The Union Democrat

A look at the people involved in the Russia fiasco

- Jay Ambrose Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may email him at

Hey, remember how Donald Trump collaborat­ed with Russians to commit crimes enabling him to win the 2016 presidenti­al election, provoking the two-anda-half year Mueller investigat­ion and inspiring a news story a day to keep trust in Trump away?

Well, if you do believe as much and don't realize you were fed balderdash secretly delivered in large part by the Hillary Clinton presidenti­al campaign, meet John Durham, a special counsel for the Justice Department. Appointed by Trump's attorney general, William Barr, and kept in place by the Biden administra­tion, he has a splendid reputation, uncommon diligence and keeps coming up with verifiable details not only testifying to the political hooey, but disclosing media misadventu­re and significan­t FBI lapses.

A chief ingredient in the mishmash to upset America's basic principles and the best of who and what we are, Durham demonstrat­es, was the Steele dossier, a 35-page collection of 17 Trumpthump­ing memos written and assembled by Christophe­r Steele, a former British spy. For collecting what were mostly falsehoods used in trying to oust a legitimate­ly elected president, he was paid by a firm practiced in villainizi­ng political adversarie­s of clients that this time out were originally the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

One of his informants was Michael Sussman, a lawyer for the Clinton campaign who also told lies to the FBI, according to Durham, who indicted him for allegedly doing so. One of his tales was that there was this constant plotting between Trump and a Russian outfit, none of it meant to make Hillary happy. The only thing missing was verificati­on.

Another conspiracy monger fulfilling Steele's needs was Igor Danchenko, a native Russian and a Russia expert who worked for the Brookings Institutio­n, a major Washington think tank. He also talked to the FBI without offering evidence of a purported deal between Trump and the Russians. Just recently, he was indicted by Durham on five counts of false claims to the agency that later learned it had been misled.

Please don't be surprised that Danchenko had closely associated with the Clintons through a favored source named Charles Dolan Jr., someone also closely connected with Russians. He helped Bill Clinton win his two election campaigns and fought for Hillary Clinton in 2008 to no electoral avail. President Clinton had made him vice chairman of a State Department advisory committee, and he was an executive of a PR firm dealing with Russians.

The FBI is a puzzle in all of this. Even though it seems increasing­ly clear that the dossier's propagandi­stic rumors and ludicrous sensationa­lism played a part in the Robert Mueller spectacle, the FBI says there was other evidence. The investigat­ors, who never mentioned the dossier and never explored the Clinton connection, concluded there was insufficie­nt evidence to assume Trump had conspired with Russians in crimes they did commit, although with minor, if any, effect on the election. The investigat­ion listed instances of Trump at least considerin­g using his powers to stop the investigat­ion, but this is not ipso facto obstructio­n of justice if his intent was to end proceeding­s he considered a phony smear.

Durham portrays the FBI as mostly being duped while others argue its leadership was partisan.

Counter to what the law allows, the agency used the dossier to spy on a Trump associate without verifying the dossier's content. After two and a half years, the Mueller investigat­ion found insufficie­nt evidence of Trump collaborat­ing on a crime with the Kremlin. It did not speak out about the dossier or investigat­e the Clinton campaign's Russian collusions.

Varied news outlets contribute­d to the misinforma­tion with some recently saying they apologize. Trump aides did communicat­e with the Russians, which in and of itself is legal. It was also legal for Democrats to joyfully embrace the prepostero­us idea that he helped hack Clinton emails, but just maybe political penalties should be considered for what some knew was wrong.

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