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

[The first installment, regarding the news media’s ongoing effort to bury this story, is here. Humble Talent’s invaluable summary of the Durham Report is here.]

1. The nice thing about waiting a day or so is that some other qualified commentators were likely to write virtually what I would write, saving me time. That was especially true in this case. Here’s Andrew McCarthy:

Perusing the report, I find it impossible to draw any other conclusion than that the FBI, and the Obama administration more broadly, did not ignore the intelligence about Clinton’s strategy but rather that the law-enforcement and intelligence apparatus of the United States government knowingly abetted Clinton’s implementation of the strategy….

Clearly, there was a Clinton campaign strategy to frame Trump. Yet the most sensible interpretation of the evidence Durham has amassed is not that the FBI, in evaluating its collusion evidence, failed to weigh intercepted Russian intelligence about that strategy. It is that the FBI was well aware of Clinton’s strategy, fully expected Clinton to be the next president, and helped implement the strategy, regardless of what Russian spies may or may not have thought about it…

The FBI knowingly treated Clinton with kid gloves. FBI lawyer Lisa Page warned the bureau’s senior intelligence investigator, Peter Strzok, to tread lightly in interviewing Clinton about the email scandal — fearful that, upon winning the election, Clinton would otherwise be vengeful against the FBI…

Durham documents that President Obama, Vice President Biden, top intelligence officials, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and FBI director Comey were fully briefed by CIA director John Brennan on Russia’s assessment of Clinton’s plan to frame Trump.

2. At the last moment, I decided in 2016 that I could not vote for either Trump or Hillary after spending the previous months saying that Trump was so unethical that I was forced to vote for his opposition, who I found reprehensible. Then I found out that Clinton and the Democrats were cheating, and as a party the clearly did not respect or revere democracy, the Democratic Party was even a greater existential risk than Trump; I just didn’t know how much they were cheating.

3. Barack Obama and Joe Biden actively participated in the scheme, as McCarthy’s last paragraph above reminds us. This was genuinely impeachable conduct, far, far worse than the contrived grounds for Trump’s two impeachments.

4. One of the most respected left-side commenters here fled the field claiming I had “drunk the Kool-Aid” in 2018 by concluding that the Russian collusion accusations against Trump were concocted to wreck his Presidency. I don’t drink “Kool-Aid,” I don’t parrot Fox News, and I am not led by the nose by more publicized analysts. To the contrary, I am often surprised at how many pundits write pretty close to exactly what I have written, or was already thinking, before them. Here, for example, is Roger Kimball:

It was a sprawling and, in a ghastly way, an impressive conspiracy, involving not only only the police power of the state but also the state’s propaganda apparatus, aka the media, social and otherwise. The long-waited Durham report shows this whole anti-Trump caper really was the “biggest political scandal in US history.” Someone won the presidency whom the Deep State, prominently including members of the outgoing administration, did not like. Therefore, they plotted to take him out.

The moral is that democracy is all well and good, but only so long as the voters select a candidate we approve of. Somehow, Donald Trump was elected without the permission — indeed, over the strenuous objections — of the permanent bureaucracy. The whole Trump-Russia narrative was concocted to correct that mistake.

At the end of the day, the Durham report contains few real revelations. Anyone who has been paying attention already knew most of what he details. 

5. …Well, anyone who was paying attention and had the integrity and ethics alarms not to be blinded by bias, which, you know, makes people stupid.

As I read the report, the two words that started flashing across my eyes were CONFIRMATION BIAS. The entire 2016 Post-election Ethics Train Wreck was fueled by confirmation bias: people who had made up their minds that Trump was a villain filtered every bit of information, ever rumor, every tweet, every lie by Adam Schiff, every smear by Maxine Waters, every slanted news story through that filter.

6. And they are doing it still. Most of my lawyer Facebook friends are furiously writing posts claiming that the Durham Report is superfluous and irrelevant because it doesn’t prove crimes were committed. That’s desperate and intellectually dishonest. Shame on them, but I expected it. Here’s Jonathan Turley:

In the 305-page report released Monday, special counsel John Durham concluded that the Trump-Russia investigation was launched without a required minimal level of evidence and shattered a host of departmental standards. Let that sink in: The Justice Department — as well as the media that covered it — effectively shut down a duly elected presidency, based on what turned out to be a politically engineered hoax…The fact is, in this instance, Donald Trump was correct when he said he was the target of a political hit-job funded by the Clinton campaign and maintained by virtually every media outlet. There is a word for that: disinformation. Democrats such as former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff of California have pushed for censorship by claiming that disinformation is a threat to democracy. Well, this is that threat — the real one. This actually left an administration mired in a faux scandal for years, with high-ranking officials paraded before grand juries and their guilt then proclaimed nightly on cable news shows.

