Durham's 'Russiagate' Report Is Damning for the Media, Too

Donald Trump / AP
May 16, 2023

Special Counsel John Durham dropped a bombshell on Monday. "Russiagate"—the biggest media story on the planet for four years—was never justified by the evidence.

According to Durham's scathing report, the FBI initiated its investigation of former president Donald Trump's 2016 campaign without sufficient proof of collusion and then ignored mounting contrary evidence. Durham criticized the FBI for relying on the later-debunked Steele dossier to get a warrant to surveil Trump's campaign; for coziness with Hillary Clinton, Trump's Democratic opponent; and for repeatedly accepting information from anti-Trump sources, if not showing the same bias itself.

Each of Durham's findings of FBI misconduct could be—and have been—applied to the corporate press, which breathlessly reported each twist in the FBI's false narrative and helped to drive American politics off a cliff.

Reliance on the Steele dossier: Like the FBI, media outlets touted the most salacious allegations compiled by former British spy Christoper Steele on behalf of the Clinton campaign. They did so, to borrow a term of art, "without evidence."

Even after the dossier and Steele himself were discredited, the media insisted the FBI's investigation of Trump was super serious.

Prominent journalists earnestly discussed the possibility that Trump was a Manchurian candidate, recruited by Russia three decades earlier.

Coziness with Clinton: While the FBI ignored concerns about alleged election interference regarding Hillary Clinton's campaign, according to Durham, the media let the Democrat spout off, largely unchallenged, about her supposed certainty that the 2016 election was rigged against her. (The reaction was a little different when Trump questioned his loss in 2020.)

Bias against Trump: Agents deemed too biased or unprofessional by the FBI were welcomed on the airways to pontificate on the investigation they had compromised. Peter Strzok—a senior FBI agent who oversaw both the Trump and Clinton investigations until he was fired for anti-Trump texts in 2018—immediately became a regular on-air contributor for MSNBC. And former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, who was pushed out for leaking, landed a similar gig at CNN.

After seven years of experience, and a pseudo-reckoning, has the corporate press learned anything? Let's see whom CNN brought on to discuss the Durham report.

In a statement Monday, the FBI said its leadership has "already implemented dozens of corrective actions, which have now been in place for some time," in response to the problems highlighted by Durham. "Had those reforms been in place in 2016, the missteps identified in the report could have been prevented."