Monday's release of the long-awaited Durham Report confirmed widespread belief among conservatives that the Russia investigation that plagued much of the Trump presidency stemmed from unsubstantiated and politicized origins.

The report, which came following a four-year investigation led by Special Counsel John Durham, was a major rebuke of the FBI and DOJ, so much so that even CNN anchor Jake Tapper was stunned.

"For years, Donald Trump and his supporters pinned their hopes on the investigation by the former U.S. attorney for Connecticut, John Durham later named special counsel by AG Bill Barr, Trump and his allies arguing it would exonerate him from any hint of improper behavior regarding the Russian government’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 election…" Tapper told his viewers. "The report is now here, it has dropped, and it might not have produced everything of what some Republicans hoped for, [but] it is regardless devastating to the FBI and to a degree, it does exonerate Donald Trump."

Tapper's comments are significant as the longtime anchor, one of the first hires of the Jeff Zucker era, was in some ways the face of CNN's Russiagate coverage just as Rachel Maddow was for MSNBC. 


CNN anchor Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper spearheaded CNN's coverage of Russiagate and hyped the infamous Steele dossier long before he called the Durham Report "devastating" to the FBI. (Gary Miller/FilmMagic)

Moreover, Tapper was the journalist who helped introduce the entire world to the existence of the infamous Steele dossier, the Clinton campaign-funded memo put together by ex-British spy Christopher Steele that laid out salacious and unfounded accusations about then-candidate Donald Trump and his alleged ties to Russia. It has since been widely discredited.

"From the beginning of our Steele Dossier coverage, Jake openly expressed skepticism about the validity of its contents, which contributed to our decision to report only of its existence," a CNN spokesperson told Fox News Digital. "Jake made no mistake by interviewing lawmakers and Intel officials about the Steele dossier. That’s his job. That’s what journalists do."

On January 10, 2017, just ten days before Trump's inauguration, Tapper co-authored a blockbuster report with the headline, "Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him."

"Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN," Tapper began his report along with colleagues Evan Perez, Jim Sciutto and Carl Bernstein. "The allegations were presented in a two-page synopsis that was appended to a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The allegations came, in part, from memos compiled by a former British intelligence operative, whose past work US intelligence officials consider credible. The FBI is investigating the credibility and accuracy of these allegations, which are based primarily on information from Russian sources, but has not confirmed many essential details in the memos about Mr. Trump."

CNN dossier headline

Tapper co-authored a report breaking the news of the Steele dossier's existence just days before Trump's inauguration.  (Screenshot/

The next day, Tapper defended CNN from then-President-elect Trump's attacks calling his network "fake news" over its reporting of the dossier, which had just been published by BuzzFeed News. 

"What I suspect we are seeing here is an attempt to discredit legitimate, responsible attempts to report on this incoming administration with irresponsible journalism that hurts us all. And the media going forward should keep that in mind," Tapper said.

"You're referring specifically to BuzzFeed," CNN colleague Wolf Blitzer chimed in. 

"Yeah," Tapper responded. "It's irresponsible to put uncorroborated information on the internet. I can understand why President-elect Trump would be upset about that. I would be upset about it too. It's why we did not publish it and why we did not detail any specifics from it because it was uncorroborated and that's not what we do. We are in the business of sussing out what is true and what is false." 


According to released emails involved in a lawsuit against BuzzFeed News, Tapper took his ire directly to its then-editor-in-chief Ben Smith. 

"I think your move makes the story less serious and credible[.] I think you damaged its impact," Tapper wrote to Smith after the dossier was published. "That was pretty uncollegial[.] Not to mention irresponsible[.] No one has verified this stuff,

As reported by the Daily Caller, Smith stood by the decision, telling Tapper it "was not an easy call." But then the CNN anchor fired back using profane language. 

"Collegiality wise it was you stepping on my d---," Tapper told Smith. "You could have waited til morning."

