In His House Judiciary Committee Testimony, John Durham Confessed that Michael Horowitz Was Right

Given all the discussion of Trump ordering prosecutors to go after his political enemies, I want to go back — way back — to comment on something John Durham said at his House Judiciary Committee testimony in June.

Adam Schiff observed that Durham violated DOJ policy when, in December 2019, he publicly disagreed with the conclusion DOJ’s Inspector General had made in the Carter Page investigation.

Schiff: Mr. Durham, DOJ policy provides that you don’t speak about a pending investigation, and yet you did, didn’t you?

Durham: Um, I’m not exactly sure what–

Schiff: When the Inspector General issued a report saying that the investigation was properly predicated, you spoke out, in violation of Department of Justice, Department of Justice policy, to criticze the Inspector General’s conclusions, didn’t you?

Durham: I issued a public statement. I didn’t do it anonymously, I didn’t do it through third persons, there were —

Schiff: Nonetheless, you violated Department policy by issuing a statement while your investigation was ongoing, didn’t you?

Durham: I don’t know that. If I did, then I did. But I was not aware that I was violating some policy.

Schiff: And you also sought to get the Inspector General to change his conclusion, did you not, when he was concluding that the investigation was properly predicated. Did you privately seek to intervene to change that conclusion?

Durham: This is outside the scope of the report but if you want to go there, we asked the Inspector General to take a look at the intelligence that’s included in the classified appendix that you looked at, and said that that ought to affect portions of his report.

The classified appendix, recall, pertained to what Durham called the “Clinton Plan,” details Dutch intelligence found in purportedly hacked materials at GRU. That included documents purportedly stolen from a top Hillary Foreign Policy Advisor, on which a Russian intelligence product based a claim that,

Hillary Clinton had approved a campaign plan to stir up a scandal against U.S. Presidential candidate Donald Trump by tying him to Putin and the Russians’ hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

From that allegation, Durham appears to have simply made up out of thin air a claim that Hillary planned to fabricate things to tie Trump to Russia, rather than just point to him begging Russia to hack the United States.

First, the Clinton Plan intelligence itself and on its face arguably suggested that private actors affiliated with the Clinton campaign were seeking in 2016 to promote a false or exaggerated narrative to the public and to U.S. government agencies about Trump’s possible ties to Russia. [my emphasis]

In another exchange with Schiff at the hearing, Durham professed to be utterly ignorant of all the things confirmed in the Mueller investigation that provided abundant reason to tie Trump to Russia. There was no need to invent anything.

In any case, what Durham revealed in his testimony is that he shared this information with Michael Horowitz, expecting it would change his mind about the predication of Crossfire Hurricane.

That’s not all that surprising. After all, Durham described as the first mandate of his investigation to determine whether any personnel at the FBI violated federal law by not fully considering potential Russian disinformation before opening an investigation into Trump.

[D]id the FBI properly consider other highly significant intelligence it received at virtually the same time as that used to predicate Crossfire Hurricane, but which related not to the Trump campaign, but rather to a purported Clinton campaign plan “to vilify Donald Trump by stirring up a scandal claiming interference by Russian security services,” which might have shed light on some of the Russia information the FBI was receiving from third parties, including the Steele Dossier, the Alfa Bank allegations and confidential human source (“CHS”) reporting? If not, were any provable federal crimes committed in failing to do so?

To put it bluntly, Bill Barr told John Durham to figure out whether he could charge Peter Strzok (and presumably, Jim Comey and Bill Priestap) for not letting a Russian intelligence report dictate American investigative decisions. And either in an attempt to preempt Horowitz’ conclusion that the investigation was legally predicated or in an attempt to stave off any determination on criminality, Durham pitched him on this theory before publicly attacking his conclusion.

And Durham did so even though — accepting all his conspiracy theories about inventing false claims about Trump were true — that theory never made sense. As Phil Bump (onetwo) and Dan Friedman showed when the report came out, Hillary’s concerns about Trump couldn’t have been the cause of the investigation into Trump. By the time (a Russian intelligence product claimed) that Hillary approved a plan to tie Trump to Russia on July 26, 2016, the events that would lead FBI to open an investigation were already in place. Here’s Friedman:

This isn’t just false. It would require time travel. Durham himself confirms that the FBI launched its investigation into Trump and Russia based on events that occurred months prior to Clinton’s alleged July 26 approval of the plan. In April 2016, George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, met with a professor with Kremlin ties, who informed him that Russia “had obtained ‘dirt’ on…Clinton in the form of thousands of emails,” as Robert Mueller’s final report noted.  A week later, according to Mueller, Papadopoulos “suggested to a representative of a foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release” of damaging material. When hacked Democratic emails were indeed published—by WikiLeaks on July 22—this foreign diplomat alerted US officials about what Papadopoulos had said. The FBI quickly launched an official investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russia ties in response to that tip, Durham notes, while arguing they should have begun only a “preliminary investigation.”

It was the same Russian hack, not Hillary Clinton, that drove media attention, even before the documents were leaked to the public.

