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Special counsel John Durham’s investigation of the origins of the Trump-Russia scandal has turned into a conspiracy-theory-generating machine for feverish right-wingers. And his latest filing raises the question of whether that is by design.
A few days ago, Durham, appointed by Trump Attorney General William Barr, filed what normally is a routine and technical motion in a legal proceeding as part of his case against Michael Sussmann, a Democratic lawyer who Durham has indicted for allegedly lying to an FBI official. The filing concerned a possible conflict of interest involving Sussmann’s attorneys. But the motion included several paragraphs of supposed “factual background” that exploded within right-wing media. It led to a Fox News story with a dramatic headline: “Clinton Campaign Paid to ‘Infiltrate” Trump Tower, White House Servers to Link Trump to Russia, Durham Finds.” Other conservative outlets followed suit. The Washington Examiner howled, “Durham says Democrat-allied tech executive spied on Trump’s White House office.”
Donald Trump got into the act. He issued a statement claiming Durham’s latest filing “provides indisputable evidence that my campaign and presidency were spied on by operatives paid by the Hillary Clinton Campaign in an effort to develop a completely fabricated connection to Russia.” He huffed that this was a scandal “far greater in scope and magnitude than Watergate” and (dangerously) noted that in “a stronger period of time in our country, this crime would have been punishable by death.” He demanded “reparations.”
All this hyperbolic harrumphing—call it disinformation—arises from imprecision and perhaps false information in Durham’s filing.
Durham’s case is based on the allegation that during a 2016 meeting with then-FBI general counsel James Baker, Sussmann, who was sharing with the…