Assorted Ethics Observations On The Durham Report, Part II: Prelude

Ace commenter Humble Talent has performed a service to Ethics Alarms and its readers by reading the entire Durham report and explicating it. This was a comment on the previous post on Durham’s investigation, and I encountered it after I had started to write Part II, covering ethics take-aways from the report’s substance. Since Humble’s analysis will be useful background for Assorted Ethics Observations On The Durham Report, Part II, and because no similarly thorough annotation of the report has yet appeared, I’m giving it a stand-alone post.

Thanks, Humble.


Churning through it now…. Some of it is unsurprising, but it’s nice to see put in language as clear as he used:

Page 11 (On the Steele Dossier)

“Our investigation determined that the Crossfire Hurricane investigators did not and could not corroborate any of the substantive allegations contained in the Steele reporting. Nor was Steele able to produce corroboration for any of the reported allegations, even after being offered $1 million or more by the FBI for such corroboration. Further, when interviewed by the FBI in January 2017, Danchenko also was unable to corroborate any of the substantive allegations in the Reports. Rather, Danchenko characterized the information he provided to Steele as rumor and speculation and the product of casual conversation.”

Page 60 (On opening Crossfire Hurricane)

“As it relates to predication for opening Crossfire Hurricane as a full investigation, after Strzok and Supervisory Special Agent-1 had traveled to London and interviewed the Australian diplomats on August2, 2016, the following Lync exchange between UKALAT-1 and Supervisory Special Agent – 1 on August 11, 2016 is instructive:

UKALAT- : Dude, are we telling them [British Intelligence Service] everything we know, or is there more to this?
Supervisory Special Agent – 1: that’s all we have
Supervisory Special Agent – 1: not holding anything back
UKALAT- 1 : Damn that’s thin
Supervisory Special Agent- 1: I know
Supervisory Special Agent-1: it sucks

UK ALAT – 1 went on to tell the Inspection Division that in discussing the matter with a senior British Intelligence Service – 1 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.

Later in the Fall of 2016 , UKALAT- 1 was at FBI Headquarters with some of his British Intelligence Service- 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 . UKALAT – 1 said the effect on the British Intelligence Service – personnel was not positive because of the lack of any evidence coming out of the conversation:

UKALAT – 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.” At a later point in time, after the Mueller Special Counsel team was in place, UKALAT – 1 said that the Brits finally had enough, and in response to a request for some assistance [a British Intelligence Serviceperson] basically said there was “no [expletive] way in hell they were going to do it.”

What I was surprised about in this passage was how willing the FBI was to burn bridges to get Trump. They knew it was thin, they knew what they were doing was professionally embarrassing, they alienated foreign allies…. But “Muh Norms” and “It’s important how the world views us”.

Another line I thought of while I was reading through this, I’m at page 74 now, is how Clinton’s Campaign started this – The Campaign hired Steele to get dirt on Trump, but I don’t think even they understood how far it was going to go. This situation snowballed from there due to the overwhelming bias of everyone involved. This crystallized while reading the differences between how Clinton and Trump were treated in regards to defensive briefings:

Page 72:

“How these observations can be reconciled with the defensive briefings previously provided to Clinton and others is unclear. The FBI’s decision to conduct defensive briefings in the investigation of Foreign Government-2’s foreign influence efforts is curious given that defensive briefings could reduce the likelihood of success of any investigation into the foreign influence allegations and that candidates and public officials might then be less likely to interact with representatives of Foreign Government 2. The decision to provide defensive briefings to Clinton and others seems to conflict directly with McCabe’s notion that providing a defensive briefing to the Trump campaign could . . eliminate or reduce your ability to get to the bottom of the threat.”

Ceiling down, or floor up? Should Clinton (and others) not have received defensive briefings, or should Trump have? The difference in standard is irreconcilable.

