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Special counsel report slams FBI for launching Trump-Russia probe

The report hammered the agency over missteps in an investigation based on uncorroborated intelligence but did not recommend any new charges.

WASHINGTON (CN) — A federal special counsel has determined the Justice Department and FBI rushed to investigate potential ties between Russia and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign based on weak intelligence and “failed to uphold their important mission of strict fidelity to the law.”

Special counsel John Durham issued a 316-page report on Monday afternoon, wrapping up a four-year investigation that, while highly critical of federal investigators, does not have much to show in terms of criminal convictions.

Durham was appointed in 2019 by then-Attorney General William Barr to investigate Crossfire Hurricane, the code name for the FBI’s two-year investigation of Trump-Russia collusion in the 2016 election.

“At the time of the opening of Crossfire Hurricane, the FBI had no information in its holdings indicating that at any time during the campaign anyone in the Trump campaign had been in contact with any Russian intelligence officials,” Durham wrote.

Trump and his allies have for years called the investigation a politically motivated “witch hunt” meant to undermine his campaign.

After the report was released, Trump told Fox News that former FBI Director James Comey and others should face stiff consequences for undertaking the investigation.

"I, and much more importantly, the American public have been victims of this long-running and treasonous charade started by the Democrats — started by Comey," he said. "There must be a heavy price to pay for putting our country through this."

Two of the people charged in the Durham probe were found not guilty: former Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussman and Igor Danchenko, the source of the infamous Steele dossier. Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith was sentenced to one year of probation in a plea deal for altering a government email used to justify secret surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Durham’s investigation treads much of the same ground as a 2019 report by the Justice Department’s inspector general, which found the FBI was justified in opening the probe but that the case was plagued by administrative missteps. FBI Director Christopher Wray implemented several reforms and policy changes in response to that report.

In Monday's report, Durham contrasted the decision to investigate Trump as vastly different from the cautious nature with which the FBI approached allegations that foreign actors were seeking to gain influence with Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“The speed and manner in which the FBI opened and investigated Crossfire Hurricane during the presidential election season based on raw, unanalyzed, and uncorroborated intelligence also reflected a noticeable departure from how it approached prior matters involving possible attempted foreign election interference plans aimed at the Clinton campaign,” the report states.

The special counsel criticized the FBI for being unable to corroborate the Steele dossier, which detailed allegations about Trump and possible ties to Russia, while using it as a basis to secure approval for surveillance of the campaign. 

“Our investigation determined that the Crossfire Hurricane investigators did not and could not corroborate any of the substantive allegations contained in the Steele reporting,” Durham wrote. “Nor was Steele able to produce corroboration for any of the reported allegations, even after being offered $1 million or more by the FBI for such corroboration.”

The report’s only recommendation to avoid similar missteps was to have a position dedicated to reviewing the actions of politically sensitive investigations.

While Durham’s time as special counsel investigating Crossfire Hurricane has come to an end, several other high-profile special counsel investigations are continuing. Two are looking into the handling of classified documents by President Joe Biden and by Trump. Another probe is investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection.

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Categories / Government, National, Politics

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