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No remorse: Democrats stick to Trump-Russia collusion claims despite Durham report

Democrats aren’t buying the findings of a years-long, independent investigation that found the FBI lacked “actual evidence” to justify its probe into whether former President Donald Trump colluded with the Russians to win the 2016 election.

The report by special counsel John Durham, Democrats on Capitol Hill said Tuesday, is “a huge nothing-burger,” and “flat out wrong” in its conclusion that the FBI based its decision to surveil the Trump campaign on shoddy, uncorroborated intelligence.

In fact, Democrats said, Mr. Trump continues to align himself with Russian President Vladimir Putin, even as he leads the GOP 2024 presidential primary field.

“Donald Trump acts like his intern,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, Maryland Democrat who helped prosecute Mr. Trump’s second impeachment trial, referencing Mr. Trump’s wavering support for U.S. aid to Ukraine as it fends off Russia’s military invasion.

Mr. Raskin said Mr. Trump’s ties with the Russians ahead of the 2016 campaign were evident. His campaign team met with Russian nationals, and there is plenty of evidence that Mr. Putin worked to destabilize presidential elections, he said.

“Obviously, the Durham investigation was a huge mega-flop and this is an attempt to divert everyone’s attention from the fact that they wasted millions of dollars of taxpayer money on this wild goose chase,” Mr. Raskin said.

Many Democrats in the House or Senate didn’t want to discuss the bombshell findings released Monday by Mr. Durham.

The 300-plus page report concluded the FBI’s decision to surveil the Trump campaign was based on “uncorroborated intelligence,” namely the now-debunked Steele Dossier that made outlandish allegations involving, among other claims, prostitutes urinating on a bed in a Russian hotel room.

The report found potential political bias in the FBI’s decision to investigate Mr. Trump, noting it differed markedly from the bureau’s dismissal of similar collusion allegations involving then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

After years of railing against Mr. Trump over the collusion claims, however, many Democrats weren’t interested enough in the topic to read the report.

“I have not seen it yet and I don’t want to comment,” said Minority Whip Katherine Clark, Massachusetts Democrat who once said Mr. Putin had “an unusual hold” over Mr. Trump.

Mrs. Clark, along with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat, made the Trump-Russia collusion allegations the centerpiece of their political messaging after Mr. Trump won the White House and throughout his presidency.

Mrs. Pelosi, in 2017, touted “cold, hard evidence” that Mr. Trump and his family worked with the Russians to manipulate the outcome of the presidential election.

“With him,” Mrs. Pelosi said repeatedly ahead of the 2020 election, “all roads lead to Putin.”

She did not respond to a request seeking her response to the Durham report’s findings.

Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, California Democrat who was booted from the panel by the GOP this year, also declined to comment. Mr. Schiff in 2017 said there “was more than circumstantial evidence” that Mr. Trump colluded with the Russians to secure the White House.

Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, another former Intelligence panel member who accused Mr. Trump of working with the Russians, said the Durham report merely identified “process issues” with the FBI probe and did not recommend concrete changes.

Like other Democrats interviewed about the report, Mr. Swalwell accused Mr. Trump of coercing Russia to hack the Democratic Party’s emails during the 2016 presidential election. Mr. Trump, during a press conference, called on Mr. Putin to “find the 30,000 emails that are missing” from Mrs. Clinton’s personal server that she used while Secretary of State.

While Mr. Trump may have extended the invite in jest, Democrats say the statement is one of the strongest pieces of evidence then-candidate Trump was working with Mr. Putin to win the White House because soon after, the DNC’s emails were hacked by the Russians.

“Everyone can go back in time and find a process foul,” Mr. Swalwell told The Times. “But it doesn’t change the fact that Trump had extraordinary ties to Russia, and Russia sought to interfere in our elections. Trump asked for it, they did it.”

One lead Trump investigator, former Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat, told The Times he agreed with the conclusions in the Durham report that dismissed the tawdry allegations in the Steele Dossier.

“It was a mistake,” Mr. Nadler said.

But, he reasoned, the FBI did not base its decision to investigate Mr. Trump on the unverified and salacious report. Rather, they decided to surveil the Trump campaign after learning campaign aide George Papadopoulos told an Australian diplomat the Russians had incriminating emails that could hurt Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign.

“I think the Durham report is much ado about nothing,” Mr. Nadler said. “He’s giving a lot of his own opinions and I disagree with him saying there was no evidence of collusion.”

According to Mr. Durham’s report, the FBI proceeded with its probe even after agents secretly recorded Mr. Papadopoulos repeatedly denying “Russian assistance to the Trump campaign.”

The report also criticized the FBI for proceeding with the investigation after failing to validate a “single, substantive allegation” in the Steele dossier.

Rep. Ted Lieu, California Democrat, told The Times that the Russian collusion probe led to several convictions of Trump associates, including his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort.

The convictions did not tie Mr. Trump directly to the Russians.  Mr. Manafort was convicted of tax fraud and bank fraud and later pleaded guilty to other financial crimes as well as witness tampering. He was pardoned by Mr. Trump. 

Mr. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI regarding his conversations with an alleged Russian agent, but he claimed he was entrapped and forced to take the plea under the threat of charges with a stiffer sentence related to his lobbying as a foreign agent.

Mr. Trump, who distanced himself from Mr. Papadopoulos’s actions,  later pardoned him.

“The facts speak for themselves,” Mr. Lieu said. “There were multiple convictions because the FBI opened their investigation. The fact that John Durham wants to reverse all that, he should be ashamed of himself.”

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𝗙𝗼𝗿 𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘁𝘀 𝗿𝗲𝗴𝗮𝗿𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗗𝗠𝗖𝗔,
𝗣𝗹𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗲 𝘀𝗲𝗻𝗱 𝘂𝘀 𝗮𝗻 𝗲𝗺𝗮𝗶𝗹 𝗮𝘁