John Durham Feigns Totally Dumb about Russian “Collusion”

The day the entire GOP refuses to pursue really draconian immigration legislation because Donald Trump has demanded they not do so — and especially not pass any more funding for Ukraine — seems like a good day to resume my effort to roll out a Ball of Thread in advance of explaining how Trump trained Republicans to hate rule of law.

This post is very simple. Under grilling from Adam Schiff during his House Judiciary Committee testimony last summer, John Durham played dumb — really, really dumb — about what Trump actually did in 2016 (there were a few more examples during the hearing, usually in exchange with Schiff).

It’s not surprising. But it is very similar to the way Scott Brady played dumb when quizzed (in a deposition, by House Judiciary Committee staffers) about what really happened in 2016. Again, not surprising. Just another example where key sycophants who played a central role in this process rigidly parroted the false cover story even when confronted with the truth.


Mr. Schiff. I thank you for yielding. One of my colleagues in the Republican side of the aisle took issue with my saying that the Trump Campaign invited Russian help, received Russian help, made use of it, and then lied about it. So, let’s break this down.

Let’s go to invited Russian help. Mr. Durham, you’re aware of Donald Trump’s public statements along the lines of, hey, Russia, if you’re listening, hack Hillary’s emails. You’ll be richly awarded by the press. Are you aware of that?

Mr. Durham. I’m aware of that.

Mr. Schiff. You’re aware that Mueller found that hours after he made that plea for Russian help, the Russians, in fact, tried to hack one of the email servers affiliated with the Clinton Campaign or family.

Mr. Durham. If that happened, I’m not aware of that.

Mr. Schiff. You’re not–

Mr. Durham. It could very well. I just don’t know.

Mr. Schiff. –aware of that in the Mueller Report? When you’re saying you’re not aware of evidence of collusion in the Mueller Report, it’s because apparently you haven’t read the Mueller Report every well if you’re not aware of that fact. Let me ask you about something else.

Mr. Durham. Sure.

Mr. Schiff. Don Jr. when offered dirt as part of what was described as Russian government effort to help the Trump Campaign said, “if it’s what you say, I love it;” Would you call that an invitation to get Russian help with dirt on Hillary Clinton?

Mr. Durham. The words speak for themselves, I supposed.

Mr. Schiff. I think they do. In fact, he said, especially late in summer. Late in summer was around when the Russians started to dump the stolen emails, wasn’t it?

Mr. Durham. Late in the summer, there was information that was disclosed by WikiLeaks in mid to late July. I think there had been some in June, and then there was maybe some later in October was it, I think. Don’t hold me to those dates.

Mr. Schiff. This gets to the receipt of help, second thing I mentioned, receiving Russian help. The dumping of those emails by the way just as forecast by what Papadopoulos told
the Australian diplomat. That is that the Russians would help by leaking dirt anonymously through cutouts like WikiLeaks and DCLeaks.

Mr. Durham. I don’t think that’s exactly what he told the Australians.

Mr. Schiff. Well, he said that he was informed that the Russians could anonymously release this information, right?

Mr. Durham. Release what?

Mr. Schiff. By anonymously releasing information damaging to Hillary Clinton, right?

Mr. Durham. I think if you read what’s in the cable and what’s in the report as to what the diplomats reported there was a suggestion of a suggestion that the Russians could help. They have damaging information as to Ms. Clinton.

Mr. Schiff. By releasing it anonymously, right? That’s exactly what happened, isn’t it?

Mr. Durham. I don’t–

Mr. Schiff. You really don’t know?

Mr. Durham. I’m not sure–when you say exactly what happened–

Mr. Schiff. Well, the Russians released stolen emails through cutouts, did they not?

Mr. Durham. There were emails that were released by WikiLeaks.

Mr. Schiff. It’s a very simple question. Did they release information, stolen information, through cutouts, yes or no?

Mr. Durham. I’m not sure that–

Mr. Schiff. You really don’t know the answer to that? The answer is yes, they did. Through DCLeaks–

Mr. Durham. In your mind, it’s yes.

Mr. Schiff. Well, Mueller’s answer is yes. More important than mine, Mueller’s answer was yes. Now, that information, of course, was helpful to the Trump Campaign, wasn’t it?

Mr. Durham. I don’t think there’s any question that Russians intruded into hacked into the systems.

Mr. Schiff. Well, I just want to get–

Mr. Durham. They released information.