Page 80:

“Once again, the investigative actions taken by FBI Headquarters in the Foundation matters contrast with those taken in Crossfire Hurricane. As an initial matter, the NYFO and investigations appear to have been opened as preliminary investigations due to the political sensitivity and their reliance on unvetted hearsay information (the Clinton Cash book) and CHS reporting. By contrast, the Crossfire Hurricane investigation was immediately opened as a full investigation despite the fact that it was similarly predicated on unvetted hearsay information. Furthermore, while the Department appears to have had legitimate concerns about the Foundation investigation occurring so close to a presidential election, it does not appear that similar concerns were expressed by the Department or FBI regarding the Crossfire Hurricane
investigation. Indeed, in short order after opening the Crossfire Hurricane file and its four sub files, the FBI was having one of its long-time CHSs meet not with just one Trump campaign associate, but meet and record conversations with three such insiders. And a little more than a month after opening the Crossfire Hurricane file on Page, a senior U.S. law enforcement official was publicly reported as confirming for Michael Isikoff and Yahoo! News that the FBI had Page on its radar screen.

In the end, the perceived difference between the approaches taken and mindsets of FBI personnel central to both the Clinton and Trump matters is well-captured in a February24, 2016 email between McCabe’s Special Assistant Lisa Page and Strzok. Prior to the FBI’s interview of Clinton in the investigation of her use of a private email server while she was serving as Secretary of State, the following exchange took place:

Page: One more thing: [Clinton] may be our next president. The last thing you need [is] going in there loaded for bear. You think she’s going to remember or care that it was more DOJ than FBI?

Strzok: Agreed”

Page 82 (On the Clinton Campaign’s Contributions to Crossfire Hurricane):

“Second, the Clinton Plan intelligence was also highly relevant to the Office’s review and investigation because it was part of the mosaic of information that became known to certain U.S. officials at or before the time they made critical decisions in the Crossfire Hurricane case and in related law enforcement and intelligence efforts . Because these officials relied, at least in part, on materials provided or funded by the Clinton campaign and/or the DNC when seeking FISA warrants against a U.S. citizen (i.e., the Steele Dossier reports ) and taking other investigative steps , the Clinton Plan intelligence had potential bearing on the reliability and credibility of those materials . Put another way , this intelligence taken at face value was arguably highly relevant and exculpatory because it could be read in fuller context , and in combination with other facts , to suggest that materials such as the Steele Dossier reports and the Alfa Bank allegations (discussed below and in greater detail in Section IV.E.1) were part of a political effort to smear a political opponent and to use the resources of the federal government’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies in support of a political objective . The Office therefore examined whether, and
precisely when , U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials became aware of the Clinton Plan intelligence ; whether they vetted and analyzed the intelligence to understand its potential significance; and whether those officials, in turn, incorporated the intelligence into their decision-making regarding the investigation of individuals who were part of the Trump campaign and had possible ties to Russian election interference efforts.”

I never want to hear a Democrat talk about the origins of Hunter’s Laptop ever again.

And they knew what they were doing was wrong…. If you think what you’re doing is right, you don’t tell your analysts not to record or analyze.

Page 108 (On the CYA following the Page FISA apps):

A meeting was then held with Assistant Director Priestap and others . During that meeting, the review team was told to be careful about what they were writing down because issues relating to Steele were under intense scrutiny. Two weeks later, the Deputy Assistant Director for Counterintelligence , Dina Corsi, met with the review team and directed them not to document any recommendations , context , or analysis in the memorandum they were preparing . The instructions , which Headquarters Analyst-3 described as highly unusual concerned the team because analysis is what analysts do. Although the team did not fully adhere to that instruction because of the need to provide context to the team’s findings , they
did tone down their conclusions in the final memorandum . Headquarters Analyst -3 recalled that a separate briefing on the review was eventually provided by the team in the Deputy Director’s conference room, although Headquarters Analyst-3 could not recall if Deputy Director David Bowdich attended the briefing . Headquarters Analyst-3 did know that Bowdich was aware of the review itself. In this same regard, for a period of time, an FBIOGC attorney( OGC Attorney-1 ) was part of the review team and was present for the meeting with Corsi. He confirmed that the team was told not to write any more memoranda or analytical pieces and to provide their findings orally OGCAttorney – 1 remembered being shocked by the directive from Corsi. OGC Attorney-1 recollection was that Corsi was speaking for FBI leadership, but that she did not say exactly who provided the directive. OGC Attorney-1 advised the Office that what Corsi said was not right in any circumstance, and it was the most inappropriate operational or professional statement he had ever heard at the FBI. OGCAttorney-1 stated that the directive from Corsi was really, really shocking to him and that he was appalled by it. As a result of the incident he ended up walking away from further participation in the review. OGC Attorney-1 said he felt guilty about leaving, but he felt he had to do it.”

