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John Durham's Belated Vindication of FBI Critics
"I've had to build Hell for you, that's why I've come to you belatedly."
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John Durham’s Report is Finally Here
The report is here. At long last! Four years and 300+ pages later, we learned that the FBI never should’ve gotten involved with election meddling in the first place. The FBI has already gotten out there with their spin. The problems are all solved people — rest easy! But… doesn’t this feel like a jerk store situation?
In his 306-page report, John Durham, the former top federal prosecutor in Connecticut, repeated prior criticisms faulting the Federal Bureau of Investigation on a number of points.
He said the bureau swiftly pursued a vague tip about potential contacts between a Trump campaign aide and Russia authorities in July 2016, even though, the report says, the bureau had no other information in its files to corroborate any such contact. The Justice Department’s inspector general in 2019 found similar flaws in the FBI inquiry but found the investigation was justified.
He concluded the FBI was more cautious and skeptical of allegations of foreign influence on the Clinton campaign than on the Trump campaign in 2016. According to the report, the bureau didn’t aggressively pursue evidence of two instances in which foreign governments were potentially planning to contribute to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign to gain influence. The speed with which the FBI opened the investigation into the Trump campaign “based on raw, unanalyzed, and uncorroborated intelligence also reflected a noticeable departure from how it approached” those other allegations, it said. The FBI provided briefings to the Clinton campaign, the report said, an approach it said stood in contrast to the lack of such briefings provided to the Trump campaign.
He concluded that the FBI didn’t rigorously analyze information it received, especially from people and groups with political affiliation, prolonging the investigation and prompting the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. Mr. Durham said the FBI was overly reliant on investigative leads from Mr. Trump’s political opponents.
The FBI’s leadership has turned over since the Russia inquiry. FBI Director Christopher Wray instituted dozens of changes in 2019 in how the bureau seeks secret surveillance warrants and handles other matters after the bureau’s inspector general pointed out a series of flaws in its efforts to monitor a former Trump campaign adviser.
“Had those reforms been in place in 2016, the missteps identified in the report could have been prevented,” the FBI said in response to the report, which the bureau said “reinforces the importance of ensuring the FBI continues to do its work with the rigor, objectivity, and professionalism the American people deserve and rightly expect.”
More from Paul Sperry on some of the details, including the outsized role played by Nellie Ohr and Bruce Ohr in laundering fraudulent intel information through the system.
According to the 306-page report, former Justice Department prosecutor Bruce Ohr’s wife Nellie Ohr first plowed the ground for the dossier with a series of a research reports she wrote for Fusion GPS, the D.C.-based opposition research firm the Clinton campaign commissioned to dig up dirt on Trump and Russia.
Obtained by Durham, her reports zeroed in on Sergei Millian and his connections to Russia and Trump, falsely portraying him as a key intermediary between the Kremlin and the Republican candidate. They would later provide the foundation for the dossier’s many fictions.
"Fusion GPS records demonstrate that Nellie Ohr first identified Millian,” Durham states in his report. "All told, Ohr prepared at least 12 reports that discussed Sergei Millian."
She wrote her first Millian report in April 2016, the month before Fusion GPS hired former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to put his imprimatur as a supposed former “spy” and "Russian insider" on the dossier.
"This report was prepared just ten days after Fusion GPS was retained by [Clinton campaign law firm] Perkins Coie to conduct opposition research on Trump,” the Durham Report states, "and prior to Steele being retained by Fusion GPS."
Biden’s Bleak Revisionism
In keeping with the current tenor of political oratory, it was a low, dispiriting affair, one that aptly captured the low, dispiriting nature of his presidency: acerbic rhetoric from a partisan who demonizes opposition and divides Americans from one another; bottomless self-unawareness from a politician elected president almost accidentally in a moment of crisis, who continues to see himself as some sort of historical savior; cynical cant from a serial fabulist whose distortions are becoming as loathsome as the endless malign fictions of the predecessor he despises and whom he desperately needs as a foil.
College graduations should be uplifting, a near-sacramental rite of passage—the moment when carefree youth gives way to the responsibilities and opportunities of adulthood. Commencement addresses are supposed to help send our hopeful next generation of leaders cheerfully on their way.
We don’t expect politicians to stop being politicians on these occasions, but most at least have the wit and intellectual suppleness to score their political points while still raising the eyes of the graduates—and everyone else—to a future of universal promise. Joe Biden isn’t such a politician.
Howard is a historically black college, one of the nation’s oldest and most successful, and alma mater of the vice president. But while perfunctorily noting its successes, the challenges the graduates have overcome and the opportunities ahead of them, the president chose to frame his remarks as yet another dark warning of an America where white supremacists roam the land and black people live in oppression and fear.
From the tone and content you might have thought he was addressing a graduating class in Alabama around the time Mr. Biden himself was in college in 1960, or maybe the brave graduates of a black university in South Africa in 1980.
“When it comes to race in America, hope doesn’t travel alone,” he said. “It’s shadowed by fear, violence and by hate. . . . Fearless progress towards justice often meets ferocious pushback from the oldest and most sinister of forces. That’s because hate never goes away.”
Mr. Biden waxed about the “poison of white supremacy,” which he claimed is the “most dangerous threat to our homeland security.”
On it went in that vein. A reader emailed me to speculate that Martin Luther King would probably be sobbing. There was no suggestion that the nation has made any progress toward King’s dream 60 years ago of a nation united through equality, unity and reconciliation. In Mr. Biden’s telling, the main advances black Americans have made all seem to have come in the past two years. He rattled off a list of his African-American senior appointees.
