Special Counsel John Durham was appointed by then-Attorney General William Barr in 2019 to investigate the origins of the FBI's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign's well-documented contacts with Russian operatives around that time.
Recently, Durham filed a pretrial motion that's generated hysteria among conservative media personalities, even though much of the information was old news and the characterization of it by entities like Fox News is almost entirely false.
Long story short: During the Obama presidency, in 2015, a group of tech researchers legally accessed government servers to examine a Russian cyberattack on the White House and to monitor potential future targets of Russian attacks. There, they found what they believed was evidence of communication between a Kremlin-linked bank and the Trump Organization, which they hypothesized could suggest a link between Russia and Trump's 2016 campaign. Rodney Joffe, an executive for the tech company Neustar, which maintains a number of government servers, relayed this information to his cybersecurity attorney, Michael Sussman. Another one of Sussman's clients was the Clinton campaign.
Sussman reported the findings to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Last September, he was indicted by Durham for supposedly lying to investigators about whether he was reporting the information on behalf of Joffe or on behalf of both Joffe and the Clinton campaign. Sussman continues to insist he did not lie to investigators.
All of this was established last September. None of the tech experts who legally accessed the government servers were paid by the Clinton campaign, nor have they been charged with any crime. None of the charges brought by Durham involve cyber-espionage or attacks.
Nevertheless, Fox News falsely claimed Durham's pretrial motion proves the Clinton campaign "paid" to "infiltrate" servers at Trump Tower to dig up dirt against her opponent. Trump claimed the report vindicated his theory that he was spied on during the 2016 campaign, and even suggested the tech experts, who were paid by the government to legally access servers and analyze them for suspicious activity, should be put to death.
The conservative hysteria shows no signs of subsiding.
Far-right Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo—who has repeatedly amplified fantasies that the 2020 election was "stolen" from Donald Trump—even claimed that recent aggression from Russia toward Ukraine was somehow orchestrated by Democrats to distract from the very scandal her network sensationalized.
Over the course of recent months, Russia has amassed thousands of troops at the Ukrainian border, prompting concerns that it would soon invade the fledgling democratic nation that gained independence from it in 1991. Those concerns reached a crescendo last week, when reports broke that Russia could invade the country as soon as the next Wednesday, before the conclusion of the Beijing Olympics.
That next Tuesday, Russia announced it would be withdrawing some troops from the military exercises on the border, which some took as a signal of de-escalation. Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova bragged that the move would "go down in history as the day the Western propaganda war failed," though both Ukrainian and American officials have warned against taking Russia's partial withdrawal at face value. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on February 16 that he has seen "no meaningful pullback" of Russian troops.
But the looming threat of a seismic shift in global political dynamics can easily be characterized as a Democratic conspiracy to protect Hillary Clinton from criticism—that is, if one peddles disinformation with the rapidity and devotion of Maria Bartiromo.
Addressing the quickly-evolving situation at the Ukrainian border, Bartiromo suggested:
"Was this whole thing an effort to take everybody's attention away from what Hillary Clinton did and what we know to be a complete hoax on this Russia investigation? What are your thoughts, because I know [National Security Advisor] Jake Sullivan worked for Hillary Clinton and he was one of the people who was peddling this Russia collusion lie for four years, and there he is now as NSA, coming up with this hysteria over Russia."
Republican Senator and
foreign policy expert former football coach Tommy Tuberville of Alabama agreed, for whatever that's worth.
The freshman Senator was about the only one buying Bartiromo's latest conspiracy theory.
Bartiromo's diatribe was completely illogical.
For her sake, hopefully the lawyers defending Bartiromo in the billion dollar defamation suit against her have a better grasp on reality.