There’s another problem with telling Horowitz that his Clinton conspiracy theory should have changed Horowitz’ conclusions. At the earliest, analysts and Priestap only became aware of the intelligence (though probably without Durham’s spin on it) on September 2, well after the opening of Crossfire Hurricane.

When interviewed by the Office, Auten recalled that on September 2, 2016 – approximately ten days after Headquarters Analyst-2’s email – the official responsible for overseeing the Fusion Cell briefed Auten, Moffa, and other FBI personnel at FBI Headquarters regarding the Clinton Plan intelligence. 411 Auten did not recall any FBI “operational” personnel (i.e., Crossfire Hurricane Agents) being present at the meeting. 412 The official verbally briefed the individuals regarding information that the CIA planned to send to the FBI in a written investigative referral, including the Clinton Plan intelligence information. 413


Separate and apart from this meeting, FBI records reflect that by no later than that same date (September 2, 2016), then-FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence Bill Priestap was also aware of the specifics of the Clinton Plan intelligence as evidenced by his hand-written notes from an early morning meeting with Moffa, DAD Dina Corsi and Acting AD for Cyber Eric Sporre. 415

And despite looking for four years, Durham never confirmed that CIA’s formal referral memo got shared with Peter Strzok, to whom it was addressed.

In spite of never acquiring such proof, not even after four years of searching, recently confirmed Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Nora Dannehy has confirmed that Barr pushed Durham to release an interim report on those claims. NYT described that plan this way:

By summer 2020, with Election Day approaching, Mr. Barr pressed Mr. Durham to draft a potential interim report centered on the Clinton campaign and F.B.I. gullibility or willful blindness.

On Sept. 10, 2020, Ms. Dannehy discovered that other members of the team had written a draft report that Mr. Durham had not told her about, according to people briefed on their ensuing argument.

Ms. Dannehy erupted, according to people familiar with the matter. She told Mr. Durham that no report should be issued before the investigation was complete and especially not just before an election — and denounced the draft for taking disputed information at face value. She sent colleagues a memo detailing those concerns and resigned.

By that point, Durham hadn’t yet interviewed Priestap and others who might inform him of what they actually learned.

From the start, Durham was pursuing this conspiracy theory. He tried to forestall the damning but inconvenient conclusions of the Horowitz report to sustain his conspiracy theory. And he tried to interfere with the 2020 election with his physics-defying conspiracy theory.

Bill Barr didn’t just order John Durham to investigate Hillary Clinton and all the FBI agents who had deigned to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia. He did so based on a conspiracy theory rooted in Russian intelligence.

29 replies
  1. Upisdown says:

    The following was unknown to Clinton, or to the FBI Crossfire Hurricane team, at the time; but was known by Durham when he made the ludicrous “Clinton Plan” claim…

    3 June 2016
    Rob Goldstone to Trump Jr
    Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting.

    The Crown prosecutor of Russia met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.

    This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump – helped along by Aras and Emin.

    What do you think is the best way to handle this information and would you be able to speak to Emin about it directly?

    I can also send this info to your father via Rhona, but it is ultra sensitive so wanted to send to you first.

  2. Boatsail says:

    Just exactly how do lawyers without intellectual honesty or moral integrity such as John Durham and David Weiss get appointed “Special Counsel” when their ain’t NOTHING special about them???

  3. Alan King says:

    Bill Barr pitches Trump with: 1) defuse Mueller report, 2) help find dirt on Biden (the likely nominee), 3) deliver insane rants about the decline of morality (read, decline of Catholic church) in America. Then on the brink of insurrection, he washes his hands.

    This is who appoints them.

    • bgThenNow says:

      Back in the day, we had the Alexander Haig Catholics and the Berrigan Catholics. I’m not sure who would be the standard bearer for the Berrigan Catholics these days, but we certainly have strong contenders in the Barr Catholic wing.

  4. Ginevra diBenci says:

    Thank you, EW, for returning to this and reminding us of yet another element of the previous Trump administration’s demonstrable willingness to violate DOJ rules in pursuit of political advantage, with a side dish of revenge on Hillary Clinton. This is especially egregious in Durham’s case. His entire reputation up here in Connecticut, and the reason Barr tapped him, was based on meticulous adherence to The Rules. He insisted that others must because he did so himself.

    Reading the two indictments his quixotic investigation produced filled me with anger. They were so focused on catching *others* in misstatements (not even lies) and errors, and although written legalistically they still dripped with sanctimony.

    You have shown that Durham lives in a glass house he apparently can’t see. Maybe that’s because he’s thrown so many stones from it that it’s shattered completely. If only the RWM–or just the media–would show the factitious core of the Clinton Plan and its time-defying delusions.

    • bmaz says:

      Durham was garbage as a prosecutor long before Barr installed him during the Trump administration. He did the same cover up work under Bush and Obama. His reputation for being a by the book “meticulous adherence to the rules” prosecutor is bogus.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        I agree completely. I’m just reporting as a Nutmegger how he was talked about up here, something I went back and reviewed when Barr appointed him SC. The degree to which reliable outlets like the Hartford Courant seemed to walk on eggs around the things you refer to surprised me; it seemed like the tone struck at the time was “We’re sending our best.”

