’A scandal far greater...than Watergate’: Is Trump right about Durham's Russian collusion findings?

Alex Brandon / AP

Fact Box

  • Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election gained traction as a court filing was released February 11, 2022 alleging Democratic lawyer Michael Sussman of releasing information to the CIA regarding Trump’s use of Russian-made phones, and noting tech executive Rodney Joffe provided DNS resolution services to the White House, but “exploited this arrangement [...] for the purpose of gathering derogatory information about Donald Trump.”
  • In response to the latest findings, former President Trump stated on February 12, 2022, “This is a scandal far greater in scope and magnitude than Watergate and those who were involved in and knew about this spying operation should be subject to criminal prosecution.”
  • In Durham’s Trump-Russia ongoing investigation, he found three people guilty, two being former FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith and Igor Danchenko. 
  • The Watergate scandal (June 17, 1972 - August 9, 1975) was “a series of interlocking political scandals” of US President Richard Nixon’s administration that ultimately led to his impeachment and resignation.
  • In the Presidential Historians Survey 2021, Richard M. Nixon received a higher ranking while Donald Trump was listed fourth from the bottom according to a comprehensive scale of qualities of presidential leadership.

Curtice (Yes)

Special Counsel John Durham's most recent filing alleges Hillary Clinton’s campaign lawyers paid a technology company to spy on servers at Trump Tower and even at the White House once Donald Trump took office with the goal of establishing a 'narrative' of Trump colluding with Russia. Despite Trump’s often bombast and hyperbolic way of speaking, he is correct that this is a scandal greater than Watergate.

If proven government communications were illegally accessed while Trump was president, this is clearly a scandal that far exceeds Watergate-level crimes. Under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, one can get up to 10 years in prison for intentionally accessing 'any nonpublic computer of a department or agency of the United States (which includes the White House) without authorization.'

During the Watergate investigation, 'Deep Throat' (later identified as W. Mark Felt, a former associate director of the FBI) told Woodward and Bernstein to follow the money. If Durham is doing the same, one suspects it will lead to an ever-deepening scandal that includes Biden's national security advisor Jake Sullivan, who pushed the Russia collusion hoax, even though he knew it was a lie. Even Biden is implicated here, as it’s documented in 2017 paid $20,000 to the same tech company, Neustar, to access 'sensitive web traffic data that the company maintained on behalf of the White House executive office in order to collect 'derogatory' information about Donald Trump.' 

Yet, despite these bombshell revelations, most of the mainstream media has maintained a news blackout on the story. This is the same mainstream media that breathlessly reported on every phony Trump-Russia collusion story for three straight years. All of this is objectively a much bigger scandal than Watergate and with the mainstream media's help in furthering the lies and cover-ups.

Siam (No)

Donald Trump is an opportunistic person—he will say or do anything to make it sound like everyone was spying on him or trying to blame him for collusion with the Russians. The fact of the matter is that the Durham report is old and not relevant—and it is not anything like the 1972 Watergate scandal. In 2017, Michael Sussmann, a lawyer for the Democrats, shared internet data with the CIA, which allegedly shows that someone was using Russian manufactured smartphones in the area adjacent to the White House. This was the same year Trump was voted in as president. Cybersecurity researchers were concerned about the heavy Russian phone traffic and shared the data with the CIA through Sussman. Now Trump thinks that they were either spying on him or trying to make it sound like he colluded with the Russians. Although Sussman was charged with lying to the FBI about this in 2016, that does mean this is the scandal level of Watergate. 

Trump claims this sharing of phone data with the CIA was done primarily by Clinton's team to show he had ties to Russia, and this, he claims was an attempt to smear him. First, the Russian phone report was in 2017 (just when Trump was starting his presidency), but the issue had been present even during the Obama presidency

The five-year statute of limitation has expired, and Sussman can no longer be accused of any wrongdoing related to his encounter with the CIA. Just passing along information related to the nation's security interest to the CIA for further investigation is not a crime and is not rare at all. And not one person was charged by the justice department during the Trump administration for this event.

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