Did Durham find anything worse than Watergate? Not so far
What does “worse than Watergate” mean? Well, let’s consider a hypothesis: let’s say that a presidential administration puts the law enforcement and intelligence apparatus of government at the service of its party’s presidential candidate by trying to portray the opposition party’s candidate as an agent clandestine from a hostile government.
To be concrete, let’s say the Obama administration tasked the FBI and CIA with helping the 2016 Democratic nominee, hillary clintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton ‘What-aboutism’ – Ruling against Trump leaves more free speech questions than answers After all, Trump may not be Teflon: Judge orders him to comply with subpoenas to appear ‘ MORE, presenting the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, as a mole for the Kremlin. And, to execute this scheme, let’s say the FBI and CIA first tasked Clinton campaign operatives with preparing evidence that could be tweaked to pass Trump off as a Russian spy, and then used that fake evidence as a pretext. to (a) open investigations, (b) apply to the Secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for surveillance warrants, and (c) monitor Trump and his associates.
Let’s say the scheme didn’t prevent Trump from being elected – yes, Clinton was such a bad candidate – but it was otherwise successful. Senior government officials – primarily, remnants of the Obama administration – were able to not only maintain the “Trump collusion with Russia” narrative for much of the Trump administration; they further pushed for the appointment of a special counsel, whose staff (many of whom were Obama and Clinton cronies) hampered Trump’s ability to govern for two years.
If that had happened, we might have something worse than Watergate, the scandal that rocked the nation and ousted Richard Nixon from the White House in 1974.
Unsurprisingly, then, “worse than Watergate” is the livid cry we’ve heard from former President TrumpDonald TrumpCollins stresses need to reform voter count law: ‘Peaceful transfer of power shouldn’t require heroes’ Trump Organization holds talks to hold events for new Saudi Golf League and his supporters since last week. In their light, what I have just described is not a hypothetical situation. Instead, it’s a real scandal, established by staggering revelations in a court filing filed by the Justice Department’s special counsel. John DurhamJohn DurhamHannity slams Clinton for comments on ‘real meanness’: ‘Go ahead’ Clinton rips GOP, Fox News at New York Democratic convention.
Trump supporters and others, rightly alarmed by the abuses of power by the “deep state”, are right to say that this is a scandal, one that deserves far more attention than the media-democratic complex. Nevertheless, there is a flaw in their Watergate comparison, at least if Durham’s theory of the case is valid.
To be Watergate-sized, a scandal must prove that government officials were the puppeteers behind the political espionage against Trump – that the government was behind the plot. According to Durham, that’s not what happened. Instead, he alleges that presumably well-meaning government officials were pulling the strings. They were dupes of the real masterminds: Hillary Clinton’s campaign agents.
Durham’s stunning submission to court last week came in the case he brought against one such agent, Michael Sussmann. Now a former partner at the politically connected law firm Perkins Coie, Sussmann is accused of lying to the FBI in 2016 to conceal the identities of clients – specifically, the Clinton campaign and another of its agents, CTO Rodney Joffe. – on whose behalf he brought derogatory information about Trump to the FBI.
Joffe, you see, was hoping to land a job in the planned Clinton administration. He also had a government contract to help our intelligence agencies fight piracy. The arrangement gave him access to internet traffic data tied to so-called Domain Name System (DNS) activity, which tracks communications between servers. But Joffe allegedly exploited his privileged access for partisan political purposes: to help Clinton brand Trump a clandestine agent of Russia, he extracted and distorted DNS data to make it appear that Trump and the Kremlin were using Alfa Bank, a major institution Russian financial institution, as a communication return channel.
Prior to his lucrative job at Perkins Coie, where his clients included the Democratic National Committee, Sussmann had served as a cybersecurity lawyer at the Department of Justice. In Washington fashion, then, he was pals with other national security agency alphabet soup officials, including then-FBI General Counsel James Baker. So it was only natural, in Washington fashion, that the Clinton campaign chose Sussmann as the perfect swamp insider to pass the misleading information to the FBI.
Therefore, Durham’s indictment alleges that Sussmann deceived the FBI by deceiving Baker — concealing the identities of his clients, the Clinton and Joffe campaign — when he reported the anti-Trump “intelligence” that they had shelled.
Now it’s getting worse. Last week, Durham revealed that in February 2017, nearly four months after the 2016 presidential election, Sussmann provided updated Trump-Russia data to another government national security agency, apparently the CIA. It was a startling revelation because Joffe had retrieved the DNS information from the president’s executive office – that is, from the White House. (Sussmann’s defense disputes this allegation.) In summary, Durham alleges that by leveraging their trusted access and close ties to data and government officials, Clinton campaign operatives successfully portrayed the president as exercise of the United States as a mole of the Russian president. Vladimir PoutineVladimir Vladimirovich Putin Ukrainian President calls for pre-emptive sanctions against Russia Biden to call National Security Council meeting on Ukraine 5 things to know today about the Russian-Ukrainian crisis MOREand to urge an investigation of Trump on the pretext of protecting national security.
If true, it would be one of the most devious political dirty tricks of all time. But at Watergate, government officials were the culprits; in Russiagate, to hear Durham say it, the government officials were just assholes. Oh sure, they were careless, too gullible. The bureaucrats may even have been a little politically biased against Trump, predisposed to believe he was the bad guy and that the Clintonites – a like-minded government-type party – were simply trying to protect America. Government officials were naive, and Clinton cheated them, in Durham’s version.
I find that hard to swallow, having studied Russiagate and written a book about it. I imagine many Americans who want answers will feel the same way.
Trump supporters have high expectations for Special Counsel Durham’s investigation. They will be deeply disappointed. There is no grand Watergate conspiracy, unless senior government officials deliberately abuse their power. In Durham’s account, they are innocent victims, hypnotized by Clinton’s machinations. And note that Joffe and senior Clinton campaign officials are not charged with defrauding the government. Only Sussmann is indicted, simply for misleading the FBI about the sources of his information; there is no accusation that the information itself was fraudulent.
In that sense, it is exactly like Durham’s indictment of Igor Danchenko, the main source of the fake Steele dossier. Danchenko is accused only of misleading the remarkably gullible FBI about its derogatory sources of information used to frame Trump as Putin’s factory. There are no charges against Christopher Steele and other Clinton agents who concocted the dossier. In the Durham Danchenko case, it doesn’t matter whether the case is a pillar of truth or a web of lies. There is no allegation that these well-meaning FBI folks defrauded a federal court by using the dossier to paint Trump as a Kremlin mole, in order to obtain top-secret surveillance warrants that continued for eight months. in the Trump administration.
If there’s a “worse than Watergate” scandal here, this is a weird way to find it.
Former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, a contributing editor to the National Review, a Fox News contributor, and the author of several books, including “Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad.” Follow him on Twitter @AndrewCMcCarthy.