Barb McQuade, the former U.S. Attorney and current professor of law, is taking now-former Special Counsel John Durham to the woodshed for his 306-page report publicly released Monday, the final work product of his failed four-year, multi-million dollar probe into the Dept. of Justice’s decision to investigate Russia’s efforts to attack the 2016 presidential election, and any involvement Donald Trump and his campaign may have had with that enemy foreign power.
Unlike then-Attorney General Bill Barr‘s fraudulent letter allegedly previewing the 2019 Mueller Report, a letter that so grossly mischaracterized that Special Counsel’s findings one federal judge called it “distorted” and “misleading,” Attorney General Merrick Garland offered neither introduction nor pushback, allowing Durham’s report to stand or fall on its own.
And fall it has.
In addition to initial condemnation from legal and political experts, journalists and professors who decimated Durham’s claims when the report became public Monday afternoon (and allegedly first leaked to a far-right wing news outlet), McQuade Tuesday explained in detail some of the duplicitous decision, errors, and omissions Durham made in what from the start was, as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump has said, “an effort to undermine the Russia investigation.”
In short, the Durham report was designed to be an investigation to prove Donald Trump’s false claims there was a “Russia hoax” and the FBI’s investigation was a “witch hunt.”
In her 20-point Twitter thread, McQuade notes, “the Durham Report provides fuel for the false claim that the Russia probe was a hoax. Don’t fall for it. While Mueller found no conspiracy, he concluded that Russia worked to help Trump become president.”
“And rather than report Russia’s overtures to FBI, Trump’s campaign was willing to accept the help,” says McQuade, who is also a popular MSNBC legal analyst and the author of the upcoming book, “Attack from Within: How Disinformation is Sabotaging America.”
“Like Barr,” she says, “Durham says Mueller found no conspiracy between Trump and Russia but fails to mention the 2016 Trump Tower meeting to receive dirt on Clinton, sharing of polling data with Russian intel officer Konstantin Kilimnik, and coordinating of messaging with Wikileaks.”
“Durham also ignores Trump’s public statement, ‘Russia, if you’re listening …’ asking them to find Clinton’s missing emails, and the subsequent release of hacked emails hours after the release of the Access Hollywood tape,” she adds.
McQuade actually begins her dissection of Durham’s report with this: “After four years, review of 1 million documents, 490 interviews, his conclusion is that FBI should have opened a preliminary investigation (PI) instead of a full investigation (FI) in 2016.”
Fortunately, McQuade was a U.S. Attorney for seven years, and understands these nuances.
“The only difference between FI and PI is the duration and the authorities that may be used. This is a hairsplitting quibble, and one on which FBI officials routinely disagree,” she explains.
“Durham also minimizes the reasons FBI was alarmed enough to open a FI in 2016 based on information received from Australian diplomats about Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos,” she says.
“According to Aussies, Papadopoulos said, ‘Trump team had received some kind of suggestion from Russia that it could assist this process with the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Mrs Clinton.'”
And apparently unlike Durham, McQuade puts events into context.
“Papadopoulos’s statement came right after the DNC hack. FBI was properly concerned about Russia’s efforts to influence the presidential election. This was an investigation into RUSSIA,” she declares.
More context from McQuade:
“Trump had other concerning ties to Russians: real estate deals, Miss Universe Pageant, loans from Russian lenders, Trump Tower Moscow project. Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort had lobbied for pro-Russian oligarchs.”
“Trump campaign members also had ties to Russia. Mike Flynn was paid $45,000 by Russia Today in 2015 for a speech he gave at a banquet where he sat next to Putin. He later lied to FBI about his calls with the Russian ambassador about sanctions during the transition.”
“Carter Page had been seen meeting with Russian intel officers. It now appears that he was unaware that they were trying to recruit him. Papadopoulos worked to set up a meeting with Putin.”
Others are expressing frustration with the Durham report, including Rachel Cohen, the communications director for U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA). Warner was the Vice Chairman (and is now Chairman) of the Senate Intelligence Committee when it “spent 3.5 years reviewing millions of documents and interviewing hundreds of witnesses and concluded the FBI had ample cause for concern in 2016. SSCI [U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence] was led by Republicans at the time,” she notes.
Exasperated, she asks, “so we’re just doomed to do this again and again forever until we all die, am i getting that right?”
Pointing to this report, Cohen also rightly points out that the Dept. of Justice Inspector General “also investigated this and found no evidence of political bias in the launch of the initial FBI investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign.”
Meanwhile, McQuade returns to the infamous Steele Dossier, which, despite what many on the right have claimed, the Dossier was not fully debunked or disproved.
“Durham criticizes the FBI for relying on the Steele Dossier for the Carter Page FISA. Steele Dossier was not the basis for opening the investigation, but it makes for a useful scapegoat to blur that fact.”
It also makes good propaganda.
U.S. Rep. Dan Goldman (D-NY), a former Assistant U.S. Attorney SDNY under Preet Bharara, Tuesday weighed in on the Steele Dossier aspect of Durham’s report.
“The Steele Dossier was irrelevant to the origination of the Russia investigation and irrelevant to the Mueller Report,” he tweeted. “Yet Durham spent the majority of his ‘report’ on it. Having failed as a prosecutor, Durham morphed into a bad politician in a prosecutor’s clothes.”
But again, the Steele Dossier, while not the basis for opening the investigation into Russia and Trump, did have useful information.
McQuade observes, “some aspects of Steele Dossier were confirmed by Mueller and DNI: Putin favored Trump and was working to influence the election in Trump’s favor and against Clinton. It also contained unconfirmed information that could have seriously compromised Trump as president.”
“Failing to investigate these ties would have been a breach of duty by FBI,” she concludes. “This was an investigation into RUSSIA. Russia was the threat and the focus. Trump was just Russia’s useful idiot.”