Tag: russia probe
Durham Probe's Failure Debunks 'Deep State' Mythology (And Barr's Reputation)

Durham Probe's Failure Debunks 'Deep State' Mythology (And Barr's Reputation)

The two most common themes of MAGA sorehead emails I received last year were the inevitability of an anti-Biden landslide in 2022, and the certainty of Hillary Clinton’s prosecution by “independent counsel” John Durham supposedly for falsifying evidence against Donald Trump during the “Russia, Russia, Russia hoax,” as Trump styles it.

Almost needless to say, neither happened. What has taken place instead is the total collapse of Durham’s ballyhooed probe along with his reputation for probity and competence. Along with that of former Attorney General Bill Barr, who comes off looking like…

Well, have these two jokers never heard of Kenneth Starr, another would-be Republican Torquemada, 15th century mastermind of the Spanish Inquisition? For a time, Starr managed to preserve the appearance of probity among his adoring fans among the Beltway media.

How many times did we see the soft-handed house-husband dutifully taking out the trash on TV and assuring reporters “our job is to do our job”?

Until, that is, the public reaction to his prurient, porn-accented report on the dalliance between Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. (Written by Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.) This unfortunate document sent the eminent Judge Starr off to Baylor University, where as college president he took to wearing cheerleader costumes and helping cover up sexual assaults by football players, resulting in his firing.

Lawyers who work for Donald Trump, of course, are rarely paid and often end up facing disbarment—Michael Cohen, Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Sidney Powell, etc. William Barr, a veteran GOP operative, should have known better.

But then he and his running buddy Durham are True Believers, seemingly falling into the most seductive of traps: believing their own bullshit, to use one of Barr’s favorite words. This has long been Barr’s calling card; he’s the kind of idealogue who’s often in error, never in doubt. A blowhard who makes a great show of his Catholic piety.

Durham’s motives appear similar. A recent detailed New York Times expose depicts the pair as making a mockery of the “independent” part of “independent counsel,” drinking and dining together regularly, and jointly embarking to Europe on a futile quest to prove an imaginary “Deep State” conspiracy against Trump.

Instead, Italian authorities presented them with evidence of financial crimes by Trump himself, prompting a criminal investigation that should never have been entrusted to Durham. The Times and other news outlets erroneously reported that Durham’s review of the Trump-Russia probe had morphed into a criminal investigation. Fox News flogged it like the Second Coming. Neither Barr nor Durham did anything to correct the record. Hence the excitement among my MAGA correspondents.

What the Italian allegations consisted of or what Durham’s investigation concluded remains unknown. How current Attorney General Merrick Garland can allow Durham to persist in his role, given the revelations in the Times’s voluminous article is similarly mysterious.

Former Attorney General Barr, of course, has cunningly attempted to salvage his own reputation by turning against Trump—dismissing his claims of election fraud as “bullshit” and telling the January 6 committee and pretty much anybody who will listen about the former president’s intellectual, temperamental and moral unfitness for office. Geez, you think?

Would it surprise you to learn that Trump’s domineering Attorney General has never prosecuted a court case? Durham has, but appears to have succumbed entirely to partisan zeal.

After Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz issued a report concluding that FBI investigators had properly opened an probe of the Trump campaign after an Australian diplomat tipped them that a Trump aide revealed advance knowledge that Russian spies had Hillary Clinton’s emails, Barr and Durham did all they could to debunk it.

“But as Mr. Durham’s inquiry proceeded,” The Times reports “he never presented any evidence contradicting Mr. Horowitz’s factual findings about the basis on which F.B.I. officials opened the investigation.” Then, after independent counsel Robert Mueller’s report revealed “numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign and detailed both how hard Moscow worked to elect Trump, and how eagerly wanted their help,” Barr composed a weasel-worded summary that distracted public attention.

Robert Mueller didn’t indict Trump but he convicted both his campaign manager Paul Manafort, who owed millions to close Putin ally Oleg Deripaska, and also his dirty tricks chieftain Roger Stone.

John Durham convicted nobody. Over the resignations of career prosecutors who objected to his bullying methods, he charged two Democratic operatives for allegedly lying to the FBI. “The two cases,” Josh Marshall writes “were mainly vehicles for airing tendentious conspiracy theories he couldn’t prove and had no real evidence for. The actual cases were laughed out of court with speedy acquittals.”

