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Durham criticizes FBI, offers little new in final report on 4-year Trump-Russia investigation review

Special Counsel John Durham submitted his final report on the FBI's investigation of links between Russia and former President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, and Attorney General Merrick Garland read it over the weekend and released it Monday with no redactions, changes or comments. Durham was appointed by former Attorney General William Barr in 2019 to look for wrongdoing by government officials in the Trump-Russia investigation. His 306-page report was sharply critical of the FBI but contained little new information.

Durham argued that the FBI's handling of "important aspects" of the investigation was "seriously deficient," lacked "strict fidelity to the law," was clouded by "confirmation bias" toward finding Kremlin interference in the election, and was conducted with less rigor and caution than investigations into attempts by foreign governments to influence Hillary Clinton's rival 2016 campaign. The FBI warned the Clinton campaign of the foreign campaigns, he noted, but not the Trump campaign.

Much of Durham's criticism had already been raised by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz in a December 2019 report, and the FBI, responding to Durham's report, said it implemented many of Horowitz's recommended changes years ago. Horowitz had concluded that the flaws in the FBI's investigation were not intentional or politically motivated, and the bureau had sufficient basis to open its investigation. 

Durham, in response, had taken the unusual step of publicly disagreeing with Horowitz's assessment of sufficient justification for the investigation. Durham's final report walked that back a bit, saying "there is no question that the FBI had an affirmative obligation to closely examine" the allegations that sparked the investigation, from an Australian diplomat about a Trump campaign adviser who hinted at Russian collusion over drinks. He argued that instead of a full investigation, however, the FBI should have launched a preliminary one.

Peter Strzok, one of the former FBI officials Durham criticizes in his report, responded that there was more than enough evidence to open a full investigation and called the report "a 4-year Durham opinion piece."

Durham said his report is based on more than 480 interviews, including with Hillary Clinton, plus more than 6 million pages of documents obtained through seven search warrants and more than 190 subpoenas. Democrats called Durham's investigation a fruitless partisan boondoggle, The Washington Post reports, while "Republicans will have to wrestle with a much-touted investigation that has cost taxpayers more than $6.5 million and didn't send a single person to jail, even though Trump once predicted that Durham would uncover the 'crime of the century.'"

Over his four-year investigation Durham secured one guilty plea from an FBI lawyer but lost both criminal cases he presented to a jury.