No, we can’t make “disinformation” illegal, but the hypocrisy is staggering: the same people and party that are now pushing for censorship to “protect” the public from what they call “disinformation”—you know, like the Durham Report—weaponized disinformation to bring down the Trump Administration. Turley:

In the end, it is not a crime to be unethical or incompetent, so no charges will be filed as a result of the report. Durham clearly hopes that the belated transparency provided by his report will produce greater future accountability. That may be the only naive aspect of his findings.

Of course, the FBI promptly issued a statement that it has — once more — reformed itself in light of its failures. But who really believes this is unlikely to occur again?

Indeed, the same pattern and figures reemerged in 2020, when another false narrative was created to dismiss the Hunter Biden laptop scandal. Some of the officials involved in the false Russia collusion conspiracy were signatories on the letter by 51 former intelligence officials claiming that the laptop story was likely “Russian disinformation.” And the media again pushed that version before the 2020 election — only to admit, two years later, that the laptop was authentic all along.

Conspicuously missing in the aftermath of Durham’s report is the one thing that would establish a clear commitment to reform: an apology. Clinton, Comey, members of Congress and others could apologize to the American people — and, yes, even to Trump.

That, of course, will never happen. Attorney General Merrick Garland, in releasing a report that concluded this investigation never should have occurred, made no statement whatsoever.

Thus, Durham was left throwing haymakers in an empty political boxing ring — and those who perpetrated this scandal on the nation are left to carry on making money on books, speeches, TV commentary and lectures about political or electoral ethics. The media, meanwhile, is offering little more than a shoulder-shrug and more spin.

7. Apologies! Ethics Alarms hereby makes this offer: the first banned or self-banned commenter here who sends in a full apology to me and the blog for their accusations and insults here based on their unsupported assumptions that Donald Trump was “Putin’s cock-holster” (a charming Stephen Colbert phrase, speaking of people who owe apologies) will be reinstated immediately.

8. Ethics Corrupter and Villain: Hillary Clinton. Here’s Prof. Jacobson (the proprietor at Legal Insurrection):

…one of the biggest takeaways is what a destructive, vicious, damaging person Hillary Clinton is to our political process. This Russia collusion thing didn’t only damage Trump. He won the 2016 election anyway, despite this, think how big a victory he might have had without it. But it really froze and paralyzed the country politically for over four years. The damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign did was so tremendous to this nation. I think that to some extent, while it’s being highlighted by a lot of the news coverage, they’re not really doing it personal to Hillary and it to be, she really is possibly the most destructive politician we’ve certainly had in this century, in recent memory. The manipulation that she perpetrated here is so horrible, not for what it did to Donald Trump, that’s bad enough, but what it did to our nation. We’re at each other’s throats because of what Hillary Clinton did. And she needs to be roundly condemned, and she’s not getting a fraction of the criticism that she deserves ….So I think the damage that’s been done is long lasting it tears at the fabric of our society. And it was caused by Hillary Clinton, the federal government and the mainstream corporate media all acting in unison….


9. Ethics Villain: James Comey. This was all set up on his watch and with his full knowledge. Imagine: Democrats argued that Trump firing Comey was an impeachable act. Comey opened the most extensive investigation ever into an American President based on what he knew was inadequate evidence. He did his best to spread the disgusting rumors in the Steele Dossier, such as the infamous “pee tape.” This gave the Trump-hating entertainment industry leave to keep it before the public: the Trump peeing on prostitutes theme was made into a season long story on Robert King’s “The Good Fight” using the assumption that it was true. Confirmation bias again. Durham writes that Comey led the FBI to use “raw, unanalyzed, and uncorroborated intelligence” to cripple a duly elected President for most of his term (I would say all of it.) Oh: Comey wrote a book on “ethical leadership.”