So now we have the GOP House’s so-called “weaponization” committee which will put on a great show of trying to prove what Durham and Barr could not about the mythical “Deep State.”

Look for it to blow up in Republican faces.

How Russian Agents Have Perverted Our Politics: A View From 1000 Feet

How Russian Agents Have Perverted Our Politics: A View From 1000 Feet

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We forgot to hold a funeral for the dead drop. “Dead drop,” you say? What the hell is a dead drop? It’s the now long-abandoned practice in spy craft whereby a spy – just for the hell of it, let’s make it a Russian spy – collects a package of secret information from the agent-in-place he (or she) is running in a foreign country. The way it works is this: the agent providing the secrets goes to a pre-arranged location – let’s say it’s a bench at an overlook of the Potomac River on the Virginia side along the George Washington Parkway – and he (or she) leaves the package in a pre-arranged place – let’s say it’s in a lidded paper coffee cup left casually at the side of the overlook’s restrooms.

Then the spy – the Russian agent ­working for the SVR, the Foreign Intelligence Service, which replaced the KGB after the Berlin wall fell – anyway, the spy walks casually – it’s all done casually -- past the overlook restroom and retrieves the empty coffee cup and takes it back to his office at the Russian embassy or his home, where he proceeds to examine its contents. The package used to be microfilm, or a microdot placed on, say, a receipt from the coffee shop, or it might, in more modern times, be a memory chip or even a thumb drive.

The “dead” in dead drop refers to the fact that the agent-in-place and his spy handler never see each other because the whole thing is done according to a plan set up previously. Dead drops have been portrayed in countless spy novels and movies – the classic Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré comes to mind. It’s exciting. You get to see them passing the signal establishing the dead drop. One form it might take is a chalk mark on the back of a park bench, which signals that the dead drop is on at the pre-arranged location. Then you see the drop and the pickup. All of this to conceal the fact that Russia has an agent-in-place within some agency in our government, like in recent cases the Navy and even the FBI -- the law enforcement agency tasked with catching spies.

Well, as we should all know by now, the days of intelligence agents passing secrets in the night are long gone. Now the spies are right out in the open. And that’s the other thing we haven’t done. We haven’t stood back and looked at recent political events from an overall perspective. We’ve gotten lost in the rapidly and endlessly unfolding scandals of you-know-who, buried in the details of this secret meeting or that illegal campaign contribution or that questionable character being invited into the Oval Office, no less, for meetings that have gone all the way from trying to get the FBI Director to look the other way and go easy on one of what would become several White House felons, to out-and-out plots to use the military to seize election machinery and re-run an election, which was not in effect a coup, but a coup in progress.

Almost all the unusual events in our recent political life have involved Russians, and as we will see, they go back much further than we usually recall. Trump met with an outright Russian spy in the person of Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in a private room after a big foreign policy speech he gave in April 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel. And then there was December 2016, when the same Russian spy, Kislyak, held a secret meeting with the son-in-law of the president-elect, Jared Kushner, and the man to be appointed national security adviser, Michael Flynn, in the transition office of Donald Trump in Trump Tower.

We should stop here to note that the word “spy” used in relation to the Russian Federation has a different meaning from its common use in this country. You don’t have to be a trained KGB or SVR agent that went to spy school to gather intelligence for your superiors in the Russian government. You can be the ambassador to a foreign country, or the owner of a Russian conglomerate doing business overseas, or even a Russian politician on a trip to visit a country considered a foreign adversary like, say, the U.S.A.

Five months after the secret meeting in Trump Tower, and the day after Trump fired his FBI director -- who had just announced that the FBI had been investigating Trump and his campaign for ties to Russia since July of 2016 -- President Trump would waltz Kislyak and his boss the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, past all the White House handlers and the Russian media – but not the American press pool covering the White House, who were banned from the event – right into the Oval Office where, it would later be reported, he passed some kind of top secret information to them about Israel and assured the two that he wasn’t bothered at all about Russian involvement in his election campaign because the United States does the same thing to other counties around the world.

Contacts between Russian spies and their targets in the U.S. would happen at places like an NRA convention, as when Maria Butina – remember her? – and her SVR handler, Aleksandr Torshin, a Russian senator who would soon become the Speaker of the Senate of the Russian Federation, a position you don’t get without the personal approval of Vladimir Putin, were given all-access passes to the NRA convention in St. Louis in 2012 and the next one in Houston in 2013, not to mention being welcomed at NRA headquarters in Virginia both years.