Tapper added, "Professionally this is unverified info[.] Your guys unlike us don’t even seem to know who the former agent i[s]," to which Smith replied "of course" they did, referring to Steele. 

John durham special counsel

Special Counsel John Durham concluded that the Russia investigation should never have been launched since it was based on "raw, unanalyzed and uncorroborated intelligence. (Ron Sachs/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images)

In January 2018, Tapper appeared to defend the Russia probe from Trump and his allies after it was reported that former Trump adviser George Papadopoulos allegedly triggered the investigation as opposed to the dossier.   

"Why this is interesting and significant is that President Trump and others are trying to say that the FBI is corrupt, and they had this Steele dossier, which they say has been discredited, which is not entirely true," Tapper told the panel. "And that it's all because of the Steele dossier and this whole investigation is based on nonsense."

"But what's going on is there is this investigation and the president and his allies in the media and in Congress are doing everything they can to change the subject or to distract, to undermine the FBI, to undermine Mueller to undermine Comey, to undermine CNN, to undermine… NBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post- there is clearly this effort that no matter what comes with the Mueller investigation, assuming it's something, they'll be able to say, 'Well, you can't trust any of these sources.' And if it's nothing, obviously, that they don't have to worry about it,'" Tapper later added.  

That night, during a primetime edition of "The Lead," Tapper hyped an "explosive" New York Times op-ed authored by Fusion GPS founders Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch responding to attacks from Trump and GOP lawmakers in defense of the dossier. The anchor called the operatives' claim that a Trump source was feeding information to the FBI "fascinating," although he admitted, "I don't know the truth about this."


The following week, Tapper informed his viewers about testimony Simpson gave to Congress about Steele sounding the alarm about Trump's alleged vulnerability to "blackmail."

"In our politics lead, CNN is now learning that Christopher Steele, the British spy who authored the Trump Russia dossier, alerted the FBI in July 2016 because he was so concerned then-candidate Donald Trump may have been vulnerable to blackmail," Tapper said. "This comes from transcripts of the congressional testimony of the head of Fusion GPS. Fusion GPS is the research firm, which paid Steele for the dossier. The testimony was released by the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee this afternoon over the objections of the committee's Republican Chairman." 

The next day, Tapper had on former CIA Director. Gen. Michael Hayden, who hailed Steele as a "solid officer" from what he learned from the intelligence community and that as a former member of MI6, Steele was a "genuine friend" to the United States who wouldn't seek out the FBI with political motivations. 

In late January 2018, Tapper had former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who defended the FISA warrant process into Trump ally Carter Page and claimed he didn't know if the dossier "played in this very much at all."

Clapper, a CNN national security analyst, went on to insist "some" of the details in the dossier "were corroborated in our intelligence community assessment" based on other sources of "high confidence," stressing "we shouldn't completely dismiss" the dossier and added Steele is "regarded as credible."

Jake Tapper on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert"

CNN's Jake Tapper and "Late Show" host Stephen Colbert repeatedly mocked then-President Trump's assertions that the Russia investigation was a hoax. (Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images)

In February 2018, Tapper's show characterized what was dubbed the "Nunes memo," the GOP summary of the Russia probe accusing the FBI of politicization and hiding the dossier's financial ties to Democrats in order to approve the FISA warrant to surveil Carter Page, as "disputed."

In April 2018, Tapper hyped the rollout of James Comey's new book and the interview the former FBI director gave to ABC, telling the network "I don't know" if the most salacious claim in the Steele dossier about Trump having sexual relations with Russian prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room was true. 

"That claim alone from a former FBI director for any other president at any other time would be devastating, yet here we are," Tapper said with a smirk. "We broke the story of the existence of the dossier… that President Trump had been briefed, and we did not mention any of the contents of the dossier, CNN. But there's the FBI director talking about prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow." 

The following week, Tapper did, however, grill Comey directly for openly suggesting the most salacious details from the dossier were true without evidence, forcing the former FBI director to say it's "unlikely, but possible."


