Turns out the real threat to ‘norms’ was the Hillary Clinton campaign

From the perspective of several years ago, it’s the stuff of an implausible political thriller or a conspiratorial YouTube account. One presidential campaign spies on another as part of a broad effort to get government agencies to pick up the baton and launch a high-stakes investigation of the new president that hampers his first years in office and consumes massive public attention.

Where could such a thing happen? Maybe Brazil or Equatorial Guinea? Well, we now know it happened in these United States.

The latest from special counsel John Durham is that a tech executive connected to the Hillary Clinton campaign mined internet contacts between Russia and the entities connected to Donald Trump in a search for material to try, as Durham put it in a court filing last week, to “establish ‘an inference’ and ‘narrative’ tying then-candidate Trump to Russia.”

Durham’s probe is a righteous effort to get to the bottom of a matter that deranged American politics for two solid years but has been derided or ignored by the mainstream press, with baleful consequences.

Russiagate did more than its share to undermine the norm that losing campaigns should accept the result of free and fair elections and to erode confidence in institutions at the highest levels of our government. One way to minimize the harm is to insist on accountability. The people who were most invested in Russiagate for the longest, though, are least interested in revisiting its origins, let alone in apologizing for their own credulousness or malice.

According to Durham, a tech executive named Rodney Joffe engaged in the information operation against Trump and his campaign. He allegedly coordinated with Michael Sussmann, a lawyer for the Clinton campaign, and his highly connected law firm, Perkins Coie, that did work for both the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party. Durham notes that Joffe also joined up with an investigative firm that Perkins Coie hired on behalf of the Clinton campaign, numerous cyber researchers, employees at various internet companies and researchers at a US-based university. He sought, he said, to please VIPs in both the Clinton campaign and Perkins Coie.

One can only guess that he succeeded. According to Durham, Joffe “exploited his access to non-public and/or proprietary Internet data,” and the university researchers he tapped “were receiving and analyzing large amounts of Internet data in connection with a pending federal government cybersecurity research contract.”

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