Durham Can’t Back Up Barr’s Conspiracy Theory

On November 15, reporters who were awaiting Trump’s departure from the White House for a campaign rally in Louisiana witnessed what they described as an “animated” discussion in the Oval Office between the president, Attorney General William Barr, and White House counsel Pat Cipollone. According to CNN’s sources, the topic of discussion was Justice Department Inspector General Horowitz’s report on the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation, which is set to be released publicly on Monday.

Rumors have been flying recently about the contents of that report. The president’s enablers assume that it will implicate the FBI in nefarious activities that indicate the entire probe was a hoax, providing the mother-of-all distractions from the impeachment hearings. However, there are some people who claim to be knowledgeable about the contents of the report that have been leaking information to media organizations like the New York Times and the Washington Post. For example, here is what Adam Goldman reported.

The Justice Department’s inspector general found no evidence that the F.B.I. attempted to place undercover agents or informants inside Donald J. Trump’s campaign in 2016 as agents investigated whether his associates conspired with Russia’s election interference operation, people familiar with a draft of the inspector general’s report said…

The finding also contradicts some of the most inflammatory accusations hurled by Mr. Trump and his supporters, who allegednot only that F.B.I. officials spied on the Trump campaign but also at one point that former President Barack Obama had ordered Mr. Trump’s phones tapped.

It is interesting to speculate whether those findings explain the animated discussion that took place between Trump, Barr, and Cipollone. Perhaps in briefing the president on what was coming, Barr found himself in the position of being the bearer of bad news.

More recently, the Washington Post reported that Barr disputes some key findings in the report, writing that the attorney general “has not been swayed by Horowitz’s rationale for concluding that the FBI had sufficient basis to open an investigation on July 31, 2016.”

According to the Mueller report, the FBI launched its investigation when they learned from Australia’s intelligence services that George Papadopoulos had been told that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton in the form of thousands of emails. The person who gave that information to Papadopoulos is Joseph Misfud, who Mueller identified as having ties to Russian intelligence.

Right wingers, including Papadopoulos, have developed a major conspiracy theory suggesting that Misfud actually worked for Western intelligence services and his tip about the emails was a set-up by the “deep state” to spy on the Trump campaign. Barr’s two trips to Italy to press their intelligence services about Misfud indicate that he buys into that nonsense. All of that forced the Italian government to make a public statement.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy said his country’s intelligence services had informed the American attorney general, William P. Barr, that they played no role in the events leading to the Russia investigation, taking the air out of an unsubstantiated theory promoted by President Trump and his allies in recent weeks.

Not satisfied that Horowitz was investigating the origins of the Trump-Russia probe, Barr tasked U.S. Attorney John Durham to investigate the matter as well. According to the Washington Post, Durham is coming up dry on providing support for the conspiracy theory.

Horowitz’s report addresses in detail the cause — referred to in law enforcement circles as “predication” — for opening the Russia investigation. The bureau did so after the Australian government passed to the U.S. a tip that George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign aide, had boasted about Russia having political dirt on Clinton…

Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his interactions with Mifsud, has alleged, though, that he believes Mifsud is some type of Western intelligence asset, and that he was set up.

People familiar with the matter said Horowitz queried U.S. intelligence agencies to determine if there was any truth to that claim, and found no evidence Mifsud was a U.S. asset. He also reached out to Durham to see if the prosecutor had found anything that might contradict that assessment, and Durham said he had no such evidence, people familiar with the matter said.

On Wednesday, Senator Lindsey Graham will hold a hearing on this report. Back in September, he indicated that he bought in to this conspiracy theory about Misfud during a conversation with Sean Hannity and has told reporters that he plans to call Papadopoulos as a witness. That should be interesting. Will he acknowledge Horowitz’s findings that were backed up by Durham? Or do the inspector general and U.S. attorney get thrown under the bus as either members of the “deep state” or NeverTrumpers?

The bottom line is that, if the Washington Post account is accurate when it comes to what will be included in Horowitz’s report, it will provide evidence that vindicates the FBI, the intelligence services of our allies, and Robert Mueller from charges made by a man who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

That strikes me as a perfect example of the world of conspiracy theories that has consumed Trump and his enablers. Both the president and the people who surround him are notorious liars. But these are the people who are making ludicrous claims in a never-ending attempt to defend the most corrupt man to ever occupy the Oval Office. In the process, they demonize any person or institution that gets in their way, evidence be damned.

Meanwhile, those of us who live in the reality-based community are left to celebrate the fact that yet another conspiracy theory bit the dust.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.