10. The Comey connection shows that Trump’s efforts to shut down the investigation or otherwise impede it could not be “obstruction of justice.” If anyone knew was going on, he did. This was an unprecedented Deep State/Democratic Party/ media attempt to foil democracy and corrupt democratic institutions. There was no “justice” to obstruct. Trump was sworn to protect the Constitution, and it obviously needed protection—from Comey, from Mueller, from the Democrats and the news media. In fact, Trunp didn’t do enough to foil this attempted coup.

11. Ethics Villain: Rep. Adam Schiff: Though it has been clear for a long, long time that Schiff is a habitual liar, the Durham Report made it clearer still that all of his statements about having seen evidence that Trump was colluding with the Russians were deliberate efforts to mislead the public and his colleagues.

30 thoughts on “Assorted Ethics Observations On The Durham Report, Part II: The Substance

    • Michael T Ejercito wrote, “Hillary Clinton is truly America’s greatest villain.”

      Or could Hillary simply be a willful scapegoat.

      If you really think about it, do you honestly think that Hillary Clinton has the intelligence to come up with this kind of deep state rooted plan on her own and did she have the clout in the justice department, the FBI and the intelligence world to execute this, I don’t think so. I think all that power and and intelligence was elsewhere at that time in history. I think Hillary was, and still is, a powerless willing figurehead and she was willing to be the recipient of this corrupted plan, if it worked, and the eventual scapegoat if the plan didn’t work and people found out the truth about it. Remember, they all thought that Hillary was going to win the election in a landslide, so they could easily destroy their tracks after Hillary got in office. Also remember, this scheme had to be planned and executed in such a way as to cover their tracks as they were executing it across the globe, not do anything actually “illegal”, and disseminate the anti-Trump Russia propaganda as far and as fast as possible to the people of the USA. I think this plan has the names of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, James Comey, John Brennan, and Loretta Lynch written all over it, that’s where the real political power, legal and intelligence clout was at that time.

      This Russia collusion scheme was all planned and executed by knowledgeable and skillful Trump hating professionals and done in a way that would not break existing laws and give plausible deniability to those at the top of the scheme. The tentacles of this scheme went deep into the government bureaucracy and used their Pravda-USA media to make it all happen, it was all well planned. This was a true Washington DC conspiracy to deceive the people of the United States of America going into a national Presidential election, and after the plan didn’t get the “right” person elected, they pressed their concocted Russia conspiracy via the bureaucracy, the media and Congress to destroy the sitting President and limit his ability to get things done.

      There’s the theory, how’d I do?

  1. It would be poetic justice if the Republican House served up articles of impeachment against Obama and Biden at this point. The last Congress already established the precedent of impeaching an out-of-office president, and the conduct here, as Jack notes, is much more clearly in impeachment territory than Trump’s January 6 foolishness. Probably not ethically defensible (it smacks of tit-for-tat), but impeachment may be the only way to establish accountability for what was an assault on our governing norms.

      • Nope. Just lawfare. And it wouldn’t be seditious against a former president, especially one who committed the acts demonstrated here. As for Resident Biden, that might be an interesting Constitutional issue. It would be fun to try.

  2. I wish I could get upset about this, but the fact that the media is already ho-humming and moving on shows that it’s D.O.A.

    • Which is why the hearings on the Report are critical, and why the people having hissy-fits over Tucker Carlson and avoid Fox News, which is one source that is not going to bury the Durham Report, need to grow the hell up.

  3. The revelations in the Durham report highlighted and summarized by HT are disgusting.
    In Part I, Jack commented: “An investigation calculated to bring down a U.S. President and that was the source of leaks, lies, innuendos and propaganda for most of that President’s administration is an attack on democracy, and certainly required a full investigation. Government agencies, elected officials and the news media itself frequently engage in unethical conduct that does more harm than most crimes, but that cannot be shown to have broken specific laws. Of course it was worth $6.5 million: it’s a bargain, if it prevents this from happening again. Those “current and former law enforcement officials” who opposed Durham’s work are either among the villains of this episode or their enablers.”

    I don’t believe anything in the report will prevent it from happening again. Since the Obama administration, the “deep state” and its enablers (the media and academia) have demonstrated that Lincoln’s government of the people, by the people, for the people has perished. Make no mistake: I do not think Obama created the problem. What he and the deep state realized was progressives controlled most institutions and that they could virtually get away with anything.

