In a surprising turn of events, Special Counsel John Durham yesterday admitted in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee that Russian interference in the 2016 election was intended to help Donald Trump. Durham's statement came in response to questioning from U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). From a report by Ursula Perano at The Daily Beast:
When Republicans brought Special Counsel John Durham to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, they thought it’d be an opportunity to score points on Democrats—particularly Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who spent years hyping up Donald Trump’s connections to Russia.
What they got instead was a viral moment when Schiff got Durham—the man tasked with concluding whether the FBI’s investigation of Russia’s connections to the 2016 Trump campaign was appropriate—took Durham to task.
Schiff, a former impeachment manager against Trump, questioned Durham about whether President Trump flaunted information that was released by Russian hackers during the 2016 election. Durham repeatedly insisted he had no knowledge of the matter. But in the midst of the exchange, Durham clearly stated he doesn’t doubt the validity of evidence showing Russia was trying to help Trump—something many Republicans have vehemently denied.
Durham tried to dance around Schiff's questions, but the more he danced, the deeper he seemed to slip into doo-doo:
“I don’t think there’s any question that Russians intruded into—hacked into the systems, they released information,” Durham said.
“And that was helpful to the Trump campaign, right?” Schiff asked.
After trying to deflect the question, Durham agreed the Russians had been helpful to the Trump campaign.
“And Trump made use of that, as I said, didn’t he, by touting those stolen documents on the campaign trail over a hundred times,” Schiff said.
Durham said he didn’t “really read the newspapers, or listen to the news.”
“So I don’t know that,” he said.
“Were you totally oblivious to Donald Trump’s use of the stolen emails on the campaign trail more than a hundred times?” Schiff asked. “Did that escape your attention?”
Durham responded that he wasn’t aware of that.
The exchange was one of multiple tense moments between Schiff and Durham throughout the day as Republicans looked to prop up Durham’s report insisting the FBI should not have investigated possible collusion between Trump and Russia in the 2016 election.
Durham repeatedly tried to downplay the seriousness of Russia offering the Trump campaign help—and the Trump campaign’s eagerness to accept that help.
At one point, Schiff asked Durham whether he was aware that Robert Mueller’s investigation revealed that Donald Trump Jr. “was informed that a Russian official was offering the Trump campaign 'very high-level and sensitive information" that would be incriminating of Hillary Clinton.”
“Sure, people get phone calls all the time from individuals who claim to have information like that,” Durham claimed.
"Really? The son of a presidential candidate gets calls all the time from a foreign government offering dirt on their opponent. Is that what you're saying?" Schiff replied.
"I don't think this is unique in your experience,” Durham said.
At another point in the hearing, Schiff compared Durham and Mueller’s investigations.
“The only distinguishing thing between [Mueller's] investigation and yours is he refused to bring charges where he couldn't prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and you did,” Schiff said.
Durham brought three charges forward, went to trial with two, and won convictions on zero—a point Democrats repeatedly brought up during the hearing.
Mueller’s investigation concluded that there were “multiple links between Trump Campaign officials and individuals tied to the Russian government.”
“Those links included Russian offers of assistance to the Campaign. In some instances, the Campaign was receptive to the offer, while in other instances the Campaign officials shied way," the Mueller report said.
The Mueller investigation ultimately brought forward roughly three dozen charges and about a half-dozen convictions.