FBI Responds to Durham Report, Acknowledges ‘Missteps’

FBI Responds to Durham Report, Acknowledges ‘Missteps’
FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during a press conference at the Justice Department in Washington, on Jan. 26, 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
Gary Bai
5/15/2023
Updated:
5/16/2023
0:00

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) responded to Special Counsel John Durham’s report on Monday by acknowledging mistakes in its 2016-2017 investigation of the Trump campaign and noting that the agency had rolled out reforms in response to the mistakes.

“The conduct in 2016 and 2017 that Special Counsel Durham examined was the reason that current FBI leadership already implemented dozens of corrective actions, which have now been in place for some time,” the FBI wrote in a statement published hours after the Department of Justice (DOJ) published the Durham report (pdf) on its website on Monday.

“Had those reforms been in place in 2016, the missteps identified in the report could have been prevented.”

“This report reinforces the importance of ensuring the FBI continues to do its work with the rigor, objectivity, and professionalism the American people deserve and rightly expect,” the FBI wrote in acknowledging the findings of Durham’s report.

In his report, the special counsel found flaws in the FBI’s decision to surveil the Trump campaign ahead of the 2016 presidential election, from July 2016 to May 2017, in an investigation codenamed Crossfire Hurricane over alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian entities.

Durham indicated that what caused the FBI to break its own rules in pursuing this unjustified surveillance included agency personnel’s confirmation bias against then-Republican candidate Donald Trump, over-reliance on information provided by Trump’s political opponents, and a lack of attention to accuracy and completeness in pursuing surveillance measures.

Durham recommended that the FBI can take potential reforms to improve sourcing practices, and put checks and balances on potential bias in agency personnel.

Special counsel John Durham arrives at federal court in Washington on May 18, 2022. (Teng Chen/The Epoch Times)
Special counsel John Durham arrives at federal court in Washington on May 18, 2022. (Teng Chen/The Epoch Times)
In response to a press inquiry, the FBI sent to The Epoch Times a letter (pdf) that it wrote to Durham in response to the special counsel’s report.
In that letter, the FBI agreed with the flaws identified in Durham’s report and detailed the steps the agency has taken, under Director Christopher Wray, to “identify shortcomings” and prevent similar incidences going forward.
These include reforms recommended by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), an oversight body for the Department of Justice (DOJ), in following a probe into Crossfire Hurricane in 2019 (pdf). Both the Durham Report and the FBI’s response acknowledged that the FBI had taken steps to address the concerns in the OIG report.

According to the FBI’s letter, these improvements included: installing more rigorous requirements for applying for surveillance, requiring personnel training for surveillance applications, updating agency guidelines on vetting confidential human resources, requiring additional approval for opening “sensitive” investigative measures, and expanding its internal oversight and auditing programs.

The FBI added that the questionable conduct uncovered in Durham’s report occurred under the previous leadership and that “all senior executives overseeing the Crossfire Hurricane investigation have left the FBI as a result of termination, resignation, retirement.”

(L–R) Former FBI agent Peter Strzok; former FBI Director James Comey; and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. (Getty Images/Illustration by Epoch Times)
(L–R) Former FBI agent Peter Strzok; former FBI Director James Comey; and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. (Getty Images/Illustration by Epoch Times)

Durham was tasked in 2019 with reviewing the 2016–17 FBI investigation of alleged nefarious ties between candidate and later President Donald Trump and Russia. In October 2020, then-Attorney General William Barr appointed Durham as a special counsel on the investigation, which, after three years, led to Monday’s report.

In his report, Durham concluded that “neither U.S. nor the Intelligence Community appears to have possessed any actual evidence of collusion in their holdings at the commencement of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.”

“As the more complete record now shows, there are specific areas of Crossfire Hurricane activity in which the FBI badly underperformed and failed, not only in its duties to the public, but also in preventing the severe reputational harm that has befallen the FBI as a consequence of Crossfire Hurricane,” Durham wrote in the report.

In a statement published on Truth Social following the release of the Durham report, former President Donald Trump called for congressional action in response to the Durham report, which he says shows the existence of an effort to interfere in the 2016 election.

“The Durham Report spells out in great detail the Democrat Hoax that was perpetrated upon me and the American people. This is 2020 Presidential Election Fraud, just like ‘stuffing’ the ballot boxes, only more so,” Trump wrote. “This totally illegal act had a huge impact on the Election. With an honest Media, we are looking at the Crime of the Century!”

Around the time of the Durham report’s publication on Monday, House Judiciary Republicans requested testimony from Durham in a hearing planned for next week.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, indicated in a letter (pdf) published on Twitter on Monday that the hearing would occur on May 25. The lawmaker asked Durham to summarize his findings in a ten-minute opening statement and answer questions from Committee Members.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, called for accountability over what he calls “an extreme abuse of power.”

“The Durham Report details serious and unforgivable breaches by federal law enforcement,” Rubio wrote in a statement following the report’s publication on Monday. “Relying on altered documents and partisan opposition research is an extreme abuse of power. There is no justification for using national security tools designed to keep America safe for partisan political gain.”