May 31, 2022 (Tuesday)
The story presented by the police about the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, was that a teacher propped open the door the murderer used to enter the building. In fact, the teacher had propped the door open but slammed it shut and called the police because the shooter was firing a weapon outside. The door did not lock as it should have.
Today, Pedro “Pete” Arredondo, the Uvalde school district police chief in charge during the massacre, was sworn in as a Uvalde city council member. The Uvalde mayor said in a statement: “Out of respect for the families who buried their children today, and who are planning to bury their children in the next few days, no ceremony was held.”
News reports today said that the Uvalde police stopped cooperating with the Texas Department of Public Safety investigation after TxDPS director Colonel Steven McCraw on Friday told reporters that the police made “the wrong decision” and had not acted in accord with protocol, suggesting they had already come to a conclusion, but TxDPS later said that it was only Arredondo who was not responding to their requests. The Department of Justice is also reviewing the police response to the mass shooting.
After six hours of deliberation, a federal jury today acquitted Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussman of making a false statement to the FBI. This is the outcome of the Trump administration’s attempt to discredit the investigation into the ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.
In May 2019, then–attorney general William Barr appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to investigate the origins of the Russia investigation to see if it was “lawful and appropriate.” This was a pretty transparent attempt to salt the media with stories about how Trump was being persecuted by Democrats and how the connections between his campaign and Russian operatives were, as he said, a “hoax.”
Using “investigations” to sway public opinion has been a Republican tactic since House Speaker Newt Gingrich ran investigations about "voter fraud" in the 1990s. Those investigations never turned up any evidence, but the constant news coverage convinced many voters that voter fraud was a huge problem. Ditto with Benghazi, and Hillary's emails. Trump tried to get Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky to say he was investigating Hunter Biden's work in Ukraine.
Durham’s investigation seemed to be in this vein. Although a Department of Justice inspector concluded that the investigation had been begun properly and the Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed that conclusion, in summer 2020, Barr publicly disagreed, saying that the Russia probe was “one of the greatest travesties in American history” and that Durham’s job was not to “prepare a report” but to establish criminal violations that would lead to prosecutions. Trump supporters expected that Durham’s report would help Trump in 2020, and although DOJ policy is to avoid roiling the country in the 60 days before an election, Barr said that he would feel free within that period to release the results of Durham’s investigation.
In September 2020, then–White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told Fox News Channel personality Maria Bartiromo that he had seen “additional” documents from Durham’s investigation that spell “trouble” for former FBI officials who began the inquiry into the ties between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia. “Additional documents that I’ve been able to review say that a number of the players, the Peter Strzoks, the Andy McCabes, the James Comeys, and even others in the administration previously are in real trouble because of their willingness to participate in an unlawful act and I use the word unlawful at best, it broke all kinds of protocols and at worst people should go to jail as I mentioned previously,” Meadows said.
That month, a top aide to Durham resigned from the investigation, allegedly out of concerns about political pressure. A Republican congressional aide told Axios: “This is the nightmare scenario. Essentially, the year and a half of arguably the number one issue for the Republican base is virtually meaningless if this doesn't happen before the election.”
But it was not until September 2021, days before the statute of limitations ran out, that Durham announced a grand jury indictment of Michael Sussman, a lawyer working for the Clinton campaign, for lying to the FBI. Sussman worked for the same law firm that represented the campaign, and he took to the FBI the information that cybersecurity security experts had uncovered a possible computer link between Russia’s Kremlin-linked Alfa Bank and Trump Tower.
Durham said Sussman had lied to the FBI by saying he was not working for a client when he alerted them to the issue. Sussman denies he said he did not have a client, and identified himself as working for the cybersecurity experts. In his indictment, Durham said the cybersecurity experts did not believe their own suggestion of connections between Alfa Bank and Trump Tower and were trying to hurt candidate Trump. They responded by accusing Durham of editing their emails misleadingly and stood behind their earlier conclusions. In any case, the DOJ inspector general concluded that the FBI investigation started over something completely different: a boast from a member of the Trump campaign to an informant that the campaign had dirt on Hillary Clinton.
In a court filing in February 2022, Durham chummed the waters by vaguely suggesting that one of the cybersecurity experts, who was working for the White House as part of a cybersecurity contract, “exploited” his access there to find “derogatory information” about Trump. This was false, and Durham quickly walked it back, but Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH) told the Fox News Channel: “They were spying on the sitting president of the United States…. And it goes right to the Clinton campaign,” and the former president claimed that Durham had provided “indisputable evidence that my campaign and presidency were spied on by operatives paid by the Hillary Clinton Campaign in an effort to develop a completely fabricated connection to Russia.… In a stronger period of time in our country, this crime would have been punishable by death.”
And today, a jury found Sussman not guilty. Asked if the prosecution was a good idea, the foreperson of the jury said: “Personally, I don’t think it should have been prosecuted because I think we have better time or resources to use or spend [on] other things that affect the nation as a whole than a possible lie to the FBI. We could spend that time more wisely.”
But the Durham investigation did accomplish what it set out to. It lasted a year longer than the Mueller probe, and in that time, it manufactured an alternative narrative for right-wing media that undermined the reality Mueller’s report set out: that the Trump campaign worked in tandem with Russian operatives.
Today, former president Trump hammered on another myth when he sent to his followers an email linking to an article that claims the Georgia Republican primary was rigged. In that primary, the candidate Trump endorsed lost by a huge margin. Trump appears to believe that neither he nor anyone he endorses can lose an election fair and square, which bodes ill for the 2022 midterms.
But Trump has another reason to push the narrative that Georgia’s elections are suspect. Tomorrow, a special grand jury in Fulton County will begin to hear testimony and examine evidence to determine whether Trump or his team committed crimes when they tried to get Georgia officials to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia in 2020.
Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis has already subpoenaed six officials from the Georgia secretary of state’s office, including Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who was the recipient of Trump’s January 2, 2021, phone call demanding that Raffensperger “find 11,780 votes” to give him victory in Georgia. Raffensperger recorded the call.
After it is done collecting information, the special grand jury will issue a report to Willis recommending whether she should issue criminal indictments.
Daniel Chaitin, “Mark Meadows: ‘Additional documents’ spell ‘trouble’ for ex-officials in Durham Investigation,” Washington Examiner, September 8, 2020