These two obvious Russian spies stayed involved with the National Rifle Association, the largest contributor to the campaign of Donald Trump. Torshin and Butina arranged for officials of the NRA to travel to Russia in 2015 for the convention of a completely fictional organization established by Butina called “Right to Bear Arms.” There is no right to bear arms in Russia as there is here. The organization, a mirror image of the NRA, was apparently established with Putin’s blessing simply to give open cover to the two spies, Butina and Torshin, to lure important Americans to Moscow.

Among those in Russia for the gun convention were outgoing NRA president David Keene and incoming NRA president Pete Brownell, Outdoor Channel CEO Jim Liberatore, and major Republican donors Hillary and Arnold Goldschlager. Who did they meet with while in Moscow? Well, how about Deputy Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and our friend Foreign Minister Sergey Lavov – both destined to be sanctioned multiple times for stuff like annexing Crimea, interfering with the U.S. election of 2016, and of course invading Ukraine in 2022.

Torshin and Butina also held meetings that year with no less a figure than Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer and Hank Greenberg, the chairman of American International Group. They would also attend fundraisers for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, be VIPs at the NRA convention in Nashville, and attend something called “Freedom Fest” in Las Vegas where now-presidential candidate Donald Trump was the featured speaker.

So, why bother with dead drops when you can just dispatch folks like Russian Senate Speaker Torshin and honeypot babe Maria Butina, who formed an intimate relationship with the chairman and CEO of Overstock.com, Patrick M. Byrne, who would go on to become a major Trump Stop the Steal conspiracy theorist and attend an Oval Office meeting with Michael Flynn and others when overturning the election results of 2020 was discussed with Trump. I mean, Butina and Torshin attended the National Prayer Breakfast at which Trump spoke, inaugural balls in 2017 that Trump attended, and parties at the Swiss Ambassador’s residence where they made contact with J.D. Gordon, a retired Naval officer who served as director of national security for the 2016 Trump campaign.

On and on and on I could go, but this should give you a flavor of what the Russians have been up to for the past decade or so in this country. Much more can be found in the final report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller who, while unable to indict then-President Trump on multiple counts of obstruction of justice, was nevertheless able to lay out in excruciating detail how, under the direction of Vladimir Putin himself, SVR agents and hackers working for the Russian government infiltrated the American political system, exerted influence over the Trump campaign in 2016, helped to distribute hacked Democratic Party emails to damage the campaign of Hillary Clinton – I could go on, but why bother?

Trump himself hired a man with ties to Russian intelligence, Paul Manafort, to chair his campaign. Manafort would share secret polling data on battleground states with Konstantin Kilimnik, a trained Russian spy who worked for Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to Putin who would be involved in Trump’s attempts to blackmail the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, into helping him defeat Biden in the election of 2020.

Remember a character by the name of Lev Parnas? How about Igor Fruman? What the hell were those two doing dining with Rudy Giuliani and President Donald Trump at his hotel in Washington in 2018, discussing how to get rid of the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch? They were both involved with Deripaska, to whom Manafort owed something like $12 million. They were eventually arrested at Dulles Airport by the FBI with one-way tickets to Austria through Germany and indicted and convicted of funneling foreign money to a Texas Republican Congressman, Rep. Pete Sessions, who helped them get Yovanovitch fired by writing a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who promptly did just that, recalling the ambassador to Ukraine without notice or giving a reason and allowing her only two days to leave her post in Kyiv.

Just to give you a flavor of how this stuff worked, a lawyer for Parnas, Joseph Bondy, wrote a letter to a federal judge attempting to get the U.S. Attorney in New York, Geoffrey Berman, to recuse himself from the Parnas case because of conflicts of interest. Bondy told the judge he had seen proof laying out how the U.S. attorney had gathered evidence on Parnas and from whom: “ The evidence seized likely includes e-mail, text, and encrypted communications that are either non-privileged or subject to an exception to any potentially applicable privilege, between, inter alia, Rudolph Giuliani, Victoria Toensing, the former President, former Attorney General William P. Barr, high-level members of the Justice Department, Presidential impeachment attorneys Jay Sekulow, Jane Raskin and others, Senator Lindsey Graham, Congressman Devin Nunes and others, relating to the timing of the arrest and indictment of the defendants as to prevent potential disclosures to Congress in the first impeachment inquiry of then-President Donald. J. Trump.”

