Federal prosecutors could not find sufficient evidence of collusion with Russia but they did confirm foreign efforts to interfere with the 2016 election, documented numerous examples of obstruction of justice, and launched successful prosecutions of indirectly related crimes but a GOP operative has determined that the probe should never have been conducted.
Special counsel John Durham set out to whitewash the GOP’s crimes by tarnishing the root cause of an FBI investigation of former President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, and as planned, he concluded in his final 305-page report that authorities lacked sufficient information to open the case.
While Durham could not recommend any criminal charges but he offered a scathing assessment of the FBI’s process in how it launched and carried out the investigation, which was known as “Crossfire Hurricane,” despite a litany of crimes the probe uncovered.
In May 2019, the then-US Attorney General William Barr asked Durham, the US attorney in Connecticut, to discredit the investigation carried out into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election and links between Donald Trump and Moscow.
Durham failed to get a conviction after he trumped up charges against Michael Sussmann, a former federal prosecutor whose law firm represented Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and has long provided counsel to the Democratic National Committee.
Durham could not prove that in a conversation he had with then-FBI general counsel Jim Baker on Sept. 19, 2016, Sussmann made false statements when he shared information about possible ties between a Kremlin-linked Russian lender, Alfa Bank, and a computer server at the Trump Organization.
Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith pleaded guilty to doctoring an email used to get the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to issue a warrant for spying on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Clinesmith inserted text into an email from the CIA so that it said Page was “not a source” for the agency. The original email indicated that Page had provided information to the CIA. Clinesmith pleaded to one charge for doctoring the document, although he said he believed the information he inserted was correct.
Judge James Boasberg said Clinesmith “likely believed” that the information he inserted into the email was true, and that he was just “taking an inappropriate shortcut” to save himself some work. He also noted that Clinesmith obtained no personal benefit from his actions and that the Justice Department’s inspector general had found no evidence that Clinesmith acted out of political bias.
The FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation, which began in July 2016, focused on examining potential connections between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
As part of this counterintelligence investigation, the FBI utilized various methods such as surveillance, intelligence gathering, and interviews to assess the nature and extent of any links between the campaign and Russia.
In May 2017, following the dismissal of FBI Director James Comey, the responsibility for overseeing the investigation was transferred to Robert Mueller, a former director of the FBI.
The appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel was made by the United States Department of Justice to ensure an independent and impartial investigation into Russia’s interference in the election and related matters.
Mueller did not find evidence of collusion but he did lay out extensive evidence of Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice and obtained a number of convictions as well as indictments against Russian agents who engaged in crimes against the United States.
Mueller’s mandate expanded beyond the initial Crossfire Hurricane investigation. His scope of authority included investigating not only potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia but also any other matters that may arise from the investigation.
This broader probe aimed to determine whether any crimes were committed, such as obstruction of justice or financial improprieties, that might have arisen in connection with the primary investigation.
Under Mueller’s leadership, the special counsel’s team conducted an extensive inquiry, utilizing a range of investigative techniques, including interviews, grand jury proceedings, document analysis, and collaboration with other law enforcement agencies. The investigation resulted in multiple indictments and guilty pleas related to various individuals and entities.
It’s worth noting that while the Crossfire Hurricane investigation provided an initial foundation for the subsequent probe conducted by Robert Mueller, the special counsel’s investigation encompassed a broader scope and timeline.
Mueller’s team built upon the information and leads generated by Crossfire Hurricane but also pursued separate lines of inquiry to thoroughly examine potential wrongdoing and ensure a comprehensive investigation into Russian interference and related matters.
While Crossfire Hurricane did not result in specific criminal prosecutions directly related to the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia, it did lead to other legal actions.
Volume II of Robert Mueller’s report addresses various actions taken by Trump and others associated with his administration that constitute obstruction of justice. Mueller outlined ten specific episodes that constituted obstruction, including the firing of FBI Director James Comey and efforts to curtail or impede the special counsel’s investigation.
The report states that while the investigation did not establish sufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, it could not exonerate the president regarding obstruction of justice and presented evidence and legal analysis, leaving the determination to Congress or future prosecutors because a sitting president shall not be indicted.
George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign, played a role in triggering the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation. In May 2016, during a meeting in London with an Australian diplomat named Alexander Downer, Papadopoulos claimed that he had been informed by a professor with ties to Russia that the Russian government possessed “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails.
This conversation took place before the Democratic National Committee (DNC) hacking and the subsequent release of hacked emails by WikiLeaks.
Downer reported his conversation with Papadopoulos to Australian authorities, who then shared the information with the United States. The disclosure of this conversation reportedly raised concerns within the U.S. intelligence community about potential contacts and connections between the Trump campaign and Russia.
As a result, in July 2016, the FBI initiated its counterintelligence investigation, code-named Crossfire Hurricane, which aimed to examine possible links between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The investigation sought to determine the veracity of the information provided by Papadopoulos and to explore whether there were any efforts by the campaign or individuals associated with it to collaborate with Russia or accept assistance in influencing the election.
In October 2017, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI regarding his contacts with individuals who had connections to Russia. He was sentenced to 14 days in prison, one year of supervised release, 200 hours of community service, and a $9,500 fine.
Although not directly related to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, Paul Manafort, who served as Trump’s campaign chairman from March to August 2016, was charged and convicted on multiple counts of financial crimes, including bank and tax fraud. These charges emerged as a result of separate investigations by the FBI and special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. Manafort was sentenced to a total of 7.5 years in federal prison.
Rick Gates, a former deputy campaign chairman for the Trump campaign, pleaded guilty in February 2018 to conspiracy against the United States and making false statements. These charges also emerged from the investigation conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. Gates cooperated with the investigation and testified against Manafort. He was sentenced to 45 days in jail, three years of probation, and a $20,000 fine.
Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was indicted for making false statements to the FBI regarding his conversations with Russian officials. Flynn ultimately pleaded guilty and cooperated with the investigation.
Longtime Trump associate Roger Stone was indicted on charges of making false statements, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice. Stone was convicted on multiple counts, including lying to Congress.
Volume I of the report provided a detailed account of the investigation’s findings regarding Russian interference in the 2016 election.
It found Russian attempts to influence the election through social media campaigns, hacking, and dissemination of stolen information, as well as contacts between Trump campaign officials and individuals with ties to Russia.
The investigation led to indictments against 25 Russian individuals and three other Russian entities. These indictments were primarily related to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, including hacking and dissemination of stolen information.
Russia’s interference in the US election was an act similar to war in that was aimed at creating havoc in American society and undermining the unity and civility enjoyed by our people.