Has John Durham gone snark hunting?
The NYT reported on Thursday that John Durham has requested former CIA Director John Brennan’s phone logs and other documentary records from the Agency. 1/36
It is odd that a number of prominent journalists who have defended the Trump-Russia investigation against right wing critics have expressed concern over this, 2/36
because there is nothing in the article that suggests that anything beyond a desire by Durham to be thorough is behind his request. 3/36
The Times reported that Durham is interested (among other things) in Brennan’s private views on the Steele dossier, but the article itself compiles compelling evidence (already well known) that Brennan disparaged the dossier. 4/36
The CIA called the dossier “internet rumor,” and Brennan opposed mentioning the dossier in the intelligence community report that was issued on 6 Jan 2017. 5/36
The Times also noted that the CIA’s conclusion — that Russia interfered in the U.S. election on behalf of Trump — was based on a CIA informant inside the Kremlin.
(This informant was withdrawn from Moscow after Trump’s meeting in the Oval Office with Lavrov and Kislyak.) 6/36
Brennan himself has always said that he has nothing to fear from an investigation like Durham’s, and that he would be responsive to Durham’s questions if asked. 7/36
When it comes to Durham and Brennan, a statement issued by Durham shortly after the publication of the Horowitz Report may be more concerning. 8/36
What in the world could Durham have in mind by “how the FBI case was opened?” 9/36
So far as the FBI’s investigation is concerned, it is perfectly clear from the IG’s Report that Crossfire Hurricane (CH) was opened only after the intel about Papadopoulos’s conversation with Alexander Downer in a London wine bar reached the FBI. 10/36
It is not entirely clear, however, how that intel got to the FBI. (The answer might be somewhere in the IG report, but I’ve only had time to read about a quarter of it, skipping around.) 11/36
There is some reason to think that the FBI did not get the Papadopoulos intel from Alexander Downer via ASIS (the Australian foreign intelligence service), which would have been the normal procedure for a Five Eyes sharing of info. 12/36
Instead, Downer might have contacted the chargé at the U.S. embassy in London (where Downer was Australia’s ambassador to the UK at the time), who then passed it on — probably to the U.S. State Department — and thence to the FBI. 13/36
Thread by @JohnWHuber: “Super important: DOWNER’s “tip” about PAPADOPOULOS never went through proper intelligence channels, he walked it to the US Embassy himself N […]”Thread by @JohnWHuber: “Super important: DOWNER’s “tip” about PAPADOPOULOS never went through proper intelligence channels, he walked it to thimself NYT: Downer “may have been fishing for information…https://tinyurl.com/skdqrx4
However the Australian intel did get to the FBI, it is quite possible — even likely — that it went to FBI Director Comey (or that Comey was informed of it very quickly).
Nevertheless, Horowitz is emphatic that Crossfire Hurricane (CH) was not opened by Comey. 14/36
It was opened by Bill Priestap, the head of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division at the time (referred to in the IG report as “CD”), and Horowitz found no evidence of political bias against Trump in Priestap’s opening of CH.
(Priestap is about the last place in the world one would look for political bias against Trump in the opening of CH. He is a graduate of the super-conservative and now pro-Trump Hillsdale College.) 16/36
We also know that beginning in 2015 a number of friendly foreign intelligence agencies passed along intel to the U.S. about individuals close to Trump who were engaging in highly suspect contacts with known Russian agents in Europe. 17/36
In the summer of 2016, this foreign intel prompted then CIA Director John Brennan to flag the intel to a working group of the U.S. intel community (USIC). 18/36
There is a history of such USIC working groups, and the formation of one by Brennan would certainly have been well predicated, given this intelligence. Indeed, Brennan would have been derelict if he hadn’t flagged the intel to such a working group. 19/36
The FBI was part of that working group, so Comey as FBI Director would likely have known from his participation in the group that the U.S. had received SIGINT from foreign intel agencies about contacts between Trump associates and Russian agents. 20/36
Ex-C.I.A. Chief Reveals Mounting Concern Over Trump Campaign and RussiaJohn O. Brennan, the former director of the C.I.A., offered the fullest public account yet of how the federal investigation into Russian election meddling began.https://tinyurl.com/lz7ltvx
(When Trump found out about Brennan’s group, he claimed that Obama had had him wiretapped. But there was no wiretapping. Only Carter Page was ever FISA surveilled.) 21/36
Which brings us to a long-standing right wing conspiracy theory. 22/36
One part of that conspiracy theory involves the claim that the Trump-Russia “witch hunt” originated with Brennan and the CIA rather than the FBI, and that the narrative that it began when the FBI received the intel about Papadopoulos is just a cover story. 23/36
This part of the conspiracy theory has been destroyed by Horowitz.
Whatever Comey might have known at the time, there was no investigation by the FBI itself before CH was opened by Priestap. (Even the Steele dossier didn’t reach the FBI until much later.) 24/36
The right wing conspiracy theory in question requires a nexus between the receipt by USIC of the SIGINT from foreign intel agencies and the opening of the domestic counterintel investigation, and there was no such nexus. 25/36
The other part of the conspiracy theory is QAnon level bonkers: that the CIA? the FBI? Who knows? but in any case the Obama deep state somehow fabricated all the evidence of Russian contacts with Trump associates and campaign members in order to frame him. 26/36
According to this insane conspiracy theory, principals in this sinister drama, like Downer and Mifsud (who had told Papadopoulos that the Russians had dirt on Clinton) were themselves working on behalf of a cabal of Western intel agencies who wanted to frame Trump. 27/36
The trip that Durham and Barr made to Rome recently was intended to gather evidence to support this conspiracy theory, according to press reports. 28/36
Barr and Durham, it seems, went to Rome to learn from Italian intel whether Mifsud was working for Italian secret services when he spoke to Papadopoulos and told him about the dirt on Clinton that Russia wanted to dump in order to help the Trump campaign. 29/36
The Italian government, reportedly, said that it had nothing to do with Mifsud.
Off the record, Italy and other foreign intel agencies have expressed astonishment that Barr and Durham are impugning the U.S. intel community by pursuing such off-the-wall conspiracy theories. 30/36
That, in fact, appears to be the real story here: how Durham, with a solid reputation as an honest prosecutor to lose (unlike Barr, who has no such reputation), 31/36
may have gotten fooled by Russian deza into pursuing deranged conspiracy theories — wild plots that only serve to weaken the U.S. intel community. 32/36
Durham has jurisdiction (from Barr) to go snark hunting if he wants to, and even to investigate, as Barr has put it, “other agencies,” but he needs to be careful that he does not damage intel sharing relationships that the U.S. has with friendly foreign governments. 33/36
It is hard to see, for example, how any report by Durham that even remotely approached the fine granularity and detail of Horowitz’s report on CH and the Carter Page FISA warrant applications could avoid doing just that. 34/36
What we do know, in any case, is that Durham will not find the nefarious nexus between friendly foreign intel and the CH and Mueller domestic investigations the conspiracy kooks have dreamed up. 35/36
One part of that conspiracy theory is sheer lunacy, and the other part has now been put to rest by the Horowitz report — or should have been. 36/36