  5. Rugger_9 says:

    Special Counsel appointments should not have a political whiff to it, but since everything else tied to Defendant-1 and Bill Barr as his agent reeks of political interference for their parallel purposes it is what we have. Expect more of this if Defendant-1 gets back into the Oval Office. For Defendant-1, it’s about creating his empire. For Bill Barr, it’s about creating his theocracy with a reliable Caesar to be led by the nose. Unfortunately for AG Barr, his Caesar became Caligula and Barr had to skedaddle before the blowback hit him.

  6. stillscoff says:

    The only question I have is what sanctions or consequences will Durham face for the pretty obvious attempt to cover for Trump’s connection to Russia and Putin? All this stuff is getting buried, for the most part, away from public view.

    My guess is there will be none, and therein lies one of the biggest problems we face as a country in my estimation. Dishonesty too often is being rewarded instead of condemned.

      • stillscoff says:

        Color me unsurprised.

        I used to think the law was something simple and straightforward. The truth and nothing but the truth….

        It seems the connection between truth and justice is a lot more warped and twisted than I had imagined.

    • BriceFNC says:

      Would it be considered “weaponization” if Garland had accompanied Jack Smith on a junket to Rome…looking over every detail of his investigation into Trump? Just wondering?

      [Moderator’s note: You had an error in your email address which caused your comment to go into moderation. I’ve edited it and released it but this is the third time I’ve had to fix one of your comments. Let’s not go for a fourth and final. /~Rayne]

  7. Rugger_9 says:

    OT, the civil fraud trial continues in NYC (DailyKos is doing a liveblog by Mark Sumner so you don’t have to listen to DJTJ speak, for which we thank him). What was interesting about the defense case today is that it looks a lot like a sales pitch about how valuable everything is. I think it will backfire for a couple of reasons.

    First, the determination of fraud was already made by Judge Engoron who is also the only real audience at this point. Judge Engoron is letting the defense ramble on but I have to wonder how wise it is to ramp up the differential between the actual assessed value and what the TrumpOrg was trying to sell. The defense also glossed over some inconvenient details likely to be brought up on cross. This points to how big a number Judge Engoron assigns to the damages, as well as the assessment about just how fraudulent the TrumpOrg culture was to decide whether the NYS business death penalty gets imposed..

    Second, something like this also points to the assessors in the various locations being gift-wrapped a valid reason to revisit those valuations and crank up the taxes due plus some penalties tacked on for the fraud. This case is not being held in a vacuum and testimony under oath is admissible especially with the opportunity to cross.

    There are some statements against interest being made which could land a lot of people in hot legal water, not just the family. Where this path goes will be determined later.

  8. The Old Redneck says:

    After everything Barr did for Trump, including the Durham appointment and the Roger Stone intervention, he’s still going to the gallows if Trump gets a second term. He debased himself right up until Trump made the stolen election claim, but that last claim ended up being the only thing that mattered.

    It seems no one can ever be loyal enough.

    • Spencer Dawkins says:

      Agreed. The historical references include the successive liquidations of French revolutionary tribes in the mid 1790s and the Soviet Old Bolshevik trials in the 1930s, and the fictional references include Animal Farm.

    • RipNoLonger says:

      At least, if there is still any broadcast news when the emperor ascends the gilded throne, we can have the pleasure of watching some of the former enablers swinging (unless the guillotine is brought in.)

      Then, fellow citizens, it will be our turn…

    • Desidero says:

      Remains to be seen whether Trump does something to Barr, or if proclaiming it will be is good enough for him (of course very much hope he doesn’t get the chance)

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      This also works to the tune of “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme”–the melody that invaded my head when I tried to remember yours, SL. Very melancholy!

  9. Purple Martin says:

    Am I completely wrong in my hopes that all this might end up in an EW book someday? Could go far in supporting the Trump Interregnum histories that will someday be written.

  10. Zinsky123 says:

    Sorry to be late to the thread here (I have been recovering from some surgery) and just read this post. I was intrigued by your paragraph that reads, “The classified appendix, recall, pertained to what Durham called the “Clinton Plan,” details Dutch intelligence found in purportedly hacked materials at GRU. That included documents purportedly stolen from a top Hillary Foreign Policy Advisor, on which a Russian intelligence product based a claim that…..”
    I’m sorry but which appendix and how can I read it? Also, I don’t understand the chain of evidence associated with the Plan, the hack, GRU and Hillary’s Policy Advisor – who got what information from whom? This is critical information in pushing back against the conservative false narrative that “Hillary paid for a smear campaign against Trump that got the whole, Russia Russia Russia / Mueller bogus scandal going”. Sorry to be ignorant and late, but any link or clarification anyone can provide to answer these questions, will help me push back against my drunk right-wing friends!

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      I think EW is referencing the Durham Report. It contains all the (selective, deceptive and contrived) evidence Durham used to fabricate the Clinton Plan delusion.

      I hope you’re feeling better!

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