WSJ, The Editorial Board, May 19, 2023
Mr. Mueller was named special counsel in May 2017, after Democrats and media claimed Donald Trump fired FBI director Jim Comey to stop the bureau’s investigation into the Russia collusion tale. Mr. Mueller hunted for evidence that Mr. Trump was a Russian mole but couldn’t find it. Now the Durham report makes clear that the Mueller team failed to investigate how the collusion probe began as a dirty trick by the Clinton campaign and how the FBI went along for the ride.
The report includes evidence that those engaged in the FBI’s initial Crossfire Hurricane probe and Democratic attorneys used their positions on the Mueller investigating team to cover up the FBI mess. Among Mr. Mueller’s initial hires were FBI agent Peter Strzok, FBI analyst Brian Auten and FBI lawyer Lisa Page—all at the epicenter of the Crossfire fiasco.
Of Mr. Mueller’s 18 attorneys, several worked in the Obama Justice Department during the Crossfire probe, including Andrew Weissmann—a highly partisan Democrat who attended Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election night party. They had a strong incentive to hide the truth.
One telling example: The Durham report documents the Mueller team’s handling of Charles Dolan, a Democrat who was a source for at least one of the false allegations about Mr. Trump and Russia. The FBI Crossfire team was told in September 2016 by Christopher Steele that Mr. Dolan had information related to the infamous dossier, yet the team never followed up. Agents on Mr. Mueller’s team later realized Mr. Dolan’s importance and pushed to interview him, but they were blocked.
One agent told Durham investigators that he was confident Mr. Auten told him to “hold off” interviewing Mr. Dolan. (Mr. Auten said he didn’t recall.) The agent also recalled a meeting at which Mr. Weissmann was present when the agent raised the Dolan information but received “very little feedback.” Another agent and an analyst also pushed the Dolan news in a briefing that included Mr. Auten and Jeannie Rhee (an attorney who once worked for the Clinton Foundation) and tried to open a case. Mr. Auten instructed the analyst to “cease all research and analysis related to Dolan.”
The report says the analyst told the Durham team that she believed the decision to block a probe of Mr. Dolan “was politically motivated,” as it “ran counter to the narrative that the Mueller Special Counsel investigators were cultivating given that Dolan was a former Democratic political operative.”
The analyst also relayed that at various times “Rhee opined, in sum, that there was no longer a need to investigate the [dossier], because the reports were not within the scope of the Mueller Special Counsel mandate.” Mr. Auten says the Mueller leadership in September 2017 told the team to “cease work on attempting to corroborate the [dossier].”
In an understatement for the ages, the Durham report notes that this “directive” was “somewhat surprising given that Director Mueller’s broad mandate was to investigate, among other things, Russian election interference in the 2016 presidential election.” This refers to the Durham finding that the Russians may have compromised Mr. Steele’s sources before he even started writing his dossier.
All of this suggests that the Mueller probe was as much a cover-up as an attempt to find evidence of collusion. And it vindicates the view we expressed in October 2017 that Mr. Mueller, as a former FBI director, should have resigned as special counsel because he lacked the proper distance from the bureau.
At the time any skepticism about the Mueller probe, or the Russia collusion narrative, was denounced as an apology for Mr. Trump. The Durham report shows how wrong the rest of the press corps was. The Durham probe would never have been necessary if Mr. Mueller and his team had done an honest job.