The Department of Justice and FBI should never have launched an investigation into Donald Trump’s links to Russia in the 2016 election, a four-year inquiry by a special prosecutor has found.
A 300-page report by special counsel John Durham was highly critical of the decision to begin what eventually became the Mueller investigation, and said the FBI leadership at the time had “failed to uphold their mission of strict fidelity to the law.”
It concluded there had been a “predisposition to open an investigation into Trump,” and that there was no “actual evidence of collusion” with Russia when it began.
Mr Trump has always maintained that the investigation, which began as an FBI inquiry codenamed “Crossfire Hurricane,” was a political “witch hunt”.
He was expected to seize on Mr Durham’s findings as he runs for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
Mr Trump wrote on Truth Social: “WOW! After extensive research, Special Counsel John Durham concludes the FBI never should have launched the Trump-Russia Probe! In other words, the American Public was scammed.”
The report was critical of investigators’ decisions to use information from the so-called Steele dossier, compiled by former MI6 spy Christopher Steele, to obtain surveillance warrants against a Trump campaign official.
It also said investigators relied too heavily on tips provided by Mr Trump’s political opponents.
Trump ‘treated differently to Hillary Clinton’
Mr Durham also accused the FBI of treating the investigation into Mr Trump’s campaign differently from other politically sensitive investigations, including ones involving his Democrat opponent at the time, Hillary Clinton.
Mr Durham said: “The Department and the FBI failed to uphold their important mission of strict fidelity to the law in connection with certain events and activities described in this report.
“Senior FBI personnel displayed a serious lack of analytical rigour towards the information that they received, especially information from politically affiliated persons and entities.”
He added: “This information, in part, triggered and sustained Crossfire Hurricane, and contributed to the subsequent need for Special Counsel [Robert] Mueller’s investigation.”
He said there was “significant reliance” on investigative leads provided, or funded, by Mr Trump’s political opponents.
The FBI did not adequately “examine or question” the information or the motivations of those providing it, he said.
Officials ‘were not objective and acted with confirmation bias’
Mr Durham criticised the FBI for opening a major investigation too quickly based on “raw, unanalysed and uncorroborated intelligence”.
He also accused investigators of repeated “confirmation bias” and ignoring evidence that undercut the idea of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.
The report said: “The FBI’s failure to critically analyse information that ran counter to the narrative of a Trump-Russia collusive relationship exhibited throughout Crossfire Hurricane is extremely troublesome.”
Investigators had failed to “adequately consider alternative hypotheses” and had not acted with “appropriate objectivity or restraint” in pursuing the allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and a foreign power.
The Mueller investigation ultimately concluded in March 2019 that Russia intervened in the 2016 election on the side of Mr Trump, but did not find that there was a conspiracy.
In 2019 Bill Barr, who was Mr Trump’s attorney general, appointed Mr Durham to conduct a review.
Mr Durham interviewed senior officials at the FBI, the Justice Department, and the CIA.
Mr Trump had hoped that his report would be released ahead of the 2020 election.
Following its release Jim Jordan, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Mr Durham had been invited to testify to Congress next week.
The FBI released a letter it sent to Mr Durham outlining changes it has already made.
That included steps to ensure the accuracy of applications for warrants for secretive surveillance.
It also stressed that the report was discussing prior leadership of the FBI.
In a statement the FBI said: “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 rigour, objectivity, and professionalism the American people deserve and rightly expect.”