All those high-ranking figures with close connections to Trump were implicated in trying to prevent the disclosure of secret connections to little old Lev Parnas. And why? How about because all of them were so neck deep in Trump’s Ukraine scandal that if Parnas’ connections were made public, they would lead directly to Russian intelligence assets like Deripaska and Kilimnik and oligarch Viktor Vekselberg and others, right up to and including the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.

All of this was intended to destabilize the country of Ukraine, which under the leadership of Zelensky, was making noises about becoming closer to the European Union and maybe even joining NATO. And who was really, really pissed off about Ukraine? Pissed off enough that a few years later he would invade Zelensky’s country and try to depose him? Vladimir Putin.

Here is where our view from 1,000 feet comes in. Putin had been up to his games with the U.S. since Trump, who had announced he would run for president someday, took his Miss Universe pageant to Russia in 2013. Putin had backed right-wing candidates for office in countries like France and Germany and Poland and Hungary. He had his grubby power-grabbing fingers in the political life of countries on several continents, including Africa, South America, North America, and in the Near and Far East – remember Afghanistan before we decided to ignore the whole “graveyard of empires” thing and fuck things up over there. He had announced again and again that the fall of the Soviet Union was the most terrible thing that ever happened to his homeland, and although he had not yet announced it out loud, he was driven to do something about reconstituting Russia as the great power he considered it had always been and should be again.

So, he meddled. He meddled with businesses owned by his oligarchs. He meddled by making political deals to supply country after country with his oil and especially his gas reserves. He meddled by securing the Winter Olympics for Russia in Sochi and then engaging in a government-funded and government-driven plot to use performance enhancing drugs to have his people win and show Russia was a great power in sports once again.

But his biggest, most heavily-funded and closest-watched meddling was against Russia’s eternal big power rival, the United States. The whole “Ukraine scandal” that got Trump impeached was actually a power play by Putin to destabilize that country. Remember, as far back as 2014, he had seized Crimea and had his military, in uniforms without identifying insignia, fighting full time in Eastern Ukraine alongside Russian-speaking rebel Ukrainians. Remember that his boy Manafort was the one who had the Ukraine plank removed from the Republican platform in 2016. Who do you think was behind that? Manafort had already been working with Konstantin Kilimnik for years by then, and Kilimnik was Deripaska’s man in Ukraine. (Of course, this was before the Republican Party in 2020 just threw up its hands and said their platform was anything that Trump and his Russian handlers wanted to do.)

And now here we are about to enter the second year of Russia’s war to take over Ukraine, and what do we see when we take a look at Putin and his meddling and his “military might” presently being exercised in Ukraine? We see a man and an army that couldn’t even drive its tanks to within shooting distance of the capital of Ukraine, before they were driven back by Ukrainian soldiers on foot expertly executing ambushes and other forms of guerrilla warfare against the far more heavily armed Russian army. We see a man who couldn’t manipulate American politics for a second time and keep his man in the White House.

What we see is a paper-mache tiger with an intelligence service and a military so hollowed-out and corrupt that they were able to feed him a fiction that he, and Russia, and its army were still great when they weren’t. They could move Maria Butina around and place her in rooms with important American political and business figures – and in bed with one of them – but they couldn’t move even one tank onto a broad boulevard in the much smaller and weaker country of Ukraine.

We have seen all of Putin’s efforts at exerting his influence abroad in our own country. Hell, the man who would become Trump’s national security adviser sat next to him at the dinner Putin ginned-up for him to give a speech at way back in 2015. Republicans were able to make the whole Ukraine scandal go away with votes in the Senate at the first impeachment trial, and they were able to discredit the Mueller report with Barr as Attorney General back in 2019, but the whole story of Putin’s influence campaign in 2015 and 2016 is in there for all to read.

If you want evidence they’re still at it, you need look no further than the campaign of that lying sack of shit, George Santos, or Anthony Devolder, or whatever he’s calling himself this week. They sank $50,000 in the campaign of a single congressional candidate on Long Island using coffers controlled by one of Putin’s best friends, Viktor Vekselberg. Why would they do this? Why would they give illegal money to the reelection campaign of another single congressman from Texas, Pete Sessions, using that buffoon, Lev Parnas?

