The much-hyped Durham investigation ended up with…this:
But now Durham has spoken on his own. He has indicted a cybersecurity lawyer named Michael Sussmann for allegedly making a single false statement in a conversation in 2016 with then-FBI General Counsel Jim Baker. The allegedly false statement concerned not Trump or Russia, but whom Sussmann represented when he brought Baker some information about an alleged electronic connection between the Trump Organization and a Russian bank. (Disclosure: Baker is a personal friend and former colleague at Brookings and Lawfare.)
The indictment is, in other words, far removed from the grave FBI misconduct Durham was supposed to reveal. Very far removed. In fact, it doesn’t describe FBI malfeasance against Trump at all, but portrays the FBI as the victim of agitprop brought to it by outside political operatives. It describes the FBI as diligently running down the leads it had been fed by these operatives and then, well, dropping the matter when it learned they had no merit. The misconduct it portrays is an alleged lie by Sussmann that is, at best, wholly peripheral to the substance of the allegations Durham was supposedly peddling.
Even taken on its own terms, the document is one of the very weakest federal criminal indictments I have ever seen in more than 25 years covering federal investigations and prosecutions. It depends in its entirety on the testimony of a single witness who is on the record, under oath, saying something rather different from what the indictment alleges. The indictment itself, as I’ll explain, also contains a number of facts that tend to undercut its central allegation.
So what is going on here? I believe that the indictment of Michael Sussmann is an effort by Durham to change the subject.
Durham apparently and unsurprisingly found no evidence of inappropriate “spying” on the Trump campaign, but he still wants to create a narrative that Trump was stabbed in the back (amplified by the hackier elements of the Trump Media Industrial Complex.) Only as a Republican-controlled Senate committe has proven, unlike spygate Trump’s collusion with Russian election ratfuckers was very real:
A sprawling report released Tuesday by a Republican-controlled Senate panel that spent three years investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election laid out an extensive web of contacts between Trump campaign advisers and Kremlin officials and other Russians, including at least one intelligence officer and others tied to the country’s spy services.
The report by the Senate Intelligence Committee, totaling nearly 1,000 pages, drew to a close one of the highest-profile congressional investigations in recent memory and could be the last word from an official government inquiry about the expansive Russian campaign to sabotage the 2016 election.
It provided a bipartisan Senate imprimatur for an extraordinary set of facts: The Russian government disrupted an American election to help Mr. Trump become president, Russian intelligence services viewed members of the Trump campaign as easily manipulated, and some of Mr. Trump’s advisers were eager for the help from an American adversary.
There’s no real doubt here, but the manufactured kind generally works well enough for Trump anyway.