The Three-year Effort to Undercut the Russia Probe Comes Up Dry
An analysis of John Durham's attack on Russia and Trump collusion
A few months after special counsel Robert S. Mueller III appeared on Capitol Hill to answer lawmakers’ questions about the investigation he led into Russia’s effort to influence the 2016 election, the Justice Department inspector general released a much-anticipated follow-up. It didn’t consider the question of whether Donald Trump or people in his campaign had aided or been linked to Russia, as Mueller had. Instead, the inspector general’s report released in December 2019 considered whether the probe that Mueller inherited from the FBI had itself been legitimate.
For two years, Trump had insisted that it wasn’t. He took to calling the Russia investigation a hoax or a witch hunt well before anyone had any sense of what was being investigated, much less any likely conclusions. He and his allies hoped that the report from Inspector General Michael Horowitz would provide them ammunition — particularly given that the impeachment investigation was just heating up.
In that regard, Horowitz’s report was a letdown. It confirmed that the FBI had a valid reason to open an investigation into links between a Trump campaign adviser and Russia, especially because the adviser had told an Australian diplomat he had learned Russia possessed stolen data from Hillary Clinton. Concerns were articulated, including in text messages between two FBI employees in which Trump was disparaged. More concerning was the discovery that an FBI lawyer had altered a document that was included in an effort to obtain a warrant to surveil a former Trump campaign official with links to Russia. Generally, however, Horowitz’s conclusion was one Trump didn’t want to hear: The Russia probe was properly predicated and legitimate.
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