Ever heard of Mark Meadows? He was once a little ‘ole congressman from North CarolinaRep, and what do you know? He got himself an office in the West Wing right down the hall from the President of the United States as his Chief of Staff. You don’t think Vladimir Putin plays the long game? I give you George Santos, a pro-Russia Republican in the exact mold of Donald Trump. They’ll do it again, and then they’ll do it again and one day while we haven’t got our eyes on the ball and we’re being distracted by some new shiny thing over there, they might do it again with a figure slightly less felonious than Santos – but only slightly. Because we’re talking about the Republican Party here, folks – the party that is in the process of elevating Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene into the upper reaches of its leadership ranks.

Have you heard Marjorie on Ukraine and Russia lately? If she has her way, we won’t send another cent to Zelensky, and Putin will be presiding over a victory parade in Kyiv — that is, if there are enough of his troops left to goose-step down the boulevard for him.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Please consider subscribing to Lucian Truscott Newsletter, from which this is reprinted with permission.

Elon Musk's Big Twitter Reveal Is Nothing More Than Vaporware

Elon Musk's Big Twitter Reveal Is Nothing More Than Vaporware

Last week, Chief Twit Elon Musk enlisted Substacker Matt Taibbi to recap Twitter’s handling of the “Hunter Biden laptop” story based on archived corporate emails that Musk now owns.

It already seems like a lifetime ago, but in October 2020, weeks before the presidential election, the New York Post published a story about a disk image allegedly taken from a laptop that Hunter Biden had abandoned at a repair shop in Delaware.

Twitter temporarily blocked the story because it included personally identifiable information that they suspected had been hacked. Republicans said it was horribly partisan to the Donald Trump campaign of colluding with the Russians, even though the disk image came from Rudy Giuliani who had been very publicly pumping Russian agents for dirt on Hunter Biden for months.

Musk played the hype man and teased Taibbi’s tweetstorm as the scandal of the century. This was to be the second – hell, the third – coming of Watergate, Iran-Contra, and Deflategate all rolled into one. Musk claimed these emails showed that Twitter had colluded with the government to help Joe Biden.

As usual, Musk’s pitch was crowd-pleasing vaporware. Taibbi actually described how Twitter executives blocked the New York Post story all by themselves, adding that he’d seen “no evidence of any government involvement.”

Taibbi shared emails that confirmed what we already knew: Twitter execs froze access to the story because they were worried it was part of a Russian attack on the election. Twitter had been repeatedly warned by Trump’s FBI to be on the alert for hack and leak operations associated with a political campaign and possibly starring Hunter Biden. The New York Post story checked all those boxes.

In 2016, Russian state hackers leaked emails they’d stolen from the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign. The attack weakened Clinton and may even have cost her the election. In early 2020, Donald Trump was impeached for trying to force Ukraine to announce a fake investigation into none other than Hunter Biden. To make matters worse, the New York Post story was based on a disk image supplied by Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s main point of contact with Russian agents in Ukraine.

Far from showing a Borg determined to help Joe Biden at all costs, Taibbi’s cache of emails shows a lively debate in the Twitter C-suite as execs tried to balance freedom of the press against election integrity and national security. They blocked the story for violating Twitter’s ban on “hacked materials” bearing personally identifying information because the New York Post story included images with unredacted emails and phone numbers. The trouble was, there was no proof the data was hacked. There still isn’t. But the whole thing stank worse than an illegal Twitter flophouse.

Twitter was in a tough spot because Giuliani claimed that Hunter’s data was abandoned, not hacked. Then again, no reasonable person would take Giuliani’s word for that. If Hunter’s data had been hacked, Giuliani had a vested interest in concealing that fact. The emails show that Twitter execs used the ban to buy time while they conducted their own investigation.

History has vindicated Twitter’s caution. In 2021, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence confirmed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had personally authorized a major interference campaign for the 2020 election based on conspiracy theories about the Biden family and Ukraine. The FBI investigated Giuliani for his role in Ukraine, but ultimately wasn’t charged, primarily because although his efforts helped both Russia and Trump, he got paid only by Trump.

This saga would prompt any reasonable person to think how Twitter’s rules could be crafted to better address the next foreign attack on our elections. Unfortunately, Elon Musk is not a reasonable person.

