While struggling in the ratings, NewsNation (formerly WGN) has spent the past year and a half as a genuine, substantive outlet based in professional and unbiased journalism. We saw the latest example this week as, between Monday and Thursday, NewsNation’s evening shows spent 36 minutes and 16 seconds on the bombshell filing from Special Counsel Robert Durham into the origins of the Trump-Russia probe.
The shows didn’t go as far as declare the allegations into internet surveillance of Team Trump was spying, but they repeatedly had serious examinations of the claims made in the criminal case against former Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussmann. Better yet, some blasted CNN and MSNBC for either ignoring or dismissing it.
Monday’s Dan Abrams Live led with the eponymous host trying to take a middle ground, suggesting your views on the Durham filing “depend[ed] on which news outlet you watched” with it having been “a jaw dropping bombshell or a whole lot of nothing.”
“I have a hunch that the truth lies somewhere in between,” he added.
Abrams then went through the facts of the case and quoted from Durham’s filing (which was something the likes of Joe Scarborough and Nicolle Wallace couldn’t have been bothered with (click “expand”):
Durham's new filing in connection with that case mentions an unnamed tech executive who the filing alleges monitored private communications at Trump Tower. “The Government's evidence at trial will also establish that, among the Internet data Tech Executive-1 and his associates exploited was Domain Name System (DNS) internet traffic pertaining to a particular health care provider, Trump Tower, Donald Trump’s...Park West apartment building, and the executive office of the President,” or EOP.
It continued they had a, “sensitive arrangement whereby it provided DNS resolution services to the EOP. Tech Executive-1 and his associates exploited this arrangement by mining the...DNS traffic and other data for the purposes of gathering derogatory information about Donald Trump.” Now, the executive has been reported to be Rodney Joffe, who was allegedly hired by Sussmann.
Abrams sought two different takes on the case via frequent CNN and MSNBC guest Renato Mariotti and the Heritage Foundation’s Hans Von Spakovsky with the former downplaying the claims as having “already been aired” and that hacking isn’t involved whatsoever.
Going later to Von Spakovsky, he gave some of the most comprehensive analysis out there, including why charges haven’t been filed concerning the surveillance (click “expand”):
What the motion is that the internet company was paid by the lawyers, consulted with the lawyers from the Hillary campaign and what were they doing? They brought in other researchers and other internet companies to exploit a government cybersecurity research contract to gather proprietary and non-public information. In other words, there was an intrusion into the computer systems at the Trump Towers and at his home. They then continued that once he became president by, again, exploiting access through a contract which was simply supposed to Domain Name Service maintenance on the computer systems. And for it not being a crime, well excuse me, but the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, that’s in 18 USC, 1030, not only makes it a crime to engage an unauthorized access to a computer network or computer system, but also to exceed authorized access. We had both of those things happen. We had unauthorized access to Trump Tower and Donald Trump's and at the White House. They exceeded their authorization, so there are potential criminal charges here.
[I]t does not go back to 2014. It says that the internet company started doing this in July of 2016. The standard statute of limitations for most violations of federal law is five years and I suspect that while this information is in the motion, one of the reasons we haven't seen indictments — one is that the statue limitations has probably run on what was happening in 2016 and second, it seems pretty clear to me from the motion that this tech executive is cooperating with John Durham and basically has been the one to tell them all about what was going on here and that may be another reason why he has not been indicted.
All told, that segment ran 11 minutes and 36 seconds.
On Tuesday, Abrams again led with Durham in a segment that went 14 seconds longer than Monday. Insisting he’s “not going to ignore” it like “the liberal media,” Abrams maintained he won’t “blow it out of proportion” like “right-leaning media.”
Abrams also mapped a timeline of Sussmann’s behavior and brought in former U.S. Attorney Ronald Sievert, who said he “trust[s] Durham” as he has “a good reputation as a non-political prosecutor,” so “I hope he pulls it all together.”