Mr. Schiff. That was helpful to Trump Campaign, right?

Mr. Durham. The conclusion in the ICA and in the Mueller investigation was that the Russians intended to assist–

Mr. Schiff. Can you answer my question, Mr. Durham? That was helpful to Trump Campaign, right?


Mr. Schiff. Trump made use of that, as I said, didn’t he, by touting those stolen documents on the campaign trail over 100 times?
Mr. Durham. Like I said, I don’t really read the newspapers or listen to the news.

Mr. Schiff. You were totally–

Mr. Durham. I don’t find them reliable, so I don’t know that.

Mr. Schiff. Mr. Durham, you were totally oblivious to Donald Trump’s use of the stolen emails on the campaign trail more than 100 times?

Mr. Durham. I’m not aware of that.

Mr. Schiff. Did that escape your attention?

Mr. Durham. I am not aware of that.

Mr. Schiff. Are you aware of the final prong that I mentioned, that he lied about it, that the Trump Campaign covered it up? It’s the whole second volume of the Mueller Report. I hope you’re familiar with that.

Mr. Durham. Yes, that’s a section of the report, the second volume relating to their obstruction of justice.

Mr. Schiff. Well, thank you for confirming what my Republican colleague attacked me about. He also criticized the use of the word collusion. Apparently giving private polling data to the Russians while the Russians are helping your campaign, they don’t want to call it collusion.

Maybe there’s a better name for it. Maybe they would prefer we just call it good old fashioned GOP cheating with the enemy. Maybe that would be a little bit more accurate description.

Mr. Durham. Yes.

50 replies
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  2. BobBobCon says:

    They do it in part because the press has been trained too.

    Instead of looking at the underlying facts, reporters overwhelmingly feel that the only valid facts are that Schiff said one thing and Durham said another.The actual facts, including the law, are irrelevant.

    It’s not a new problem, to be sure, but every year it goes on it becomes less excusable.

    “If Jimmy Allred says it’s raining, and W. Lee O’Daniel says it isn’t raining.” [Hubert] Mewhinney wrote. “Texas newspapermen quote them both, and don’t look out the window to see which is lying, and to tell the readers what the truth is at the moment.”

    https:// quoteinvestigator. com/2023/11/14/rain-look

    (By funny coincidence, that piece sites author Adam Schiffer)

    • RipNoLonger says:

      Perfect. Rather than call them reporters (or especially journalists), we should call these outlets of MSM gruel: whether forecasters.

  3. lastoneawake says:

    “Feigns totally dumb . . .”

    It is SO refreshing to hear the correct words used to describe the corresponding conduct.

    EmptyWheel would still be worth it if all you did was use the right words to describe things. And yet we get so much more.

    • wetzel-rhymes-with says:

      Maybe there is an alternative explanation than “feigning being dumb”, which is a kind of lying. In psychology cognitive dissonance describes the mental toll when we perceive that information is contradictory. Maybe Durham’s role is like the people who make their living on the fundamentalist megachurch revival dinner circuit presenting articulate philosophical and pseudoscientific arguments that evolution is nonsense, so they and the audience learn together a way to keep ignorant of the truth, but you wouldn’t say any of them are feigning being dumb. Psychologists say attitudes can be value expressive, have social or utility value (your paycheck can depend on them) and so the importance of the attitudes a person is trying to maintain may be greater psychically than the value of accommodating to the truth. It’s hard to tell with Durham and impossible to prove, I think.

    • Rugger_9 says:

      It is a well-known fact that MAGA types and prior administration officials used feigned ignorance as justification for all sorts of behavior. For example, the GSA head who ‘wasn’t sure’ the election was finalized, delaying turnover to give Defendant-1 space to execute J6, among amny others. It shouldn’t be an excuse (and it doesn’t apply to Ds or other riff-raff anyway) but the courtier press lets them get away with it.

      • wetzel-rhymes-with says:

        I am too credulous. Marcy is right. Durham’s testimony really is a display of unbelievable ignorance. Even if not, though, I think it must be prosecutorial misconduct. How could he be ignorant of basic ‘findings of fact’ in the Mueller Report, where there is a web like string on bulletin boards connecting the two investigations. Hillary Clinton’s campaign was a victim of Russian active measures, but apparently this wasn’t important context to anything Durham was investigating.

