On nearly every page of the Durham report, there are shocking details about the absurd lengths the FBI was willing to go to in order to keep pursuing the Trump-Russia investigation. They doggedly continued their investigation despite the fact it was predicated on fabricated evidence and completely unreliable sources, and each new investigative avenue they explored was a dead-end.
According to the Durham report, the faulty nature of the investigation was abundantly obvious to British intelligence who were incredibly blunt in their assessment of the supposed evidence they were shown of alleged “collusion.” It was obvious starting with George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, whose loose talk to Australian diplomats was the justification for opening the Crossfire Hurricane investigation into Trump. On page 60 of the report, the FBI’s Assistant Legal Attache in London (ALAT-1 below) recounted that British intel was incredulous that Papadopoulos’ remarks were enough to launch the investigation:
ALAT-1 told the Office that British Intelligence Service-I did not assess the information about the Russians and Trump, attributed to Papadopoulos, to be particularly valuable intelligence. Indeed, he told the FBI’s Inspection Division investigators that “the British could not believe the Papadopoulos bar conversation was all there was,” and they were convinced the FBI must have had more information that it was holding back.
That’s not all. The FBI’s U.K. legal attache reports British intel was quite blunt about the fact that they thought the FBI’s plan “made no sense”:
UK ALA T-1 went on to tell the Inspection Division that in discussing the matter with a senior British Intelligence Service-I official, the official was openly skeptical, said the FBI’s plan for an operation made no sense, and asked UK ALAT-1 why the FBI did not just go to Papadopoulos and ask him what they wanted to know, a sentiment UK ALAT-1 told investigators that he shared.
Indeed, when the FBI did end up talking to Papadopoulos he was approached in a fairly hostile fashion. Papadopoulos eventually pled guilty to the crime of lying to the FBI, a plea bargain he was offered for cooperating with the Mueller investigation. The Mueller report eventually concluded that, despite having contacts with Russians, Papadopoulos never did anything illegal or untoward regarding asking Russia for dirt on Hillary Clinton or help with Trump winning the election. Papadopoulos maintains he was the victim of entrapment, and given the evidence uncovered in the Durham report and elsewhere on the political motivations of Mueller’s team and the FBI, that’s a credible accusation. However, the guilty plea in the fall of 2017 went a long way toward convincing the media and the Washington establishment the collusion scandal had legs, when it did not.
Aside from the Papadopoulos conversation, the Brits might have been even less impressed with the FBI’s key “confidential human source” identified as “CHS-1” in the Durham report who made supposedly incriminating recordings of another Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page. While CHS-1 isn’t explicitly identified by Durham, it’s generally accepted that this refers to Stefan Halper, an American professor at Cambridge. Halper had an extensive history of being involved in two of the biggest political scandals of the 1980s — Iran-Contra and the Reagan campaign’s theft of Jimmy Carter’s briefing book for the presidential debates from the White House. Further, Halper also appears to have lied extensively about his professional accomplishments, including claims that he was a Fulbright Scholar, had a Ph.D. from Oxford, and that he worked in the White House chief of staff’s office. Despite his major credibility issues, the FBI paid Halper handsomely to gather intelligence on their behalf. And U.K. intelligence did not mince words about how worthless they thought the evidence Halper had on Page really was:
Later in the Fall of 2016, UK ALAT-1 was at FBI Headquarters with some of his British Intelligence Service-I counterparts. While there, members of the Crossfire Hurricane team played the audio/visual recordings of CHS-1 ‘s August 20, 2016 meeting with Carter Page. UK ALAT-1 said the effect on the British Intelligence Service-I personnel was not positive because of the lack of any evidence corning out of the conversation. UK ALAT-1 told the OIG that after watching the video one of his British colleagues said, “For [expletive] sake, man. You went through a lot of trouble to get him to say nothing.”
Durham further reports that British intel’s skepticism of Halper’s spycraft was quite justified:
The FBI’s own records and the recordings establish that Page made multiple exculpatory statements to the individual identified as CHS-I, but the Crossfire Hurricane investigators failed to make that information known to the Department attorneys or to the FISC [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court]. Page also made explicit statements refuting allegations contained in the Steele reporting about his lack of any relationship with Paul Manafort, but the FBI failed to follow logical investigative leads related to those statements and to report to Department lawyers what they found. Similarly, multiple recordings of Papadopoulos were made by CHS-1 and a second CHS, in which Papadopoulos also made multiple exculpatory statements that were not brought to the attention of the Department lawyers or the FISC.
These failed attempts to present evidence of collusion to British intel backfired spectacularly. British intel was so convinced there was no basis for the Trump-Russia investigation that the FBI’s U.K. legal attache told Durham that when British intel was later asked to help with the Mueller investigation, “‘the Brits finally had enough,’ and in response to a request for some assistance “[a British Intelligence Service-I person] basically said there was no [expletive] way in hell they were going to do it.”
Finally, the Durham report contains an astounding array of facts showing just how unreliable the information in the Steele dossier was, which incredibly the FBI presented as credible in order to get warrants to spy on an incoming president. However, publicly at least one reason why the media and others were so credulous about the report was that it was compiled by Christopher Steele, who was allegedly a former British intel officer par excellence with a formidable reputation.
Well, Durham reports this interesting tidbit — at least some of his former colleagues in British intel didn’t want to go near Steele. The Durham report reproduces a series of internal messages exchanged by two FBI personnel working on Crossfire Hurricane [found on page 101 of the report, I’ve condensed slightly for clarity]:
Case Agent-1: What was strange was that [British Intelligence Services] don’t seem to want to deal with the guy …
Support Operations Specialist-1: If he has the sub-source network that he claims to have (and the reporting suggests), you would think they’d be interested in him. Though, maybe these are newly developed since he went to [British Intelligence Services]?
Case Agent-1: Yeah that’s the weird thing. [Handling Agent-I] said it was the OC angle and that they’re not too interested, but that still seems odd … Who knows. We may have to take a calculated risk with the reporting, if we’re pressed for time.
So, in essence, FBI employees working on Crossfire Hurricane were openly wrestling with doubts that British intel did not regard one of their own former colleagues as reliable, and the response was, “Well, we may just have to roll the dice and accept that these wild and unverified stories about Putin blackmailing the future president with a tape of him getting micturated on by Russian prostitutes are good enough for government work.”
This is truly astonishing stuff. Anyone still defending an investigation that those notorious MAGA die-hards in the British intelligence service immediately sized up as corrupt and incompetent is blindly partisan, stupid, or both.
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