Durham not to waitlist an announcement that would be both moot and memory-holed if Joe Biden wins on Election Day.
Concerning Durham’s investigation of alleged FBI abuses of power, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said in a recent interview on Fox News that it’s “time for people to go to jail.” He further asserted that “we’re going to see more documents that suggest not only was the Trump campaign spied on, but the FBI was acting inappropriately as they were investigating.”
Hopes are floating in some quarters that Meadows’ tough talk is an omen that Attorney General William Barr‘s powerful statement before Congress that he was “very troubled by what has been called to my attention so far” regarding Durham’s probe may be ready to bare some teeth.
Although Barr has asserted that the investigation is unlikely to implicate former President Barack Obama, he also said that “some” of the names associated with the “hard-charging bulldog” Durham’s work would be “familiar” to many Americans. That could, of course, include James Comey, Peter Strzok, James Clapper, John Brennan, and Lisa Page, the last two of whom are on-air contributors to MSNBC based on their scorched-earth animus toward the president.
And there was a flurry of optimism when senior FBI official Jennifer Boone was promoted to lead a field office in Baltimore. Boone oversaw the investigation into the profoundly problematic surveillance of private citizen Carter Page by the FBI and was called upon to elevate her profile in the Durham case, although the Bureau has refused to say why. By playing it so close to the vest, the FBI has made the timing of Durham’s announcement of possible indictments something of a parlor game in Washington and around the country.
Will FBI Director Christopher Wray take the steps necessary to bridge-build public confidence in the Bureau lost by a sizable swath of the country because of Crossfire Hurricane? Barr and the FBI remain inscrutable on the subject, referring curious Americans to Wray’s interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier, in which Wray spoke of the “corrective measures” he has instituted in response to the damning inspector general’s report on the FISA court that itemized widespread abuse.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has compelled release of documents showing new evidence that significantly raises the temperature on the whole affair, indicating there was no verifiable evidence of collusion on the part of Trump’s campaign, and the FBI knew it. Moreover, FBI officials were skeptical of revelations from Christopher Steele, author of the infamous “dirty dossier,” back in early 2017. Nevertheless, the Bureau presented it to the FISA court as justification for ongoing investigations.
Memos Bring New Light
The documents flushed out by Graham are devastating. In reaction to a New York Times article at the time that authoritatively stated the Trump associates had repeated contact with senior Russian intelligence officials, Strzok wrote that “this statement is misleading and inaccurate as written.” To a claim in the Gray Lady that Paul Manafort was “one of the advisers picked up on intercepted calls” to the Russians, Strzok annotated as follows:
“We are unaware of any calls with any Russian government official in which Manafort was a party.”
And the paper of record, which played a significant role in the trajectory of the Russia collusion narrative, also reported that “Senior FBI officials believe … Christopher Steele … has a credible track record,” to which Strzok noted in the margins that “recent interviews and investigation reveal Steele may not be in a position to judge the reliability of sub-source network.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the man who provided the predicate for what appears to be the most politically motivated and unconstitutional action in the FBI’s storied history. We hope.
Is Durham ready to lay his cards on the table or not? Attempting to glean meaning from D.C. tea leaves on any subject is a sure-fire recipe for microcosmic madness. Durham’s sphinx-like silence and that of his associates reveal little. And given the yawning political fjord that exists in the country at present, it’s hard to see that the results of his probe and any indictments it may occasion will shift hearts and minds in the upcoming election.
Read more from Pennel Bird.