The Department of Justice this week released a report by US Special Counsel John Durham asserting that the FBI’s 2016 investigation into former US President Donald Trump’s alleged Russia connections, code-named Crossfire Hurricane, was initiated improperly and on the basis of inadequate intelligence. The investigation sought to uncover whether individuals from the Trump campaign collaborated with the Russian government to meddle in the US elections.
Durham’s report is the culmination of a four-year inquiry into the legality of Crossfire Hurricane. He concluded that the FBI didn’t adhere to the law, violating its mission statement. Central to this was former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith’s confessed role in having falsified an email that played a crucial role in securing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) order. Established in 1978, FISA provides the legal framework for the US government’s physical and electronic surveillance of “foreign intelligence information” between foreign powers and intelligence agents.
The report went on to the FBI’s handling of the FISA application process, emphasizing a “cavalier attitude towards accuracy and completeness.” It reproached the continuation of FISA surveillance in the absence of probable cause and disregard for significant exculpatory information. It also found that senior FBI personnel failed to exhibit rigorous analysis of information received, especially from politically connected individuals or entities, contributing to the commencement and prolongation of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, and leading to the necessity of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s subsequent inquiry into Russian meddling.
The report called for enhanced analytical rigor, reduction of confirmation bias, and careful reliance on information from politically connected individuals. It highlighted the imperative of maintaining objectivity and prudence during investigations into alleged collusion between a US political campaign and a foreign power.
The report has proven politically divisive since its release, with liberal analysts slamming the report and their right-leaning counterparts lauding it.
Charlie Savage wrote in The New York Times that it was a “dysfunctional investigation led by a Trump-era special counsel.” Daniel Frum wrote in The Atlantic: “don’t dismiss its significance because of its intellectual defects. The Durham report is already proving to be a huge success as a prop and support for the bitterest partisan rancor. And its fullest import may yet lie ahead: as a rationalization for abuses of power by Trump-legacy administrations of the future.”
The relatively conservative Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, on the other hand, wrote: “The Russia collusion fabrication and deceptive sale to the public is a travesty that shouldn’t be forgotten. That Washington’s establishment refuses to acknowledge its role in this deceit is one reason so many Americans don’t trust public institutions. It will take years for honest public servants to undo the damage, but the Durham accounting is a start.”