    Since the Obama administration, it has been demonstrated that progressives in government are free to operate as they wish. They can ignore laws and violate people’s rights as they wish without consequences in most cases. That the Durham report doesn’t find any clear violation of law is a joke. How about fraudulent FISA warrants? How about RICO violations? How about wasting $30 to $40 million on the Special Counsel investigation which was prompted by the bogus actions of the FBI? This and other actions by the justice department on what to investigate and what to ignore demonstrates our government is corrupt through and through. No investigation of the Clinton Foundation. Ignored investigating or prosecuting Hillary Clinton, James Comey, Lois Lerner, and Andrew McCabe, etc. However, when it came to Trump, there was a full-court press on all fronts from before the election and beyond his leaving the Presidency. Why?

    Trump had to be stopped for the following reasons. He derailed progress on Obama’s fundamental changing of America. He was an outsider. He was able to deliver positive results for the American people. He worked hard to control the border, reduce regulations, and roll back Obama Care. He was a strong supporter of Israel. He was making progress in Middle East peace. He restored fear in the world’s dictators of the United States. He unraveled or reversed many of Obama’s Executive orders and law violations, particularly regarding illegal aliens and the Iran nukes deal. Trump had to be stopped at all costs because he was the most dangerous person on the planet.

    Our government has devolved into a government of the people, by the elite, and for the elite. There is nothing you nor I can do about it. In two weeks the Durham report will most likely be old news.

    • Tom P wrote, “In two weeks the Durham report will most likely be old news.”

      I can hear it now…

      It’s 2023, “what difference does it make” now. We shouldn’t be rehashing old worn out topics like this, we should be working on what the American people want us to work on, things like climate change, slavery reparations, paying off college students loans, disarming the American people, changing the names of schools, removing racist rocks, etc…

  4. “The political left has shown its pattern of propaganda lies within their narratives so many times since 2016 that it’s beyond me why anyone would blindly accept any narrative that the political left and their lapdog media actively push?” Steve Witherspoon 2022

    After knowing how corrupted the political left has been for a while here’s my problem going forward…

    None of what was done was technically “illegal” and no one is going to jail, the constant misinformation schemes have worked for the political left, the actions of the leadership of the political left & their lap-dog Pravda-USA media are fully condoned by the voters that support the political left, and it’s quite clear that the political left believes right down to their bones that the ends justifies the means. I think it’s reasonably fair to openly state that any facade of change that the ruling class deep-state bureaucracy publicly states that they’ve put in place to stop this from happening again is a smoke screen baled-faced lie, nothing will effectively change because it would tie their hands and what works works to the political left’s advantage, the mechanisms that allowed this to happen will remain in place because they work to the political left’s advantage and we will see what has worked since 2016 happen again, and again until any semblance of real opposition to their power is effectively gone.

    Alan Dershowitz wrote at the end of one of his recent newsletters that “the Durham Report is a small but essential step on the right direction.” In my opinion, that’s looking at the report in an unwarranted favorable light and it’s a bit naive. The report literally lays out in some detail how to effectively abuse power, control the voting public, get your desired political outcome and get away with it without any real consequences. These people are controlling the political scene and brainwashing the voters during election cycles in a way that no one will really know what they’ve done until years later and by then it’s too late, they’ve succeeded in their political goals and there’s no way to overturn elections because of these kind of behaviors. It’s a win win for the political left and they know it. The Durham Report is literally a road map for what is to come. I can’t hardly wait to see what happens in the upcoming Presidential election cycle.

    I fear that what is happening is a cultural change that is relatively “permanent” and it will either lead to one party rule and an absurd Orwellian style of twisted “woke” totalitarianism in the USA where the Constitution is nothing but a unenforceable quaint piece of parchment that no judge or justice would dare to enforce or it will lead to a very bloody limited civil war.

    • Silly me. I always looked at Hispanic and Muslim countries (both cut from the same cloth) and thought those cultures were weirdly enamored of totalitarianism where the winner takes all. I used to think Americans were different and wouldn’t put up with that stuff. Boy was I wrong. Even half the baby boom generation is all in on lefty totalitarianism. And I’m guessing younger generations want free stuff and are willing to put their lives in the hands of their betters.