The Biden WH vs. Eric Adams
New York Mayor Eric Adams, the highest profile Black mayor in the country, has gotten so crossways with the White House that he was dropped from Biden's 2024 campaign advisory board before it was announced last week.
The rebuke reflects a new low in relations between President Biden and the mayor, who was set to be a key surrogate for the campaign. They're fighting over immigration and crime — and Adams' willingness to publicly criticize the administration.
This isn't merely personal. It's part of a potential crisis for the campaign: Many Democratic state and city officials quietly agree with Adams and are happy he is taking flack on their behalf.
They're running out of patience with the administration — especially over what they see as a lack of financial support or imminent solutions for dealing with the massive migration across the Southwest border.
One senior official in a Democrat-led state said the White House has been too defensive toward Adams' critiques. "Adams is right to be upset, and I think it’s a massive mistake to be dismissive of him," the Democrat said.
One person familiar with the relationship equated it to a fighting couple who don’t want to hold hands in public.
Across The Country, Cops are Stretched Thin
The George Floyd protests that erupted in May 2020 not only ignited a nationwide debate about police reform but also sent shockwaves through the ranks of law enforcement. Experienced officers have reportedly fled large urban departments for the relative calm of smaller, suburban departments. While this exodus has garnered some attention, the conversation has largely overlooked the long-term consequences of elevated police turnover, especially for the nation’s largest metropolitan departments. This trend poses a significant challenge to American policing at a time when many cities are grappling with rising violent crime rates and budgetary constraints.
Take Memphis. A March 2023 Washington Post article highlighted how the city’s police department, faced with a devastating loss of personnel over the past decade, resorted to lowering its hiring standards. This shift in policy, which essentially equates to hiring less qualified officers with lower levels of education, may have contributed to the tragic killing of Tyre Nichols by five relatively inexperienced Memphis officers. Indeed, we have previously made this connection.
Nor is Memphis an isolated case. Police departments across the country are experiencing unprecedented levels of turnover in the post-Floyd era. From Seattle to Austin to Salt Lake City to Omaha, city forces are struggling to retain and recruit officers. The Police Executive Research Foundation (PERF) surveyed 194 departments and found an average 18 percent rise in resignations and a 45 percent increase in retirements between 2020 and 2021, while hiring activity fell by approximately 5 percent.
Our recent study—which builds on our previous work and examines a diverse sample of 14 large departments (more than 100 sworn officers) across the U.S.—paints a troubling picture. Eleven departments reported higher rates of resignations and retirements than what would be expected based on pre-2020 observations. Austin, Chicago, Denver, and Seattle have all reported significant increases in both resignations and retirements. Salt Lake City and Seattle saw the highest levels of disruption, with between 6.7 percent and 16 percent higher losses of sworn personnel than expected from pre-2020 observations. Across all the departments, an extra 1,429 officers were lost over what normal turnover would predict, equating to a loss of authorized strength 5.4 percent higher than expected. And this is a conservative estimate, as no department in our study was operating at full authorized strength.
It’s crucial to understand that the losses we report here are in addition to “normal” attrition or the levels of resignations and retirements that would have been expected based on pre-2020 observations. In other words, the excess rate we calculate across all 14 departments nearly doubles the underlying turnover rate among all departments in 2016.
Europe’s Fertility Problem
Conservative MP Miriam Cates came close to it, speaking on the same day and at the same National Conservatism conference as Braverman. Decrying our lack of babies, Cates was wrong to put the blame on “liberal democracy”. Ask officials in Tehran or Beijing whether the rather different reigning ideologies of their polities are much better at producing home-grown citizens of the future, and you will find them wringing their hands.
In both cases, promotion of family planning (shamefully coercive in China) from the 1980s did not help, but a change of course in recent years has yielded little in terms of new births in either China or Iran. The self-styled Illiberal Democrats in Budapest have got the country’s fertility rate up, albeit still below the level of the more liberal democracies of Northwest Europe.
The fact is that in Britain we have had sub-replacement fertility — too few children ultimately to replace ourselves — since the days of Edward Heath. Whatever the reasons, political, economic or (as I believe most important) cultural, the situation is only getting worse. All of this means that as younger boomers start to retire, there are simply too few youngsters coming in to replace them.
You can rearrange the deckchairs by getting more people to start their working lives a bit earlier, but curtailing their education will frequently curtail their productivity. Government could also try to shift the retirement age by a few years, although that is not working out so well for Emmanuel Macron. Then there’s getting more of the apparently work-shy back into the labour-force. But without boosting fertility rates, the fact cannot be ignored that back in the 1970s and early 1980s there were nearly four people aged 21-65 for everyone older than that and now there are barely three. In another thirty years there will be barely two.
This is why, despite sluggish growth, sector after sector is crying out for labour. And it’s true well beyond Britain’s shores. From US brain surgeons to German factory hands, decades of too few babies is translating into too few workers. And so the captains of industry are constantly petitioning the Government to lower the barriers to immigration and issue more permits. The public may say it wants lower immigration but the first time someone cannot get a plumber to fix their dripping tap or their mother’s operation gets cancelled again for lack of theatre staff or the petrol pumps have dried up for lack of tanker drivers, that tune will change.
Items of Interest
“Frederick W. Taylor’s book The Principles of Scientific Management, published in 1911, contains the first explicit and formal outline of the assumptions of the thought-world of Technopoly. These include the beliefs that the primary, if not the only, goal of human labor and thought is efficiency; that technical calculation is in all respects superior to human judgment; that in fact human judgment cannot be trusted, because it is plagued by laxity, ambiguity, and unnecessary complexity; that subjectivity is an obstacle to clear thinking; that what cannot be measured either does not exist or is of no value; and that the affairs of citizens are best guided and conducted by experts.”
— Neil Postman