Wednesday saw three of NewsNation shows cover Durham, starting with Rush Hour and a two-minute-and-38-second segment from host Nichole Berlie and White House correspondent Allison Harris.
Here, the two treaded close to CNN and NBC territory.
After Berlie said it’s caused “buzz...among conservatives,” Harris argued the filing “raise[d] important questions about potential political spying and the murky world of cybersecurity” even though “many...are in dispute” or “distorted.”
Instead of saying conservatives were pouncing or seizing, she said they’ve “reacted in furor, calling for drastic punishment.”
She acknowledged Durham’s filing alleged Sussmann received server data from Joffe, but brushed it aside because it was unclear “what data was collected...or whether the data was even collected while Trump was President.”
After quoting the claims from Sussmann’s side, she conceded “we will be hearing about this and talking about this for a while” as jury selection for Sussmann’s trial is slated to begin on May 16.
Two hours later, On Balance had seven minutes and five seconds offering a sober breakdown thanks to host and former longtime Fox Newser Leland Vittert and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Robert Driscoll.
“Talking about election cycles, forget relitigating the 2020 election, we're going to go back to the 2016 election for this one and the Trump-Russia collusion accusations investigations and general mess,” Vittert began, adding Sussmann’s alleged lies “wouldn’t mean much except he's accused of lying while discussing data about internet traffic at Trump Tower.”
After summarizing the filing (including Sussmann’s defense that people around Trump were using Russian cellphones), he asked Driscoll if this was “a smoking gun or just smoke.”
Driscoll said “it’s certainly smoke” even though it’s not as clean cut as “hacking or reading someone’s e-mails....[b]ut what's alleged is — is pretty serious.”
Like Von Spakovsky, Driscoll masterfully honed in on the Clinton camp ginning up the Trump-Russia conspiracy by using a classic Washington media trope (click “expand”):
Essentially, what — what Durham said in the filing was that consultants who, you know, are connected through Sussman to the Clinton campaign, had access to so-called DNS data, which is essentially the — the high level internet data about checking domain names and what computer systems are looking for other computer systems on the web, so it's not specific communications but taking that data, sifting through it, and looking for “suspicious patterns” and then the suspicious pattern they found were alleged — tried to pass off the FBI and CIA was that there was some kind of connection initially between Alfa Bank, a Russian bank, and servers near Trump Tower. And then also some Russian activity around the White House, which I think is actually from the Obama administration. So it's a — the real question is, as Durham's already found, there wasn't really sufficient predication for a lot of these Russian investigations that happened in retrospect.
Durham’s position is that these consultants and Sussmann himself were aware that this information wasn't strong enough to draw any connection between Trump and Russia and pass it off anyway, essentially, you know, the technique in Washington is called stove piping, where you — you dump something into the FBI. They say, “sure, we'll look at it” and then you immediate leak to the press that your opponent is under investigation by the FBI simply because you’ve dumped something to the FBI for them. And so, that's essentially what this is what Durham is looking into. But it — it is not a hack, I think, as we understand that term. You know, it’s not spying, as we understand that term. It raises some difficult privacy issues about what this consultant, who apparently was working with the White House on — on server security issues and working with other private contractors on security issues. What they're doing kind of making this data available to — to, you know, politically affiliated people too, to — to make contact with the government and dump it in there.
Driscoll also said it represented more evidence toward the argument that, at minimum, Trump was unfairly targeted and slammed Hillary Clinton’s reactions to Durham seeing as how she peddled the Trump-Russia ties from the start.
Vittert then concluded:
[I]t's a great point you make there also because, if indeed Hillary Clinton was sort of talking to Sussmann...and he was telling FBI, oh, no, I have nothing to do with politics, that — that just sort of makes all the more political.
And, finally, Wednesday and Thursday’s Dan Abrams Live mentioned Durham, but did so in context of short segments going after Rudy Giuliani and Fox Business and Fox News host Maria Bartiromo. In total, the sum of those was three minutes and seven seconds.