He’s a raging egomaniac who seized upon his former employees’ good-faith efforts to handle an unprecedented threat as a pretext to make twitter ground zero for foreign intelligence agencies to attack American democracy.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

An Impartial Jury Debunks Trump's 'Russia Russia Russia' Lies -- Again

An Impartial Jury Debunks Trump's 'Russia Russia Russia' Lies -- Again

One of Donald Trump’s Big Lies has just been debunked, no less than by a federal jury. For years, Trump has been claiming that he is the blameless victim of what he derides as the “Russia Russia Russia hoax” – a sinister conspiracy perpetrated by former president Barack Obama and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton as well as a host of other Democrats, aided by shadowy figures in the FBI.

Now America can be certain that this is all untrue because, after days andweeks and months of costly probes and prosecutions, a jury has decisively rejected Trump’s conspiracy claims this week – for the second time. It was a humiliating verdict, with ramifications both domestic and global.

Three years ago, William Barr, then the United States attorney general, appointed John Durham, the US Attorney in Connecticut, as a Justice Department special counsel to investigate Trump’s“hoax” claims against the FBI. The mere announcement of Durham’s appointment immediately lent an undeserved patina of plausibility, at least on Fox News, to the notion that something was very wrong in 2016 when FBI counterintelligence officials opened a file on Trump’s Russia connections. Supposedly, Durham’s investigation would prove it.

Unfortunately for Durham (and Trump), both of the major cases he brought against individuals who blew the whistle on Trump’s disturbing relationship with the Kremlin ended badly.: The first acquittal came five months ago, when a jury rejected charges that an attorney named Michael Sussmann had lied about the identity of his client when reporting his concerns about Trump to the bureau. The second came on October 18, when another jury acquitted Igor Danchenko, charged with lying to the FBI about the sources behind the legendary “dossier” about Trump and Russia assembled by former MI5 agent Christopher Steele. (Durham did win a guilty plea from an FBI lawyer for misrepresenting minor details in an email seeking a surveillance warrant, but that plea resulted in no jail time.)

The jury deliberations in both of these convoluted cases required only hours, not days. When Durham summed up his case to the jury in the Danchenko case by unfurling the “Russia hoax” conspiracy theory, he was rebuked by the judge and silenced.

So, despite millions of dollars spent, with all the resources of the Justice Department behind him, Durham failed to prove any of his big claims. The only thing he established beyond doubt is that his own judgment was seriously flawed. He The prosecutor in the

In the Danchenko case he did contrive, no doubt by mistake, to show that the FBI had very sound reasons to investigate Trump’s Russia ties that had nothing to do with the Steele dossier. When asked by the prosecution why the counterintelligence division opened that case, FBI analyst Brian Auten gave a simple and, truthful answer: The United States had received a reliable tip from a friendly foreign government about a Trump campaign aide who bragged that the Russians had offered to help defeat Hillary Clinton. In that moment, Auten exploded Trump’s outrageously false attacks on the US intelligence and law enforcement, along with the entire rationale for Durham’s snipe hunt.

Why does this still matter? In a world imperiled by Russian aggression, not only its invasion of Ukraine but also its continuing disinformation campaigns against democracies, the resilience and unity of Western governments remain our best defense against an increasingly grim, authoritarian future. At the core of that defense is NATO, an alliance that depends on the steadfastness of the United States. As midterm elections approach, the painstaking effort by President Joe Biden to maintain NATO support to Ukraine against the war criminal Vladimir Putin is under threat from a potential Republican Congress.

Trump’s lies about Russia, which damaged US relations with Ukraine during his presidency, were always designed to conceal his dubious relationship with Putin. He and his semi-fascist MAGA Republicans, who will hold important positions if the Republicans win control, talk about abandoning Ukraine and perhaps wrecking NATO, all in service of the Kremlin. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the man who would become Speaker, has said that his caucus would reduce or eliminate military aid to Ukraine – a diplomatic disaster of historic dimensions.

In his quest for power, the spineless McCarthy has cast aside his own insight into Donald Trump’s character and loyalty, which he privately disclosed to Republican members in June 2016, when he told them that he believed Putin was paying Trump, and added, “Swear to God.” Trump’s subservience to Putin and his sway over the Republican Party’s “semi-fascist”leadership matter enormously. The real investigations of “Russia Russia Russia” have revealed a grave threat to US and world security – and that threat has not receded an inch.