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Politics Trump’s favorite conspiracy theory deteriorates — courtesy of two men he hailed

22:40  05 december  2019
22:40  05 december  2019 Source:   washingtonpost.com

Pompeo suggests debunked Ukraine election meddling theory should be probed

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President Trump has proclaimed it “perhaps the biggest scandal” in American history, and he has hailed the two men who would allegedly rip the lid off it. But more and more, it’s looking like they won’t deliver the scandalous finding he was counting on.

a man wearing a suit and tie: (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)© Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

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Trump has played up two probes into the origins of the Russia investigation — one by Inspector General Michael Horowitz and one by U.S. Attorney John Durham — and in both cases he has built up the men themselves. But Washington Post reports on both investigations now suggest the duo are not endorsing Trump’s chief conspiracy theory: that the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election was an unfounded witch hunt.

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The Post’s Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett reported Wednesday that Durham has told Horowitz he cannot endorse a theory espoused by Trump and other Republicans that the Russia investigation was some kind of setup — in Trump’s words, a “coup” — by U.S. intelligence to take Trump down:

Among Horowitz’s questions: whether a Maltese professor who interacted with a Trump campaign adviser was actually a U.S. intelligence asset deployed to ensnare the campaign, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the inspector general’s findings have not been made public.
But the intelligence agencies said the professor was not among their assets, the people said. And Durham informed Horowitz’s office that his investigation had not produced any evidence that might contradict the inspector general’s findings on that point.

Barrett, Zapotosky and The Post’s Ellen Nakashima also previously reported that Horowitz himself has concluded that a now-former FBI employee may have altered a document related to a warrant to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser, but that it didn’t change the fact that the probe had a proper legal and factual basis.

John Kennedy and the GOP alliance with Russian propaganda

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So right there, we have two investigators — who still might find some misconduct (Horowitz’s report is due out Monday, and Durham’s probe is an ongoing criminal one) — failing to find the kind of vast conspiracy that Trump has alleged.

And it’s worth noting just how much Trump has pushed that theory, and how much he has built up the two men who have apparently failed to substantiate it.

Back in June 2018, Trump hailed Horowitz’s comment from a hearing, in which he said, “I can’t think of something more concerning than a law enforcement officer suggesting that they’re going to try and use or may use their powers to affect an election.” Horowitz was referring to derogatory text messages about Trump between FBI officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, which he said were “a very serious error” and indicated they might have had political motivations in an investigation into Hillary Clinton.

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By April, Trump was hedging his bets on Horowitz a little bit, but still labeled him an “honorable” man.

“I don’t know him. He was appointed by Obama; that bothers me a little bit,” Trump told Sean Hannity. “But I think he’s — everything I can see, he’s really an honorable guy. And I think he knows how big this is.”

When The Post reported about the alleged alteration of a document by the FBI lawyer, Trump retweeted a couple of people hailing it as a big development, including this from Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.):

But recently, Trump has suggested he is more looking forward to Durham’s report, which was ordered directly by his attorney general, William P. Barr.

“So you have a FISA report coming out, which the word is it’s ‘historic.’ That’s what the word is. That’s what I hear,” Trump said on Nov. 22. “And if it’s historic, you’re going to see something. Then perhaps even more importantly, you have Durham coming out shortly thereafter. He’s the U.S. attorney, and he’s already announced it’s criminal.”

Trump added Tuesday that “there’s a lot of devastating things in that [Horowitz] report. But we’ll see what happens.” He added: “I do think the big report to wait for is going to be the Durham report. That’s the one that people are really waiting for. And he’s highly respected. . . . The IG report is a very important report. If what I read is correct — I read it in your newspaper — if what I read is correct, that would be a little disappointing. But it was just one aspect of the report.”

State Dept official rejects claims of Ukrainian election meddling

  State Dept official rejects claims of Ukrainian election meddling David Hale, the No. 3 official at State, testified that he's not aware of any evidence that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.In a Senate Foreign Relations hearing on U.S. policy toward Russia, David Hale, the department’s undersecretary for political affairs, succinctly summed up the findings of the U.S. intelligence community in response to questioning from the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Bob Menendez.

Trump hailed Durham even more effusively Wednesday, before The Post’s latest scoop.

“I don’t know Mr. Durham. I’ve never spoken to him,” Trump said. “But he’s one of the most respected law enforcement or U.S. attorneys anywhere in the country. He’s a tough guy. He’s had an incredible track record.”

That echoed what Trump said Nov. 3: “John Durham is one of the most respected prosecutors in the last 50 years in this country. . . . It’s up to Bill Barr. But the John Durham investigation is a very important — I feel — one of the most important investigations in the history of our country.”

There are a couple caveats here: One is that the Durham investigation, unlike Horowitz’s, isn’t wrapping up. It’s possible he could find additional information that he simply doesn’t have now.

The second variable is Barr. An early proponent of the idea that the surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page was problematic, he has taken a significant personal interest in the outcome of these investigations. Barr has traveled with Durham to secure cooperation from foreign countries, and he has also recently expressed disagreement with Horowitz’s overriding conclusion, as Barrett and The Post’s Karoun Demirjian reported this week.

As I noted at the time, Barr may not be able to do much about an inspector general’s independent report, but he can exercise significant influence over Durham’s probe and its aftermath. And if his handling of Robert S. Mueller III’s special counsel investigation is any indication, his influence looms large.

Trump to meet with Russian foreign minister at White House Tuesday .
Sergei Lavrov's last meeting with the president came less than 24 hours after news of the firing of FBI Director James Comey, as questions swirled about Trump's relationship with Russia.Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will also attend the meeting intended to "discuss the state of the bilateral relationship," said a senior administration official.

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