‘Absolutely Nothing New’; CNN, MSNBC’s Initial Durham Reactions Distort Report

May 16th, 2023 11:23 AM

Trump-Russia probe Special Counsel John Durham’s report dropped late Monday afternoon and, with only one criminal conviction (via a plea agreement), the liberal media were ebullient in celebrating the lack of mass indictments some billed as a foregone conclusion. It was nonetheless damaging as it found “neither U.S. law enforcement nor the Intelligence Community appears to have possessed any actual evidence of collusion in their holdings at the commencement of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.”

On CNN and MSNBC, they were only missing in their initial coverage was champagne bottles as they falsely claimed “there’s absolute nothing new here,” there was still Trump-Russia collusion, and Crossfire Hurricane was wholly necessary.



MSNBC rushed to rearrange the deck chairs on the decades-long, slow-sinking Titanic of their credibility. Correspondent Ken Dilanian — who previously has sought CIA approval for stories — insisted Durham was wrong to claim the spying on the Trump campaign should have been launched because the Justice Department did have the goods on George Papadopoulos (click “expand):

DILANIAN: And remember, it was based on a Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, telling an Australian diplomat that the Russians had gone to the Trump campaign, and said they could leak information damaging to Hillary Clinton that would be helpful to the Trump campaign. And, as you know, and as all our viewers know, at the end of the road, the Robert Mueller investigation issued a report and found no evidence or they couldn’t establish coordination — formal coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, but they found a host — dozens and dozens — of troubling contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian officials, and a Senate Intelligence committee report, a bipartisan report went further and said that posed a counter intelligence risks to the United States. But now, John Durham has come and investigated for four years. He’s not charging any FBI officials with crimes but he’s saying in a report he believes the FBI acted inappropriately and was gullible and accepted information that it should not have.


TUR: So, Crossfire Hurricane, that was the initial investigation, the opening of the investigation into Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and — and — just a reminder, it’s because of that campaign aide, that low level guy, George Papadopoulos who said something to an Australian diplomat, and that got passed along. There was also the Steele dossier.

But on page 53 of the report, Durham explained that, in contradiction to the FBI at the time and liberal histories since, Papadopoulos didn’t actually boast to two Australian diplomats “that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton” (when, as our friends at the Federalist have explained, shady British/Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud planted that idea in his head).

But, “[a]ccording to Downer, Papadopoulos made no mention of Clinton emails, dirt or any specific approach by the Russian government to the Trump campaign team with an offer or suggestion of providing assistance,” the report read.

It got even sillier when Dilanian and Tur claimed the Obama DOJ and FBI had room to run in opening a probe into Trump-Russia collusion because of Trump’s infamous boast in a July 27, 2016 press conference where he told Russia that, “if you're listening, I hope you're able to find” the 30,000 missing e-mails from Hillary Clinton’s private server. Talk about desperation.

Obama U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade came next, bragging “there’s not really a lot of steak to show for the sizzle here” with the “good news” being “it’s over, it’s done.”

“This is the final report and there’s absolutely nothing new here,” she added. “I think that what might be concerning is if there was some new piece of information that was disturbing that was unknown before, but this is a rehash of all the things that were included in the inspector general’s report”.

She also joined in the Papadopoulos lie, insisting he told people Russians “had stolen e-mails.”

There was more revisionist history: “This was not an investigation into the Trump campaign so much as it was an investigation into Russia for its efforts to interfere with U.S. elections and so, I think this is an ugly chapter that I’m glad to see closed”.

You’re free to pause here and laugh or cry at this insanity.

Correspondent Vaughn Hillyard did his best to claim there was plenty there with Trump, his orbit, and Russia intertwined and faux Republican Brendan Buck whined this was an excuse (as opposed to proof) Trump and his allies are being targeted (click “expand”):

HILLYARD: [F]or Donald Trump, this completely undercuts his efforts to try to manipulate the electorate. Every single time, whether it be from Manhattan district attorney’s effort to E. Jean Carroll’s trial against him, he goes it Russia, Russia, Russia — it’s his go to line — they found nothing. Of course, that’s not true. They found multiple individuals, indicted them, prosecuted them from Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, those, ultimately, were financial tax fraud schemes, but also the 12 Russian nationals you mentioned. They did, in fact, hack into DNC e-mails and to John Podesta’s e-mails. They did, in fact, release those e-mails. Russia Russia Russia was nothing. As you said, in that press conference, he did urge them to go find the e-mails and so the issue for him is that, right now, he doesn’t have anybody to hold up as the witness or as the evidence that there was some grand scheme within the Department of Justice and the FBI to undermine him and that is what the conclusion of this is and while he was in the White House, he had four years to prove that active effort to undermine him, and he struggled here.


BUCK: Yeah, like so much of our politics it’s a little bit of choose your own adventure. I         understand what Vaughn said, but I think we have to — we all agree that Donald Trump is going to paint his own picture here and I think it — most people don’t appreciate how much is ingrained in the psyche of a lot of Republican voters that the FBI was out to get Donald Trump and I think there is going to be more evidence here for Donald Trump to make that claim again. And it is, you know, to the extent a lot of that is nonsensical when there are things that you saw that the special counsel or the I.G. have said that the FBI made error, that’s all Donald Trump needs to continue to play victim here and it is so built into the way he is. So, I think he’s going to try to take advantage of this because it works because it’s core to who he is and look, he has a lot of people out there who are going to be ready to amplify this.