        The media won’t hold Durham to account, but what about the American Bar Association? For him to have completely silo’d his investigation from the findings of fact of a very expensive and closely related investigation must be in violation of Functions and Duties of the Prosecutor according to the ABA ( 3-1.2 – 3-1.6

        (a) The prosecutor serves the public interest and should act with integrity . . . in light of the prosecutor’s public responsibilities, broad authority and discretion, the prosecutor has a heightened duty of candor to the courts and in fulfilling other professional obligations . . . ,a prosecutor should correct a prosecutor’s representation of material fact or law that the prosecutor reasonably believes is, or later learns was, false, and should disclose a material fact or facts when necessary to avoid assisting a fraudulent or criminal act or to avoid misleading a judge or factfinder . . . A prosecutor should not use other improper considerations, such as partisan or political or personal considerations, in exercising prosecutorial discretion.”

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          Durham’s entire report rests upon the revelation of a purported Clinton Plot to undermine Trump’s candidacy with accusations of collusion with Russia. This nefarious and occult project could only succeed by tainting press coverage of Trump.

          That in itself makes it incumbent on the investigator (Durham) to master the media landscape of that period, something he is either lying about to Schiff or admitting he failed to do. As we know, any true accounting of 2016 election coverage reveals what we here know: Clinton faced in Trump an opponent backed by Putin, who would do whatever it took to put him in office.

          And the MSM was only too happy to help.

  4. HikaakiH says:

    Another ‘freedom lover’ who is nothing but a thrall to Trump.
    And the MSM, too, is in a form of thralldom to Trump because they dare not break decisively from his spell for fear of losing some audience share and/or their owners value lower taxes over a society worth living in.

  5. Zinsky123 says:

    I was not aware of this particular exchange between Durham and Schiff. Again, thanks for sharing your extensive web of information, Ms. Wheeler! This exchange is professionally humiliating to Durham, for anyone paying attention. To not be aware of the extensive Russian contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian actors after five years of investigation is disgraceful. It’s worse than not knowing – it’s being willfully blind. Schiff mentioned the Russian ‘hack and dump’ operation but didn’t mention the extensive Facebook and other social media trolling by Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Internet Research Agency in specific swing state Congressional Districts in 2016, in order to move voters towards Trump.

  6. Lisboeta says:

    The “Deep State” is real! Except it’s not what/who Trump claims it is. Rather, it’s the shadowy organisation run by the Trumpist Republican allies and other (Russian) sympathisers.

    • Phaedruses says:

      Or as Hillary originally termed it;

      Vast right wing conspiracy,

      another thing history has proven her correct on ……

      Only in our time the conspiracy has gone international, and a significant driving force no longer resides inside the borders of the USA

      • Greg Hunter says:

        The Robber Barons that forced the 17th Amendment were aware of what would help them buy the US Government more economically, than buying all the State Legislatures. For along time American corporations were making the purchases, it is now overseas investors.

  7. Spencer Dawkins says:

    I understand, at some level, why a US Attorney might choose to avoid popular press reporting during normal times, especially if it is full of reporting about people who keep ending up under investigation and indictment, but Durham wasn’t named a US Attorney until 2017. It is staggering that he claims to be utterly unaware of statements Trump made on the campaign trail in 2016.

    Given current rumors about perjury charges against Allen H. Weisselberg because he testified that he wasn’t paying close attention to the square footage of Trump’s apartment, while Fortune reported he had discussed that while fluffing Trump’s billionaire status, I do wonder if Durham had discussed any of the topics he claimed to be unaware of, with someone who is willing to say on the record that he talked about them.

    Sometimes it’s the little things that bring a kind of justice, when there are so many obstacles in prosecuting the bing things …

  8. Upisdown says:

    Chances are better than 50/50 that sometime today on Fox, Newsmax, AM radio, RW internet, the floor of Congress or a Trump speech or tweet, the words “Russia Hoax” will be used. If every instance was countered using this Schiff/Durham clip, it would not take long before the words “Russia Hoax” are never heard again. They would be replaced with: “good old fashioned GOP cheating with the enemy”.

  9. bloopie2 says:

    “Sometimes it’s the little things that bring a kind of justice …”. Well said. Example: This in today’s news reporting.

    Billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow may have taken illegal tax deductions for a yacht he used to entertain family and friends, including Justice Clarence Thomas of the U.S. Supreme Court, the leader of the Senate Finance Committee said Tuesday, citing new evidence.

