Former special counsel John Durham, who tried and utterly failed to prove that the Russia investigation was a vast anti-Trump conspiracy, testified Wednesday before the House about his work. Durham’s hearing interestingly revealed a possible explanation for why he threw away a sterling reputation to work with William Barr fruitlessly pursuing a right-wing conspiracy theory: The man seems to have become so hopelessly brain-poisoned by Fox News he has lost all touch with facts outside the Republican information bubble.
More specifically, Durham seemed to be unaware of the major factual elements of the alliance between the Trump campaign and Russia. This ignorance came through in several awkward exchanges with Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee panel.
Eric Swalwell asked Durham about how Trump “tried and concealed from the public a real-estate deal he was seeking in Moscow.” This was a deal, described in the Mueller report, in which the Russian government promised Trump several hundreds of millions of dollars in profit at no risk to himself to license a tower in Moscow. The proposed payoff, and Trump’s public lies at the time about it, gave Russia enormous leverage over his campaign. Durham replied, “I don’t know anything about that.”
When Adam Schiff asked Durham if the Russians released stolen information through cutouts, he replied, “I’m not sure.” Schiff responded, “The answer is yes,” to which Durham reported, “In your mind, it’s yes.”
When Schiff asked Durham if he knew that, hours after Trump publicly asked Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails and release them, Russian hackers made an attempt to hack Clinton emails, Durham replied, “If that happened, I’m not aware of that.”
When asked if Trump referred to those stolen emails more than 100 times on the campaign trail, Durham answered, “I don’t really read the newspapers and listen to the news.”
And when Schiff asked Durham if he was aware that Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, passed on polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian intelligence agent, at the time Russia was conducting both a social-media campaign and the release of stolen documents to help Trump, Durham replied, “You may be getting beyond the depth of my knowledge.”
David Corn reacted incredulously to the last profession of ignorance. “The Manafort-Kilimnik connection — which the Senate Intelligence Committee report characterized as a ‘grave counterintelligence threat’ — is one of the most serious and still not fully explained components of the Trump-Russia scandal,” he writes. “It is inconceivable that Durham is unaware of this troubling link.”
On the contrary, it is highly conceivable Durham is unaware of this link. It would, indeed, explain his whole pattern of behavior. If you’re not aware of the major evidence of the alliance between Trump and Russia that was unfolding largely in secret, then of course you would assume the FBI investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia was a witch hunt.
It may seem inconceivable that a high-ranking government official like Durham would have no familiarity with facts pertinent to his work. But there are many powerful Republicans who long ago decided to ignore mainstream media — “I don’t really read the newspapers and listen to the news,” as he put it — and rely on Republican Party–controlled media to understand the world.