What a slog. They’re basically going line by line through the Steele dossier and debunking it. It’s amazing to me how many times Danchenko (Steele’s primary source) did things like say that he was in a place to hear a thing when he wasn’t even in the right country, and Steele (and the FBI) took it all in uncritically.

Page 154:

When Steele was interviewed by the FBI in September 2017, he stated, in sum, that Danchenko told him that he (Danchenko) had learned of the Kalugin information after bumping into Kalugin on a Moscow street in August 2016 which was the same time that Dolan received the email from Kalugin indicating that he was leaving for Moscow and being replaced by Andrey Bondarev. However, the Office’s investigation has revealed that Danchenko was present in the United States during the entire month of August 2016.”

The reality was that he made it up.

On page 190 now…. None of this shows much of the FBI in a positive light, and while some of it is interesting in laying out how the sausage was made, not much of what happened is new or surprises. I’m learning a few new names though, and the decision not to even interview Dolan stands out.

There are parts of it that humanize individual agents, I fully empathize with this excerpt from page 197:

“On October 13, 2016, one week before the initial Page FISA application was submitted to the FISC, two Crossfire Hurricane investigators, Case Agent – 1 (a principal source of information for the Page FISA application) and Special Agent- 2, had the following exchange:

Case Agent-1: It looks like Mgmt doesn’t want us to do an interview, right now.

SpecialAgent-2: of course not, that would make too much sense…

Case Agent-1: Yeah, exactly. We were told by [Supervisory Special Agent- 1] that mgmt wants to see what we get from his meeting with CHS (Monday) and what we see in the FISA.

Shortly thereafter, the following exchange occurred between Special Agent-2 and Supervisory Special Agent- 1:

Special Agent- 2 : Yeah Case Agent- 1] says no appetite to interview [Page] either. thats [sic] stupid.

Supervisory Special Agent- 1: yeah- dude i dont [sic] know why we are even here”

You and me both, buddy. The footnote to that is wild as well:

FBI-AAA-EC-00000365 (Lync message exchange between Special Agent – 2 and Supervisory Special Agent on 10/13/2016) . FBI records make clear that the decision not to interview Page
was being driven by the top-echelon of the FBI, including Comey and McCabe.

Six months later, the following exchanges occurred between Crossfire Hurricane personnel:

Special Agent- 3 to Supervisory Special Agent- 3 : What’s the over/under on getting the approval today from the DD[Deputy Director] ?

Supervisory Special Agent-3 to Special Agent-3 : I bet you one cocktail of choice the approval does NOT come today.

Case Agent – 1 to Supervisory Special Agent- 3 : Do you think this happens today?

Supervisory Special Agent – 3 to Case Agent- 1: I already bet [ Special Agent- first name] one cocktail of choice the DD sits on it.

Case Agent to SupervisorySpecialAgent-3 : Question, what’s the hold up with the DD?

Supervisory Special Agent- 3 to Case Agent- 1: It’s the political sensitivities and the whole timing of everything.”

Page 234… I think I’m getting numb to it all… There are too many snippets of “departure from best practices”, “information was omitted”, “complete fabrication.” I mean, back to “useful to have something put so directly”—

Page 236:

“Notably, not one of the damning allegations contained in the Steele reporting was ever corroborated: not the salacious allegations of events at the Ritz Carlton in Moscow, not the allegation of there being a well-developed conspiracy of co-operation between Trump and the Russians, not the allegations of secret meetings involving Page and certain sanctioned Russians(namely, Igor Sechin and Igor Divyekin), and not the allegation of Page serving as Manafort’s conduit for information between the Russians and the Trump campaign. This is true even after the FBI had offered Steele $ 1 million or more for such corroboration and after Danchenko was signed up as an FBI CHS and paid more than $ 220,000 for information on other matters.”

