Senate Intelligence Committee Drops a Bombshell on the Durham Investigation

It is hard to imagine a more thorough debunking of the accusations we’ve heard from Barr.

If you don’t follow rightwing news, you might be unaware of the fact that its purveyors are absolutely salivating at the prospect of U.S. Attorney John Durham’s imminent indictment of former CIA Director John Brennan for his role in launching the Trump-Russia investigation. Here is just a sampling:

  • “All The Russia Collusion Clues Are Beginning To Point Back To John Brennan” by Margot Cleveland at the Federalist,
  • “The Brennan Dossier: All About a Prime Mover of Russiagate” by Aaron Maté at RealClearPolitics,
  • “Durham’s On the Way” by R. Emmett Tyrrell at the American Spectator, and
  • “John Durham investigation intensifies focus on John Brennan” by Jerry Dunleavy at the Washington Examiner.

All of those authors focus on Brennan’s role in the January 2017 U.S. intelligence community assessment (ICA) describing Russian interference in the 2016 election, which was commissioned by then-President Obama. This is the statement in that assessment that they find most objectionable (emphasis mine).

We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump. We have high confidence in these judgments.

In all of Attorney General Barr’s statements—both written and verbal—during his release of the Mueller report, he studiously avoided mentioning the fact that Russian interference was designed to support Trump. In addition, both Barr and Trump’s enablers in the media have suggested that the assessment was the result of bias against the president and that the Steele dossier was incorporated into its findings. The goal has been to lay all of those failures at the feet of Brennan and claim that his intentions were to take down Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee released the fourth volume of their bipartisan investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. This one focused on the intelligence community assessment, dropping a bombshell on every one of those accusations. Here are some of the key findings:

* The Committee found the ICA presents a coherent and well-constructed intelligence basis for the case of unprecedented Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

* In all the interviews of those who drafted and prepared the ICA, the Committee heard consistently that analysts were under no politically motivated pressure to reach specific conclusions.

* The Committee found that the ICA provides a proper representation of the intelligence collected by CIA, NSA, and FBI on Russian interference in 2016, and this body of evidence supports the substance and judgments of the ICA.

* The Committee found that the information provided by Christopher Steele to FBI was not used in the body of the ICA or to support any of its analytic judgments. However, a summary of this material was included in Annex A as a compromise to FBI’s insistence that the information was responsive to the presidential tasking.

It is hard to imagine a more thorough debunking of the insinuations we’ve heard from Barr and Trump’s media enablers. The Republican Senators who signed on to this report include Richard Burr, James Risch, Marco Rubio, Susan Collins, Roy Blunt, Tom Cotton, John Cornyn, and Ben Sasse, making claims that it was a partisan smear job completely untenable.

But that won’t stop some folks from trying. For example, Fred Fleitz, House Intelligence Committee staffer, has already tweeted that it read like a whitewash.

Given that Attorney General Barr has now dismissed the Mueller report, as well as investigations by Mike Pompeo (while he served as CIA director) and Inspector General Michael Horowitz, it is doubtful that he will back down as a result of this one from the Senate Intelligence Committee. But the facts are beginning to form an impenetrable wall that makes things difficult for an attorney general who has already been rebuked by a federal judge for being untrustworthy.

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Nancy LeTourneau

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