CNN was just as stupid. Weekday afternoon CNN News Central co-host Boris Sanchez chose to emphasize that, along with the lack of criminal charges, the report “does not fall in line with” and “get anywhere near” “the description of the former president that we heard at the time of his expectations of the Durham probe.

In one of the multiple conflicts of interest/agonizing irony in this segment, CNN had correspondent Evan Perez — who is personal friends and former colleagues with the co-founders of the company behind the Steele dossier, Fusion GPS — also dismiss the case (click “expand”): 

[A]nd to — to reiterate what you just mentioned, you know, the report does say that the Justice Department and the FBI did have a — a — duty to look into those original tips that began it’s investigation, but he says in this report, he doesn't say that, you know, the FBI should have launched a full-blown investigation...As you pointed out correctly, there are no more additional charges being recommended against anyone, not the FBI, not Jim Comey, not Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. No one in the campaign is being charged with anything. What we do know is, obviously, there was a charge against a former FBI lawyer who did falsify some parts of a FISA application on Carter Page. This is an aide to the former President — to the campaign of Donald Trump and there was, of course, a charge against a lawyer, a false statements charge who was prosecuted against a former lawyer who was working for the Clinton campaign.

Again, this was an outside lawyer and, in that case, the jury acquitted him. That was Michael Sussmann. We do know, obviously, that this investigation has concluded and what John Durham is that he believes there was plenty done wrong here, but he’s not suggesting that the FBI and the Justice Department do anything major different except adhere to the rules that are already in place. 

Sanchez reacted with another pot shot: “Attorney General Merrick Garland, in sending this over to Congress, does so without additions, redactions or other modifications....Quite a bit different from what we saw Attorney General William Barr do with the Mueller report a few years ago.”



His co-hosts, the Russian collusion-obsessed Brianna Keilar and Jim Sciutto (who won an award for his work promoting the Steele dossier as fact), tried to clean their hands of it all with former Obama official and CNN legal analyst Elliot Williams by ruling the Justice Department has long had safeguards against political bias. In Sciutto’s case, he falsely dismissed Trump’s claims about the Russia probe being Democrat-driven (when it was) (click “expand”):

KEILAR: I mean, I think this is pretty key — right — here he says in this, we conclude that the Justice Department and the FBI failed to uphold their important mission of strict fidelity to the law in connection with certain events and activities described in this report. How bad is this for the FBI and DOJ?

WILLIAMS: I mean, it’s pretty bad. It sounds like there was sloppy work by the FBI and the Justice Department that led to the opening of an investigation here, but the question is was there the grand conspiracy that, I think, many people thought, and informed it. It doesn’t look like that was there, but by any measure it looks like there was some sloppiness. No, I think the devil is going to be in the details and I really want to see what the explanation was for — for sort of the basis for how they came to that conclusion.

SCIUTTO: I don’t want to equate the two, the FBI investigation and Crossfire Hurricane and this Durham investigations, but we should not there are commonalities here — right — that each started with a — quite a broad allegation of a conspiracy, that the legal work did at least now back with actual charges or many actual charges. I mean, Durham — Durham, at the end of the day, got one criminal charge, I believe for faking an e-mail, right? Can you see some of the same weaknesses —


SCIUTTO: — in each investigation?


SCIUTTO: Just for folks at home, if they don’t remember how this originated, but during the Trump administration because — driven in part by his allegations that this whole Russia investigation started by Democrats, conspiracy theory, George Soros, and many of them typical connections that were made that he was first appointed by Bill Barr then later named by special counsel to investigate the origins of the Russia investigation, the FBI, which was known by the name Crossfire Hurricane. That was the — that was the origin of this, and, at the time, having covered this, there was a great deal of, well, excitement or interest on the right that there were going to be discoveries, as you say — 


SCIUTTO: — of a mass conspiracy and that criminal charges were going to follow, that         portion of it, though, we should note he has found wrongdoing here — not wrongdoing or at least not meeting high standards, that vision of it did not come to be.


WILLIAMS: Look, I worked at the Justice Department for six years in all, ending in a pretty high level over there. There are actually a lot of safeguards built in place for protecting political investigations, starting with number one, you don’t bring charges in advance of election day by about 60 days. 

SCIUTTO: Exactly.

WILLIAMS: Number two, very serious matters. Also have career, not just politically appointed people working on them, they get brought to the senior career officials at the Justice Department to ensure that these kinds of things don’t happen. Now, look, I will be the first to tell you people are human and make mistakes and are sometimes subject to their own biases and prejudices and so on, and you got to make sure to correct them as seems to have been the case here, in terms of recommendations, but there are a lot of checks in place to make sure problems don’t arise here

SCIUTTO: It’s a good point. 

Going to break, Keilar mocked the report: “Special Counsel John Durham concluding that the FBI never should have launched the Trump-Russia probe. However, this does not go where Republicans, I think, had hoped that it would, that there was some sort of Deep State conspiracy to target Donald Trump.”

The liberal media’s incessant love of the Deep State and dismissal of political bias in their ranks was made possible thanks to advertisers such as Dove (on MSNBC) and Progressive (on CNN). Follow the links to see their contact information at the MRC’s Conservatives Fight Back page.

To see the relevant transcripts from May 15, click here (for CNN) and here (for MSNBC).