        • Rayne says:

          Thank you. I need you to understand that when I ask a commenter if a link is available, it’s to prompt them to provide one as part of this community’s standard of practice.

          Especially as search engines degrade from excessive use of AI and news outlets become fewer and less trustworthy, it’s more important that community members sharing news provide a link to valid source at the same time.

          • Harry Eagar says:

            ‘search engines degrade from excessive use of AI’


            But the people who run those engines seem not to have noticed. What’s up with that?

          • Error Prone says:

            Underlying links are always helpful, and Marcy is quite good at identifying source material. As to “valid link” perhaps “online link” is less loaded about value judgments. Intrigued, plugging the Bloopie 2 second paragraph into the DuckDuckGo search engine, past week, yielded two more underlying links – a Senate Committee release, which links to a referenced letter:

            The second item, a 12 page well-footnoted letter suggests a referral might be anticipated. Identifying Michael Bopp as Crow’s lawyer on further search leads to

            What we in our minds conclude from links is personal, but linking is itself a social good, since identifying specific documents or web posting aids understanding and avoids misunderstandings. Usually. Links matter.

            • Rayne says:

              Valid link meaning not one which may subject community members to malware/phishing attacks.

              There’s definitely a value judgment and it may not be just about the link. -__-

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              Personally, I might refer to a FedSoc doc, but I would never link to it. A description such as, “FedSoc has its version of Michael Bopp’s bio at its website” would do, particularly as that bio might include not everything, but only what FedSoc wants to brag about.

              • Error Prone says:

                This intrigues me. Rayne’s consideration seems to see FedSoc as a “valid link.” I personally dislike FedSoc, but that would not get in the way of my linking to them. People know of them and have outlooks already, and could read FedSoc’s M. Bopp bio in context. His law firm has its bio too, which can be compared:

                From this, readers can infer guesses about Harlan Crow’s sophistication in choosing counsel, and his criteria.

                My error was having a hazy mind confusion between Michael Bopp and James Bopp, with the common last name triggering something incorrect:

                Would it be considered bad practice, or gauche, to link, with reason, to a Breitbart item?

                • earlofhuntingdon says:

                  It’s not regarded as a credible source. Personally, I would summarize and point to an article title, author, date or issue and let readers choose whether to go there. I can’t imagine ever linking to it.

                  • Rayne says:

                    That. Breitbart’s entire point is to exist as a right-wing propaganda outlet, one which has promulgated white nationalist material and hired sketchy personnel like Milo Yiannopoulos with management provide by the likes of Trump-pardoned convict Steve Bannon. I’d prefer not to amplify them here. Snapshots shared via another platform are an alternative provided there’s adequate context offered.

                    Error Prone also needs to stop with testing the limits with concern trolling and use their brain: any link provided here if clicked on by community members from inside comments establishes 1) traffic is coming from EW; 2) there’s a relationship between the commenter, EW, and the target site; and 3) the commenter’s network includes EW and community members here. Should any responsible community member here at EW wish to do that to other commenters and EW?

  10. yydennek says:

    If Pro Publica’s reporting is correct, what research did Jones Day pay Mike Roman for? (ProPublica- Trump Town- Jones Day)

    Authoritarian and theocratic rule are inextricably linked for the GOP and for Trump’s political power backers. The Jones Day firm was the outside counsel for Trump’s presidential election campaigns (Reuters). John Durham, the subject of the post, is a “staunch Catholic”, appointed by Bill Barr. Barr (and, Leonard Leo) received awards from Catholic organizations. Barr pronounced that religion should be introduced at every opportunity. Last summer, Barr joined the Center for Legal Action which works to dismantle the regulatory state. Scott Brady, also mentioned in the post, worked in faith-based relief and development during the period when the Trump administration was heavily promoting religion-based policy and a period when Catholic organizations grew to be the nation’s 3rd largest employer. Scott Brady’s link to Jones Day in his bio is noteworthy because the current and former managing directors of Jones Day are high profile at Notre Dame. (Brady is a Presbyterian church elder.)
    A major media outlet described the importance of the Catholic religion to the Jones Day managing director at the time that Jones Day had 12 lawyers in the Trump administration. Mike Roman raises money at Give Send Go, self-describing as a devout Catholic with 7 kids.

