Durham and the Abiding Canard

President Donald Trump shakes hands with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as they meet for talks in the Oval Office at the White House on May 10, 2017. (Photo by Alexander ShcherbakTASS via Getty Images)
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This probably doesn’t require much saying. But I think we need to say it anyway in the context of the low-energy but still petulant “Durham Report.” Trump diehards like Durham and most Republicans have now spent years claiming that the Trump/Russia investigation was some kind of Deep State plot or “collusion” between the FBI, the Clinton campaign and the Obama administration. The kinder, gentler version of this attack is that the FBI, whatever its motives, never should have opened an investigation in the first place.

This is all absurd.

The Trump campaign was positively infested with individuals who ranged from people who did extensive business in Russia to ones who were likely assets of Russian intelligence and/or compromised by Russian intelligence. These ties were so overwhelming they could be pieced together not just from public sources but in fairly high-profile published reports, as I did here in July of 2016.

Scrutinizing things like this is quite literally the central task of a counter-intelligence agency. The FBI is the country’s lead counter-intelligence agency.

During the subsequent special counsel probe and eventual report we learned that some of the FBI’s leads were dry holes and some of the most damning contacts remained unknown to U.S. law enforcement until well into Trump’s presidency.

Much of the logic of the Trumpite attack has been that “collusion” was never proven (not true at all) and that no one was ever charged over the Trump’s campaign’s contact or agreements with Russia (true). But that means very little. The vast majority of the work counter-intelligence agencies do never leads to criminal prosecutions. That can be because they find no malign contact. That can be because they find malign contact that doesn’t clearly violate criminal laws. That can be because they find illegal contact that can’t be prosecuted because the evidence cannot be presented in court.

We can debate just what Trump and his top associates did (still unknown), whether the whole matter was sufficiently investigated (doubtful), what he got away with (a lot). But there’s no legitimate debate about whether there was something to investigate. It would have been negligent not to.

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