His indictments reveal facts embarrassing to former special counsel Robert Mueller and the press.
Special counsel John Durham’s latest indictment is an important step in unraveling what really happened in the long tale of false Russia-collusion allegations against the 2016 Trump presidential campaign. The facts in the indictment add to the evidence that this was from first to last a dirty trick by Hillary Clinton’s campaign—and that the media were its gullible promoters.
Mr. Durham this week indicted Igor Danchenko, a Russian national who worked at the Brookings Institution in Washington and who was the main source for Christopher Steele’s dossier claiming Donald Trump was in secret cahoots with Russia. The FBI interviewed Mr. Danchenko in 2017 as part of its investigation of the dossier, and the indictment claims Mr. Danchenko lied repeatedly, depriving the FBI of crucial information. (Mr. Danchenko’s lawyer has indicated his client will plead not guilty.)
Mostly notably, the Russian hid the extent that he was working with a Democratic public-relations executive with ties to Hillary Clinton. Press reports have identified the executive as Charles Dolan, a Clinton associate who in 2016 was actively working to make Hillary the President. The indictment suggests Mr. Dolan was behind several of the salacious and derogatory claims about Mr. Trump that Mr. Danchenko fed to Mr. Steele. Mr. Dolan’s attorney told the New York Times that his client could not comment on an ongoing case.
The purpose was to present the FBI with oppo-research that masqueraded as “intelligence,” and it worked. Mrs. Clinton lost the election, but the Russia tale sabotaged an incoming President with relentless media assaults and a special counsel investigation. The country spent years obsessing over the Trump conspiracy that didn’t exist—rather than the Clinton conspiracy that did.
This Durham indictment reads like a story with more to come, but some lessons are already clear. One question is why the country is only now learning these facts. The Durham indictments treat the FBI as the duped party, but the record shows former FBI director James Comey and his investigators knew from the summer of 2016 that Clinton campaign fingerprints were all over the dossier.
A transcript in the Danchenko indictment suggests that FBI officials knew Mr. Danchenko was lying in the 2017 interviews. But they did nothing to blow the whistle, nor to tell the public or Congress everything they had learned about the origins of the Russia collusion tale.
The Durham prosecutions also speak poorly of former special counsel Robert Mueller. Mr. Mueller’s job was to learn the facts about the collusion allegations, and he had access to everything that the FBI had learned. Yet the Mueller team, led by Democratic partisan Andrew Weissmann, never told the public the Clinton side of the story.
The media also has a lot to answer for. In its conformist disdain for Mr. Trump, the Washington press corps with rare exceptions pursued the Russia collusion story with partisan blinders. They gave each other awards for stories that in retrospect amounted to nothing or, worse, misinformation. Anyone who raised doubts about this narrative, even as the facts mounted against it, was deemed a “Trump enabler.”
The Washington Post this week offered a first sign of media self-reflection, noting the Durham indictments “cast new uncertainty on some past reporting on the dossier by news organizations,” including its own. Yes they do.
Former Attorney General Bill Barr, who was also vilified by the press, deserves credit for giving Mr. Durham the status of a special counsel to protect his investigation after the change in administrations. Mr. Durham is telling a story that many, if not most, in Washington would prefer to stay hidden. All the more reason for him to keep telling the public the facts, and holding people accountable.