    • Krisy Gosney says:

      Glad to read this article. And this comment. From what I can make out- there is no shame felt when you are lying and/or being stupid in the service of Jesus. Just find a religion that supports your pov and the concept of being ignorant or the world’s biggest liar does not exist as long as you and your religion are convinced it’s all for Jesus.

      • yydennek says:

        The scrubbing of Catholic from some of the bio’s of right wing, high profile influencers may be happening. Bio’s of right wing Christian protestants don’t appear to have equivalent omissions. The lawyer arguing the Trump ballot case at SCOTUS, for trump, is conservative, John Marshall. He was the architect of the restrictive abortion ban in Texas. Critics described his views on issues as largely aligning with anti-CRT, Christopher Rufo (1776) and Ryan Girdusky (1776 PAC). Marshall’s religious sect doesn’t appear in the bio’s I’ve researched. It seems doubtful that he’s not a religionist. There were 7 kids in his family. He could be an evangelical protestant or could be Catholic, or? (Conservative protestants, for the most part, joined the anti-abortion campaign in the past 15 years, not before.) Marshall worked for Scalia and had a website described as a “Scalia shrine.” Btw- the Koch’s George Mason University hired Marshall to teach. Pat Buchanan gave the anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ agenda a PR spin, popularizing the term, “culture war.” It creates distance between the Catholic religious sect and the right wing political wins they’ve had. If a man like Marshall was right wing Catholic and the public knew, the distance created by Buchanan’s efforts would be breached.
        Girdusky’s interview with Buchanan, available on-line, is worth a read.

        • Harry Eagar says:

          ‘(Conservative protestants, for the most part, joined the anti-abortion campaign in the past 15 years, not before.)’

          Not my experience. What happened around 2008?

          • yydennek says:

            First, thanks Harry for reading what I wrote. A correction, the lawyer is Jonathan Mitchell (Politico identified him as Trump’s defender and, identified the two lawyers for Colorado). The Mitchell bio info. is correct -I just picked up the wrong name from a different reference note. (I’ll hope your takeaway from my comment isn’t limited to the timing of the evolution of evangelical anti-abortion zealotry.) The Guardian provided a chronology, “Historical accident…”, 12-5-2021. I referenced timing in my comment because Mitchell was born in 1976. I attempted to construct the probability of his parent’s reasoning related to having 7 kids at a time when families were shrining. The Guardian reports that by 2010, evangelical protestants had become more anti-abortion than Catholics. The inference that can be drawn is, 34 years prior to that, when Mitchell was born, Catholics were dominant in the anti-abortion/ anti- birth control landscape. The Guardian points out that in 1980, the Reagan Bush campaign wasn’t convinced anti-abortion would be a winning strategy. Again, the inference is that not enough evangelicals had joined the Catholic Church view.

            • Ginevra diBenci says:

              Marshall argued the other side–for Colorado.

              Mitchell hit my radar when Texas SB 8 blew up. He poses a real threat; unlike most who would have us return to the nineteenth century (or before), he has a keen and disciplined legal mind.

  11. GV-San-Ya says:

    Californian here. I could eat this video up with a spoon! Schiff’s talent for speaking in clear language, and with ordered reasoning, is why (with all due respect to Katie Porter’s wonderful whiteboards) I’ll be voting for him to go to the Senate.

    Hope Porter will be our other senator someday.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Adam Schiff is certainly the conservative Dem establishment’s favorite son. Katie Porter is likely to do more for average Californians than for their corporate employers.

      • elcajon64 says:

        (Also from CA)

        Porter is 13 years younger so she’ll do more good for a longer time.

        Additionally, it would simply be good precedent to have the Dems bring more (any) talent up from the younger ranks.

    • I Never Lie and am Always Right says:

      I’m a fan of both Porter and Schiff but favor Porter, who is less “Steny Hoyerish.”

    • emptywheel says:

      One way I think of the race is who will do better in the House, who will do better in the Senate.

      Porter would take on Elizabeth Warren’s legacy (for obvious reasons) before Warren retires in the Senate, and bring populism to a club of millionaires.

      Schiff, for the reasons you lay out, can always command a hearing even amid batshit crazy morons.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Adam Schiff’s apparent support for, and de facto managing the campaign of, California Republican senatorial candidate Steve Garvey, if true – in an attempt to avoid facing Katie Porter or Barbara Lee in the general election – would encourage me never to vote for Schiff. Again, if true, it speaks volumes about the party establishment’s desire to crush its progressive wing.

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