How many fights did we have here where people-who-will-remain-nameless (Chris) fought balls-to-the-wall saying that some of the dossier was true?

Page 271 (I remember this clown)

“Sussmann’s congressional testimony concealed and obscured the origins and political nature of his work on the Alfa Bank allegations. Moreover, Sussmann’s testimony was also misleading in that it conveyed the impression to Congress that Sussmann’s only client for the Alfa Bank allegations was Joffe, when in fact he was billing the work to the Clinton campaign. Indeed, during points in the testimony not quoted above, Sussmann was specifically asked if Fusion GPS was his client in these matters. Sussmann’s answer failed to disclose or volunteer that Fusion, in fact, had drafted one of the white papers that Sussmann gave to the FBI. Sussmann also failed to mention that the only client billed for Sussmann’s pre-election work on those allegations was the Clinton campaign.”

Page 303 – He fed the OIG their own asses:

“The OIG Review of Crossfire Hurricane says that [we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the FBI’s decision to seek FISA authority on Carter Page. It also says that [w] hile we did not find documentary or testimonial evidence of intentional misconduct on the part of the [FBI personnel] , we also did not receive satisfactory explanations for the errors or problems we identified .” David Kris has catalogued statements in the OIG Review like those above and discussed the tension between the statements about the lack of evident bias and the lack of explanation for the problems found. In this report we have referred to the possible impact of confirmation bias on the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. Confirmation bias is widely understood as a phenomenon describing how information is processed by individuals and groups . It stands for the general proposition that there is a common human tendency mostly unintentional for people to accept information and evidence that is consistent with what they believe to be true, while ignoring or rejecting information that challenges those beliefs . In short, people tend to give more credence to information that supports what they already believe . The effects of confirmation bias can be amplified in groups operating in situations high stress and under time pressures . Throughout the duration of Crossfire Hurricane , facts and circumstances that were inconsistent with the premise that Trump and/ or persons associated with the Trump campaign were involved in a collusive or conspiratorial relationship with the Russian government were ignored or simply assessed away . Indeed, as set forth in Sections IVA.2 and 3 , from even before the opening of Crossfire Hurricane , some of those most directly involved in the subsequent investigation had ( i) expressed their open disdain for Trump , (ii) asked about when they would open an investigation on Trump , and (iii) asserted that they would prevent Trump from becoming President . As discussed throughout this report, our investigation revealed that the stated basis for opening a full investigation to determine whether individual (s) associated with the Trump campaign [were] witting of and/ or coordinating activities with the Government of Russia” was seriously flawed . Again, the FBI’s failure to critically analyze information that ran counter to the narrative of a Trump/ Russia collusive relationship exhibited throughout Crossfire Hurricane is extremely troublesome . The evidence of the FBI’s confirmation bias in the matter, includes, at a minimum, the following information that was simply ignored or in some fashion rationalized away:”

There is a huge list. Unsurprisingly.

Having slogged through the whole thing… I’m coming away with a few surprising implications.

I have the impression that not only does Durham believe that Trump was done dirty, but that he isn’t even convinced that the people involved in things like the DNC leak were Russian State actors. The public line is that intelligence officials believe that the hacks were Russian, but no one really knows. This flies in the face of that.

I understand why the Democrats are downplaying this, there’s nothing good in it for them…. But they don’t have to. There’s a timeliness issue in play here. It’s a lot of very dry material. This isn’t going to change minds. It’s not going to be easily understood. It didn’t have any bombshell revelations. It will not have legs.

10 thoughts on “Assorted Ethics Observations On The Durham Report, Part II: Prelude

  1. So after reading these excerpts, it feels to me that the report can be summarized as follows:

    “No one explicitly said or wrote that they were committing gross misconduct in order to help the Democratic Party, but every sign points to that.”

  2. If it’s of any help, here’s a link to download a PDF of the FBI’s “Ethics and Integrity Program – Policy Directives and Policy Guide” Apparently, I was the first person to download it:

  3. HT,

    I’ll echo Chris’ thanks: thank you for going through all this!

    I understand why the Democrats are downplaying this, there’s nothing good in it for them…. But they don’t have to. There’s a timeliness issue in play here. It’s a lot of very dry material. This isn’t going to change minds. It’s not going to be easily understood. It didn’t have any bombshell revelations. It will not have legs.

