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Business News/ Opinion / Columns/  The Durham report has bared the American ‘deep state’

The Durham report has bared the American ‘deep state’

Trump is hardly an angel and is facing a number of charges, from sexual misconduct to illegally hoarding classified government documents. But in the Russian collusion case, he seems to be innocent.

Its findings suggest US agencies falsely implicated Trump as he was a threat to the political order. (AP)Premium
Its findings suggest US agencies falsely implicated Trump as he was a threat to the political order. (AP)

In India, we are regularly told by opposition parties that the government uses its intelligence agencies to serve its political ends—the Central Bureau of Investigation, the National Investigation Agency, the Enforcement Directorate and so on. So it is interesting to see how US intelligence agencies worked to ensure that Donald Trump would not be elected president and when he did win the election, tried to undermine his presidency.

During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump was plagued with allegations that he was a Russian “asset" and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) began an investigation. In 2017, Robert Mueller, a former director of the FBI, was appointed to probe charges of Russian interference in the election and links between Trump’s associates and Russian officials. After two years and millions of dollars of taxpayer money, Mueller’s report could find no real evidence of any Russian collusion.

Trump then appointed lawyer John Durham to review the origins of the FBI probe. The Durham report, released earlier this month, says that the FBI had no grounds to launch an investigation. It says that the FBI used “raw, unanalysed and uncorroborated intelligence". To put it simply, the entire Russia-Trump theory seems to have been a political ploy by the Barack Obama government and the people who managed Trump rival Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“Deep state" is quite a popular term nowadays. It defines the forces that may actually control our world—entrenched politicians; Big Tech—they know everything about your life; Big Media—they form your opinions; Big Pharma—they tell you what vaccines and medicines to take; the western military-industrial complex which needs a war going on somewhere all the time; shadowy billionaires who want to redesign the world to their will. The Durham report proves that the “Russiagate" allegations against Trump were part of a classic deep state operation, because he was seen as a threat to a well-established political order.

This is the story in brief. In 2016, as Hillary Clinton and Trump squared up for the presidential election, it was discovered that as secretary of state, Clinton had been using her personal server for official emails, including when she was visiting Russia. This was an obvious national security risk that everyone in government should have known about. The FBI itself assessed that “it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account".

These revelations would certainly have hurt Clinton’s campaign. But then, three things happened. The FBI refused to investigate the matter further. Instead, it opened a full-scale probe on Trump’s possible collusion with Russia based on what a junior unpaid Trump aide had told two Australian diplomats in a bar in London, that it was possible that the Russians had compromising information on Clinton, which, if they released, could be detrimental to her chances, and that would be good for Trump.

The Clinton campaign then hired a former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to investigate Trump’s links with Russia. Steele turned in a damning report that Trump and the Kremlin had deep links. Since then, almost every claim made in the “Steele dossier" has been proved to be false. Steele’s main source was a Russian called Igor Danchenko, who, when questioned by the FBI, was “unable to provide any corroborating evidence to support the allegations, and further, described his interactions with his sub-sources as ‘rumour and speculation’ and conversations of a casual nature."

But the FBI did not reveal this and even paid Danchenko $200,000 as a “confidential informant". It testified under oath that Steele’s primary source lived in Russia, whereas Danchenko has been a resident of Washington DC for many years. In fact, the FBI confirmed Danchenko’s allegations in court before having ever spoken to him.

Since the trigger for all this was a conversation in a bar in London, the FBI sent an agent there. As Durham details, British intelligence was sceptical and asked if some chat over a few drinks was all that the FBI had. The FBI had nothing more. The chief agent on the case, Peter Strozk, told a colleague: “There’s nothing to this, but we have to run it to ground."

In effect, an intelligence agency had inserted itself into the country’s election process, which it had no business to do. And even after Trump became president, the FBI, in collusion with the Democratic Party, continued an investigation which never had much to start with. The sitting US president seemed to have little power over state agencies and the US mainstream media too kept up the shrill din of accusations.

Trump is hardly an angel and is facing a number of charges, from sexual misconduct to illegally hoarding classified government documents. But in the Russian collusion case, he seems to be innocent. Yet, this allegation was levelled against him relentlessly during his presidency. No wonder he is a very angry man. If he does win the presidency again in 2024, he will be looking for retribution. In any case, the 2024 campaign will certainly be an extremely bitter affair. There is even speculation that the Biden administration may try to disbar Trump from standing. Of course, he will fight back with everything he has got. Expect a lot of sound and fury over the next months.

Sandipan Deb is a former editor of ‘Financial Express’, and founder-editor of ‘Open’ and ‘Swarajya’ magazines

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Updated: 28 May 2023, 10:58 PM IST
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