  5. “The FBI knowingly treated Clinton with kid gloves. FBI lawyer Lisa Page warned the bureau’s senior intelligence investigator, Peter Strzok, to tread lightly in interviewing Clinton about the email scandal — fearful that, upon winning the election, Clinton would otherwise be vengeful against the FBI”

    I’d mentioned that too, and it stood out as narratively important. To be blunt: The FBI weren’t just investigating Trump out of a deep-seated loathing for him (although they were). They didn’t just give Clinton a pass because she was a Democrat (although I think they were). They were also very aware of the political reality of who their targets were and they were afraid of Clinton.

    The fig leaf of FBI independence has always seemed to me as part of the emperor’s new clothing line, but that quote seems like a coffin nail on the casket of the long-standing plausible deniability defence. You have someone placed relatively high in the FBI cautioning someone else relatively high up in the FBI against doing their job because of political ramifications.

    At least Lisa Page was fired.

    And then hired by MSNBC.

    • I find the Iranian connection interesting. Lisa Page’s mother is Iranian and Strzok’s father helped promote the Islamic government of Iran and possibly was involved with the Iran hostage crisis. Obama seemed intent on making Iran the leader of the Islamic world, while Trump was likely to support Israel and the US’s traditional ties to Saudi Arabia.

  6. I don’t think I’ll ever vote for a Democrat again after this.

    They have no shame because they don’t have to have any. They know they’ll be bailed out by a complicit media and their corrupted followers. Bread and Circuses will do the rest.

  7. When the corruption of “deep-state” is laid bare like this, I think about the core message of 1984:

    “Now I will tell you the answer to my question. It is this. The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”
    ― George Orwell, 1984

  8. Couldn’t #10 just be ‘The FBI”. I never saw a single FBI official in this entire episode try to right this train. Every single one of them abused their power and every one of them lied when questioned. How many laws were broken? How many of those FBI officials leaked classified documents? How many lied on FISA documents to spy on Americans without cause?

    The utter lawlessness of the FBI and DOJ contributes to the contempt for the law that is currently consuming our cities.

  9. Look, the idea that there was no illegality exposed in the Durham report cannot be true, especially if what Andy McCarthy says is correct. There is no question that engaging in a coordinated effort to frame and force the removal of a duly elected president by deception and fabrication is the dictionary definition of a seditious conspiracy.

    The fact that Durham does not explicitly say that, and frames it more as a failing than a conspiracy doesn’t change the reality of the matter. Law enforcement is limited in what they can discover under cases like this, and the willful lies, mis-statements, dissimulation and falsification of evidence exposed more fully than previously known by Durham et. al. adds even more credibility to the criminal nature of what happened in this case.

    Now, I don’t doubt that it will essentially produce little more than a slight yawn anywhere in the mainstream, and given the fact the Left currently controls most of the levers of government as well as the media who reports on it, no action whatever will ensue other than the three-line non-response from the FBI. That’s just the nature of the depths to which our politics have sunk — there is no light that will penetrate this darkness.

    But there can be no rational world in which this clear conspiracy to depose by deception and guile the lawfully elected president, and the concomitant damage to his administration, is not prima facia illegal. Let’s just get that straight.

    • Glenn,
      I totally agree. I suggest that if what happened to Trump was the work of a small highly placed group of rogue employees “Thee Government ” would clean house. What the reality seems to be is that this behavior is endemic to the culture of “The Government”. And we the little people should never forget who works for whom. As is shown below.

      Federal Government Employee Average Wages vs Private Sector
      2000 Difference 2018 Difference
      Federal $52,217 34% $94,463 49%
      Private $38,862 $63,306
      Federal Government Employee Toral Compensation vs Private Sector
      Federal $69,419 50% $135,971 80%
      Private $46,136 $75,381

      • The Table did not come through nicely. This should be easier to understand.
        In 2000 Federal worker’s wages were 34% higher than private sector employees.
        Federal $52,217
        Private $38,862
        In 2018 Federal worker’s wages were 49% higher than private sector employees.
        Federal $94,463
        Private $63,306
        In 2000 Federal workers’ total compensation was 50% higher than private sector employees.
        Federal $69,419
        Private $46,136
        In 2018 Federal workers’ total compensation was 80% higher than private sector employees.
        Federal $135,971
        Private $75,381

  10. Chuck Schumer said:
    “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,”

    Our Founding Fathers understood the same thing when they defied the Brits but did so anyway. If defiance does not arise from politicians where does that leave us?

    PS. Stop voting democrat, is bad for your health and at least slows things down a bit.

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