The final report by Trump administration-backed special counsel John Durham concluded this week that the FBI should never have investigated former President Donald Trump's ties to Russia in 2016.
But aside from contradicting the 2019 inspector general report on the same subject, Durham's report completely ignores a simple reality, wrote columnist Michael A. Cohen for MSNBC: an earlier special counsel, Robert Mueller, took over from the FBI, concluded that investigation, and discovered widespread misconduct by the Trump campaign.
"More than four years after the release of the Mueller report, its conclusions about the breadth of Donald Trump’s breathtakingly unethical and criminal behavior have largely been flushed down the national memory hole. But contrary to the repeated claims of Trump and his enablers, the Mueller report didn’t exonerate the former president," wrote Cohen. "In May 2019, Mueller made it clear that if he and his team had 'had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.' They didn’t. In fact, the Mueller report remains a singularly damning indictment of Trump. It highlights repeated instances when the former president and current front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination not only colluded with Russian officials to influence the 2016 election, but also repeatedly obstructed justice as president."
From the outset, Trump claimed that the bill exonerated him and proved "no collusion" simply because Mueller didn't charge a criminal conspiracy between himself and Russian officials — a spin helped along by former Attorney General William Barr, who also said as much in his own editorializing report ahead of the release of Mueller's findings.
Now, it seems, Trump wants the Durham report to finish the job of burying the Mueller investigation.
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In reality, though, wrote Cohen, "According to Mueller, the Trump team openly 'welcomed' Russian interference and even put together a 'messaging strategy' around e-mails from Clinton’s aides that had been published by WikiLeaks and hacked by the Russians. According to testimony from former campaign aide Rick Gates, Trump most likely knew in advance that those leaks were coming. Perhaps the most obvious example of the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russian officials was his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who shared internal polling data with people who had ties to Russian intelligence. Shortly before he left office, Trump pardoned Manafort and two other members of his campaign named in the Mueller probe."
The report continues:
"Indeed, the real bombshell of Durham's report isn’t that Trump was investigated over Russian collusion in the first place; it’s that so few seem to care about Mueller’s findings," concluded Cohen. "But Durham’s efforts can’t obscure the truth: that collusion really happened and that Trump went to extraordinary and criminal lengths to keep it a secret. We cannot and should not forget those facts."