Saunders: Durham report shows how the media was duped

By Debra J. Saunders / syndicated columnist

“The court filing has sparked a furor in right-wing outlets, but their narrative is off track,” read the New York Times headline for an article about Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation into the the FBI’s ill-fated Hurricane Crossfire investigation into the 2016 election.

An alternative title would be: “Don’t read this. It’s too complicated.”

Caption: “You might have a headache.”

The story warns that the “narratives” on the probe “tend to involve dense and obscure issues, so dissecting them requires asking readers to spend a lot of mental energy and time; raising the question of whether news outlets should even cover such allegations.

Caption: “We shouldn’t even have to write this.”

But the big media have to write the story because they got screwed in 2016 and 2017.

On February 11, Durham released a complaint against attorney Michael A. Sussmann. In September, Durham accused Sussmann of lying to an FBI official about the identities of his legal clients, including Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, while peddling a false story about former President Donald Trump. and a Russian bank.

“Sussmann erroneously stated that he was not acting on behalf of any client, which led the FBI’s General Counsel to understand that Sussmann was acting as a good citizen by simply passing on information, not as a lawyer remunerated or political agent,” according to the indictment. The FBI launched its investigation into Trump and Alfa Bank based on Sussmann’s meeting.

If Sussmann hadn’t lied and revealed that he worked for Clinton and company, federal investigators likely would have acted differently.

Sussmann says he did nothing wrong and pleaded not guilty. In a legal response, his lawyers accused Durham’s filing of containing “prejudicial – and false – allegations” that are “clearly intended to politicize this case, inflame media coverage and taint the jury”.

The charge involves the type of felony process that federal prosecutors are trying to use to build a bigger case.

Legal issues aside, the real scandal here is that the fake story was successful. Just as the Steele dossier was a fraud, so was the Trump-Alfa Bank story.

Major news outlets reported the story, albeit sometimes with disclaimers, even though it was kept up with chewing gum and paperclips.

Sussmann and company knew how to press buttons on reporters. As Durham reports, a member of the team urged a reporter to “hurry up” to score a hot scoop. The reporter responded by sending “the first 2,500 words” of a draft story. This is false on many levels.

Clinton’s team knew the “data” they had was not “incriminating,” a former deputy White House special adviser to Trump told me during the Mueller investigation.

“Their own tech experts told them. They just want to create an “inference” of wrongdoing.

“That’s the drill,” the former Trump staffer added. “Generate fake opposition research, give it to the FBI without Hillary’s fingerprints on it, then tell the dedicated press to write about it so you can tweet it.” This is exactly what Clinton and her then foreign policy adviser, Jake Sullivan, did.

I’m old enough to remember when opposition research involved digging up real dirt on candidates.

The worst part is: It’s not like there aren’t mountains of real dirt on Trump, a New York real estate baron who paid women to buy their silence about their relationships sexual.

Sussmann and company didn’t have to catch up with Trump, but they did anyway. It’s who they are.

Debra J. Saunders is a Fellow of the Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership at the Discovery Institute. Email him at [email protected]

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