Durham report: FBI used falsified, partisan-sourced information to justify investigation into Trump campaign in 2016
Sen. Mike Lee says FBI is politicized, calls for surveillance laws to be reformed
The FBI’s investigation into former President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign was based on falsified information and not “any actual evidence of collusion,” according to a report released Monday by special counsel John Durham.
In an extraordinary move, the FBI opened an investigation into Trump’s political campaign during the run-up to the 2016 election. The investigation was justified using false and partisan-sourced information, Durham said in his report.
Durham also said the FBI treated information about potentially illegal activities involving Trump’s campaign differently than it did information about Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton’s campaign.
“Our investigation also revealed that senior FBI personnel displayed a serious lack of analytical rigor towards the information that they received, especially information received from politically affiliated persons and entities,” the report says.
In recent years, public opinion on the FBI has increasingly split along partisan lines. According to a Gallup poll conducted in 2022, only 29% of Republicans think the FBI is doing a good job, compared to 79% of Democrats and 47% of independents.
Utah Sen. Mike Lee said Monday the loss of trust in the FBI “is not a matter to be taken lightly” and said Congress needs to reform the laws allowing the surveillance of Americans under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.
“The politicization of the FBI represents a clear and present danger to our democratic principles, and it is imperative that we address this issue with the urgency it demands,” he said on Twitter.
🧵 1. The politicization of the FBI represents a clear and present danger to our democratic principles, and it is imperative that we address this issue with the urgency it demands.— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) May 15, 2023
The Durham report was transmitted to Congress by Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday. Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, subsequently said he has invited Durham to testify to the committee on May 25 about the report.
Durham was tasked by Trump-era Attorney General Bill Barr with looking into the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign. Durham conducted a three-year investigation and produced a 300-plus-page report.
Durham’s report says the FBI falsified information in order to justify its investigation, called “Crossfire Hurricane,” to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and said that the FBI “failed to uphold their important mission of strict fidelity to the law” in regard to its investigation into the Trump campaign.
Based on Durham’s investigation, former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith was convicted after pleading guilty to altering language in an email that was used to obtain permission from the FISA court to spy on the Trump campaign.
“In other instances, FBI personnel working on that same FISA application displayed, at best, a cavalier attitude towards accuracy and completeness,” the report says.
The FBI opened its investigation on the Trump campaign based on thinly sourced and uncorroborated information contained primarily in the “Steele reports,” which were based on opposition research conducted by Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer, for the Clinton campaign, the report says.
“Within days of their receipt, the unvetted and unverified Steele Reports were used to support probable cause in the FBI’s FISA applications targeting (Carter) Page, a U.S. citizen who, for a period of time, had been an advisor to Trump,” the report says.
Then-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe directed Peter Strzok, an assistant director, to open the investigation despite the FBI not speaking to the people who provided the information or conducting a review of available intelligence, according to the report.
“Strzok, at a minimum, had pronounced hostile feelings toward Trump,” the report says.
Despite the FBI offering Steele $1 million “or more” for corroboration of his reports, FBI investigators could not substantiate any of the allegations.
The report says the FBI treated the Trump campaign differently than it did the campaign of his rival, Hilary Clinton, saying that when the FBI received information that the Clinton campaign received an “improper and possibly illegal financial contribution” on behalf of a “foreign entity,” the FBI decided not to investigate.
“These examples are also markedly different from the FBI’s actions with respect to other highly significant intelligence it received from a trusted foreign source pointing to a Clinton campaign plan to vilify Trump by tying him to Vladimir Putin so as to divert attention from her own concerns relating to her use of a private email server,” the report says.
The Crossfire Hurricane investigation led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, who investigated links between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. In 2019, Mueller issued a report that said “the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
Durham did not recommend any “wholesale changes” to the FBI’s guidelines and policies, but rather said he hoped the attorney general would use the report to help the agency do a “better, more credible job” during possible future “politically charged” investigations.
“The promulgation of additional rules and regulations to be learned in yet more training sessions would likely prove to be a fruitless exercise if the FBI’s guiding principles of ‘Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity’ are not engrained in the hearts and minds of those sworn to meet the FBI’ s mission of ‘Protect(ing) the American People and Uphold(ing) the Constitution of the United States,’” the report says.
In a statement released Monday, the FBI said, “The conduct in 2016 and 2017 that Special Counsel Durham examined was the reason that current FBI leadership already implemented dozens of corrective actions, which have now been in place for some time. Had those reforms been in place in 2016, the missteps identified in the report could have been prevented.”
Trump responded to the Durham report on social media platform Truth Social.
“WOW! After extensive research, Special Counsel John Durham concludes the FBI never should have launched the Trump-Russia Probe! In other words, the American Public was scammed, just as it is being scammed right now by those who don’t want to see GREATNESS for AMERICA!” he wrote.