    Having now the report from the special investigation, with its damning evidence, it would seem to me that it is incumbent upon us to develop some framework to promulgate the meat of the findings in easily digestible chunks. That it was a Clinton Campaign smear job is no surprise, true, but what is most consequential is that the FBI ate it up uncritically and accepted testimony that was fabricated without examining it with due diligence. There has to be a way (not that I’m great at determining what that is) to present this in a way that will resonate with people.

    One thing that seems to be in vogue is the concern over misinformation, because people are so worried about other people being misled. Are they concerned enough to critically evaluate that they had been grievously misled by what is supposed to be one of the shining pillars of trustworthiness? Or is this going to be pilloried as misinformation?

    I’ll keep thinking on it, and if I come to any great ideas, I’ll share. (I know, useless “do something!”-ness…)

    • My take on this is that it’s very similar to the Clinton Email Server.

      I learned more about classifications, procedure and FOIA in a span of a few months than the average person would glean over the course of their lifetime because I was interested. I can explain in detail why what Clinton did was wrong, what she was probably trying to do, why it was illegal, give examples of people who were prosecuted for less, and debunk the swathes of excuses she gave.

      As an example, I think “It wasn’t marked classified when I got it” has got to be the lowest hanging of fruits. Of course it wasn’t. That’s not how it works. There isn’t a magical classification fairy hanging over your shoulder looking at whether what you’re typing is classified and stamping it in real time to avoid confusion. The reality is that classification is a process, and if you skirt that process by funneling your Email through a server unconnected to that process, you will never see a classification mark. By this logic, you could Email troop movement plans directly to the Taliban, and it would be OK because it wasn’t marked classified. The reality is that you don’t get the job of Secretary of State for the United States of America by collecting bottle caps, and you bear a certain amount of responsibility to you know… be competent. Or at least hire people who are.

      And I don’t think I’m special. I think other people could have done the same. And yet, if this conversation ever comes up, I still hear people use that as some kind of mitigation. My take is that there’s two main reasons for this;

      First off – It’s complicated, dry, and generally people have the attention span of ADD’d goldfish on Meth. If people even come across the topic, they have to be interested. If they’re interested, but it can’t be explained in simple terms, and repeated a half dozen times, they’re not going to absorb it. Period.

      Second off – Even if they’re able to take in the information, there’s a matter of willingness. There is a set of people, uniformly Democrats in this case, who I believe did not want to know because they suspected that further information would chink their armor of disbelief. I don’t think that Charles or Chris are stupid people. I think they’re blindingly partisan and stubborn to a fault, but not stupid. I truly believe that if they took the time to understand the issue, that they were equipped to understand… But we had some massive conversations here where it was obvious to me that they didn’t want to be confused by the facts.

      And there are other issues this applies to, I think on both sides of the abortion debate, the discussion tends to be shrill because people know, deep down, that if they actually engaged with the best arguments their opponents have, that their opponents have a defensible point. I think that the people who thought that the Geneva Accords applied in the context of Covid vaccines are another great example. Like I said then… The information is out there. It’s not hidden in a vault on the ocean floor… Years into the situation, remaining ignorant like that is either indicative of a processing problem or a choice.

      This isn’t just dry and complicated… It’s from 2016. As much as the wonk-class is going to spin it for a cycle or two, it’s not going to catch.

  4. The sad, unfortunate, dismal outcome of this is, NO ONE will be prosecuted or held responsible for their illegal, treasonous actions. I am not a Trump cultist, but once more I will vote for him if he is the nominee, just because of this report.

  5. This report shows with no doubt an obviously corrupt FBI that has become a tool of the totalitarian left. The depressing part is the fact they feel they have such a level of control over all government agencies (DOJ, etc.), this administration and the media that nothing will come from these revelations.

    There will be no prosecutions or changes of any kind. They feel they’ve won and eventual overt tyrannical control over the people has become a foregone conclusion.

    In fact, the only obstacle they see to their nefarious machinations is Trump who must be destroyed at all cost. In summary, I see no way to avoid this bleak future.

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