In January 2019, Tapper invited on his colleague Jim Sciutto to claim parts of the dossier that were "true" like Russia's attempts to entice Trump with property deals and Carter Page met with the president of a Russian oil company to discuss efforts to lift sanctions during the Obama administration, sticking to largely broad assertions that ultimately did not support Steele's key allegations. 

Strangely, Sciutto asserted that Steele's claim ex-Trump attorney Michael Cohen visited Prague to coordinate with Russians on election interference was "unresolved" despite Cohen's explicit denials while other claims were simply "uncorroborated." 

"Soon after we first reported the existence of the dossier, the briefing of the dossier to Trump and Obama, we reported that U.S. intelligence had in fact corroborated multiple communications and contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians during the campaign," Sciutto told Tapper. "At the time, Jake, not only did the White House deny it, but it had listed Republican lawmakers on the Hill- Senators, House members to call around to other news organizations to say that story was wrong. Of course, that denial both from the White House and the Hill later proven false as well."

Christopher Steele walking

Tapper invited multiple former intelligence officials who praised ex-British spy Christopher Steele, the author of the infamous anti-Trump dossier. ( TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images))

While covering Steele's interview with ABC in October 2021, Tapper had CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider on his show to recap the ex-spy's sit-down with George Stephanopoulos, stressing he "didn't provide any proof" to back up his explosive claims, which she characterized as "yet unproven." 

It wasn't until November 2021 while covering the arrest of Russian national and Steele source Igor Danchenko that Tapper himself referred to the dossier's claims as "unproven" and "disproven."

Throughout the Russia investigation, Tapper offered few glimpses of skepticism towards the Steele dossier, one of them being during a "State of the Union" in February 2018 with Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who he asked if the FBI had independently corroborated a claim about Carter Page while applying for a FISA warrant, a question Schiff declined to answer directly. 

However, there were other instances in 2019 where Tapper was dismissive of GOP concerns about the dossier, rejecting it as a talking point when mentioned during heated exchanges with Republican lawmakers during the Ukraine scandal resulting in Trump's first impeachment. 

Tapper, who was previously vocal with his philosophy of barring GOP "election liars" who denied President Biden's 2020 victory, had regularly rolled out the red carpet for Schiff, who repeatedly claimed he had seen "damning" evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign based on findings brought before the House Intelligence Committee. 

A tweet made by Tapper echoing Schiff's falsehood in December 2017 went viral this week after the CNN anchor suddenly shifted his tone towards Russiagate. 

Fox News Digital tallied at least three dozens interviews Tapper had with Schiff since the days leading up to the 2016 election when the lawmaker was already planting the seeds of Russian interference. 

In March 2018, Tapper asked Schiff whether Democrats "found any evidence of collusion," to which Schiff replied "Yes, we have."

Jake Tapper interviews Adam Schiff

Tapper regularly invited Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., on his CNN programs and allowed the lawmaker to repeat his claim of having seen "evidence" of Trump-Russia collusion. (Screenshot/CNN)

Tapper repeatedly mocked Trump's assertion that the Russia investigation was a "witch hunt" during multiple appearances on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" and suggested anyone who wanted to stop the Mueller probe was "unpatriotic." In another sit-down with Colbert, Tapper rejected the notion that the investigation had become "absurd."


Before this week, Tapper had offered minimal coverage to the Durham probe after dedicating extensive coverage to the Mueller investigation. Regardless, he and his CNN colleagues reaped the benefits for their reporting of the Steele dossier, receiving the Merriman Smith Award for broadcasting in 2018 from the White House Correspondents' Association. 

"Thanks to this CNN investigation, ‘the dossier’ is now part of the lexicon," the WHCA wrote. "The depth of reporting demonstrated in these remarkable and important pieces, and the constant updates as new information continued to be uncovered showed breaking news reporting at its best."