Imagine someone told you that in the run-up to a U.S. presidential election, the FBI tried to undermine a candidate at the behest of the opposing campaign by cooking up a false narrative of collusion with Moscow.
And let’s say this conspiracy implicated not just the FBI but also the White House, Justice Department, and CIA — and that nearly the entire corporate press went along with it, gleefully spreading the false narrative that this candidate was a Russian agent, running story after story of fabricated nonsense in a coordinated effort to ensure the opposing candidate won.
In normal times, you’d scoff at such an outlandish story, dismiss it as the plot of some half-baked Tom Clancy novel. That could never happen in America, you’d say, where we have free and fair elections, the rule of law, and so on. And anyway, the media would never allow it to happen. They’d be too invested in exposing the conspiracy and claiming, rightly, a Watergate-type story of their very own.
But you’d be wrong. All of that really happened in 2016, recounted in all its jaw-dropping detail in Special Counsel John Durham’s 306-page report, released Monday after nearly four years in the making. The big takeaway from the report is that the Obama-era FBI launched a full investigation of the Trump campaign, codenamed Crossfire Hurricane, in the summer of 2016 despite having zero evidence of any collusion between Trump and Russia.
Not only that, but officials at the highest levels of the U.S. government, including President Obama, knew that the entire false narrative that Trump was colluding with Moscow was completely made up by the Clinton campaign in an effort to weaponize the federal government against Trump and distract from Hillary Clinton’s own email server scandal.
The Durham report recounts how in August 2016, CIA Director John Brennan briefed Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James Comey, and other senior administration officials on what the report calls the “Clinton Plan intelligence,” a scheme Clinton approved in July 2016 “to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by the Russian security services.”
In other words, all of these senior officials, some of the most powerful people in the federal government, knew as early as the summer of 2016 that the Clinton campaign had a plan to whip up a scandal by falsely alleging collusion between Trump and Moscow. But all of them ignored this important fact when the FBI launched Crossfire Hurricane around the same time on the basis of far-fetched claims that Trump was a Russian agent — claims that were made in the Steele dossier, a slapdash piece of oppo-research the Clinton campaign itself had paid for.
The FBI knew all of this, as did Brennan, yet they ignored it to keep Crossfire Hurricane alive, along with the narrative that Trump was in bed with Russia. That fall, the FBI used the baseless dossier to acquire FISA warrants to spy on the Trump campaign. All of this was eventually leaked to a compliant and incurious new media, and voila! Clinton’s Trump-Russia scandal was born — without a shred of evidence, and indeed despite significant evidence to the contrary.
My colleagues at The Federalist have detailed the shocking contents of the Durham report (here, here, here, and here), but taking a step back from the dizzying array of details, every American needs to understand that what made all of this possible was the stupefying level of corruption and partisan malevolence deep inside our federal government.
The Russia-collusion hoax was concocted and brought to life only because the most powerful people in the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement community wanted an excuse to weaponize the federal government against Donald Trump. They didn’t want him to be president, simple as that. It didn’t matter to them what voters wanted; they thought they knew better. So they felt any abuse of power was justified in preventing Trump from winning the White House.
That they failed is cold comfort because we know that failure didn’t deter these people. When the next election cycle came around, the same people, including Brennan, were back at it, using their power and influence to shape public perceptions of the campaign and push outright falsehoods on the American people. It was Brennan, after all, who worked with CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell to produce a letter signed by dozens of former intelligence officials in October 2020 denouncing the Hunter Biden laptop story as having, in Brennan’s words, “all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation” — another outlandish claim for which there was zero evidence.
We know, too, that corporate media are undeterred by these embarrassing episodes. Some of the outlets that did the most to push the Russia-collusion hoax were rewarded for their efforts with Pulitzer prizes and other accolades. None of them have recanted their fake stories, and nearly all of them reacted Monday to the Durham report by dismissing it as a “big fat nothing” or, in the words of CNN’s Nicolle Wallace, a “rabbit hole conspiracy” — without a hint of self-awareness that her own network was a chief purveyor of the very real Trump-Russia conspiracy.
Beyond the shamelessness of the media and the corruption of government officials, the Durham report is a sobering reminder that we can’t sustain a self-governing republic under these conditions. When the law enforcement and intelligence agencies of the federal government can be used as a weapon to undermine an outsider candidate for high office, it means our republic is in grave danger.
It means, too, that it would be better if we had no FBI at all than the corrupt agency we have now, which sees fit to traffic in actual disinformation, spread conspiracy theories, and throttle the democratic process whenever a candidate comes along who threatens the status quo. That’s the real lesson of the Durham report, and we ignore it at our peril.