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."
In April 2018, @JonathanChait wrote in @NYMag that "I’m a Peeliever and You Should Be, Too." Chait wrote that "an accumulation of evidence has tipped the balance from unlikely to likely" that Trump "was secretly recorded in Moscow in 2013 paying prostitutes to urinate on a bed." pic.twitter.com/RAVX82XHTB
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) December 11, 2019
Even after the dossier and Steele himself were discredited, the media insisted the FBI's investigation of Trump was super serious.
Donald Trump and his supporters have stepped up efforts to conflate the so-called Steele dossier with the Russia investigation in an attempt to show that the inquiry was a "hoax."
But that's not what the evidence indicates. Here's a look at the facts. https://t.co/wd1AI4qH8F
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 1, 2021
EXCLUSIVE: Christopher Steele contends that more evidence to support his disputed dossier's claims may still surface so long as Donald Trump remains active in politics.
— ABC News (@ABC) October 18, 2021
Prominent journalists earnestly discussed the possibility that Trump was a Manchurian candidate, recruited by Russia three decades earlier.
— New York Magazine (@NYMag) July 9, 2018
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.)
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) September 12, 2017
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.
"The minute Trump says that he has no dealings with Russia to all the American public, he knows he's lying," fmr. FBI agent Peter Strzok says. "So, to maintain that lie — to prevent being embarrassed — that gives Russia or anybody else that knows that lie leverage over Trump." pic.twitter.com/4u1hvI7qt9
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) September 11, 2020
— CNN (@CNN) February 20, 2019
Did Russia not just help elect Donald Trump, did they pick the cabinet? pic.twitter.com/yQM3Z0ErY4
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) July 19, 2018
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.
Andrew McCabe is a confirmed liar, leaker, & lead figure in the now-debunked FBI investigation into Trump-Russia collusion.
Andrew McCabe is a threat to Democracy & erodes the American people's trust in the DOJ & FBI.
His inability to take responsibility for his actions is… pic.twitter.com/iSZ1jRjMqk
— Byron Donalds (@ByronDonalds) May 16, 2023
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."