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Hidden Hills

February 1, 2023

I don't have the best vocabulary in the world. In that respect, I enjoy Mister Jenkins' articles in the WSJ because he exposes me to at least three new words per piece. The downside is that I find his arguments a bit hard to follow as I have to interrupt my reading to look up the definition of words.

Today's Mister Jenkins' opinion is a good one. He has taken off the gloves and names names of at least one journalist that he does not respect and who represents "the media" that Mister Jenkins holds in disdain.

New Hope for Russiagate Truths

Pay attention to the facts and ignore the spin in the latest New York Times hit piece. [Personally, I would not characterize the article as a "hit piece" overall. I thought it provided some interesting new facts about the Durham probe. Did it provide me with "actionable information?" No. Did it spin me up? Kind of. I was left wondering why the Times thought this was the right time to run such an article. And Mister Jenkins has raised some good points -- especially with regard to interpreting the conclusion of the IG report.]

By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. Jan. 31, 2023 6:24 pm ET It’s a wonder that Rep. Adam Schiff has not reclothed himself as the biggest supporter of Special Counsel John Durham. If the New York Times is correct, Mr. Durham has turned his attention to the matter that Mr. Schiff five years ago defined as representing the “most measurable” and “most significant” way Russia influenced the 2016 election. In a double blessing, the cause of truth is also being served by the larger media’s caution in adopting the Times’s own interpretation of its latest scoop. The only exceptions so far have been an unusually thick-headed commentary at and a similar op-ed in the Times itself, plus the two Washington Post writers most likely to be algorithms.

The genuinely valuable New York Times scoop concerns the fact that Mr. Durham, assigned to examine the FBI’s Trump-Russia collusion investigation, apparently sought the emails of one Leonard Benardo, an official of the Open Society Foundation, The emails arise not in the Trump case but in the Hillary Clinton homebrew server investigation and were cited in captured “Russian intelligence” that became the springboard for FBI chief James Comey’s chaotic actions that likely tipped the 2016 election to Donald Trump.

The history is fascinating but goes unmentioned by the Times in favor of focusing exclusively on a presumption that the evidence was fake, possibly a Russian plant. In a galumphing bit of obtuseness perhaps explained by the byline of Charlie Savage, the paper then paints Mr. Durham as a Russian patsy for pawing through the innocent Mr. Benardo’s inbox in search of a fake email.

I’ll get back to the Times but if Mr. Schiff’s speculations are correct, the FBI was bamboozled by false Russian intelligence into foolish acts that influenced the 2016 election. Everything we know as Russiagate may be mere epilogue to this fact.

Of course, many on the right have wanted to see only one side of the FBI’s misfeasance in 2016. For their part, Democrats stopped talking about Mrs. Clinton’s legitimate grievances because it seemed to lend credibility to Mr. Trump’s legitimate grievances.

A partisan theory will never make sense of these events, whereas a good place to start might be Mr. Comey’s overweening self-assurance plus his assumption that Mrs. Clinton would win and the FBI’s actions would never be closely examined. The questions are obvious and obviously part of Mr. Durham’s remit. In what sense was the Benardo document “Russian intelligence”? The odor of Mr. Comey seizing on a bit of flotsam to justify his desired actions in the Clinton email case is hard to ignore.

If the email was fake, did the Russians fake it or were they sold a fake? The similarity to the Steele dossier is self-evident—a fiction decorated with insidery-sounding details that might have been gleaned from the internet or by hanging around the Brookings Institution. Mr. Comey’s memoir insists the truth will remain secret “decades from now.” The Justice Department inspector general’s report remains hidden from the American people behind a top-secret classification—the only part of his voluminous 2016 inquiry to be so hidden. As the University of Pennsylvania’s Kathleen Hall Jamieson wrote in her 2018 book on the election, the veil of secrecy shrieks “cover-up.”

So about that fake email. As this column has previously recounted, it alluded to a Democratic plan to fix the Hillary server investigation, but the FBI didn’t seek to resolve the report’s provenance before adopting it as a rationale for Mr. Comey’s actions. Mr. Comey himself has been ambiguous about whether the evidence was fake or not. As recently as May, a Times article by Mr. Savage discussed the email at length without suggesting it was fake.

The email seems likely to be fabricated but somebody has to establish it. We also know that Mr. Comey’s FBI colleagues blamed his actions, justified by the Benardo evidence, for putting Mr. Trump in the White House. The FBI thereupon embraced feeble or plainly false evidence of Trump-Russia collusion, including its defense of the Steele dossier long after knowing it was fraudulent.

When I first wrote about these matters in 2017, I violated professional protocol by questioning the mental acuity of the press. This remains a problem and the leaders of America’s media enterprises need to do something about it. The Times isn’t the first and likely won’t be the last to misrepresent the Justice Department inspector general as having “found no evidence that F.B.I. actions were politically motivated.” He actually said he found no “documentary or testimonial evidence” of improper motivation for actions for which no “satisfactory explanations” were offered. “The activities we found here don’t vindicate anybody,” he further told Congress, in direct reference to Mr. Comey and the FBI.

If you can’t tell the difference between these statements, you are perhaps Charlie Savage.

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