John Durham Spent Four Years Trying To Uncover An Anti-Trump Witch Hunt And He Got Nothing | Vanity Fair
Category: News & PoliticsVia: jbb • 4 months ago • 7 comments
By: Conde Nast (Vanity Fair)
And yet, the ex-president still wants us to believe Durham revealed the "CRIME OF THE CENTURY."
By Eric Lutz
May 16, 2023
Donald Trump saw him as a potential savior, who might even deliver an October surprise to help him win the 2020 election. That never materialized, but Lindsey Graham, one of the former president's top supporters, continued to hold out hope that those behind the Russia investigation might still be "held accountable" via "criminal prosecution or administrative action." And why wouldn't he be hopeful? William Barr, who oversaw the counter-inquiry, had all but promised John Durham was closing in on some deep state conspiracy against Trump: "We're not dealing with just mistakes or sloppiness," Barr told Fox News in 2020, suggesting Robert Mueller's probe was an act of "sabotage" against Trump and "one of the greatest travesties in American history."
"There is something far more troubling here," Barr added, "and we're going to get to the bottom of it."
After four years of investigation, we're now at the bottom of it alright—the rock bottom. Durham, whose special counsel investigation was twice as long as the original probe he was scrutinizing, released a complete dud of a report Monday. Not only does it fail to establish the "witch hunt" Trump wanted him to find—it says very little of the Mueller probe that wasn't already previously known. Durham indicted two individuals over the course of the four year inquiry, but both were acquitted. He found flaws in the execution of Crossfire Hurricane—but mostly ones that had already been criticized by Michael Horowitz, inspector general of the Justice Department, who released his own report on the matter back in 2019. Durham also bashed the FBI for its lack of "analytical rigor" and for its "apparent confirmation bias"—but was unable to establish that the original investigation was a "hit job" against the former president.
"This report does not recommend any wholesale changes in the guidelines and policies that the [Department of Justice] and the FBI now have in place to ensure proper conduct and accountability in how counterintelligence activities are carried out," the report reads. "Rather, it is intended to accurately describe the matters that fell under our review and to assist the Attorney General in determining how the Department and the FBI can do a better, more credible job in fulfilling its responsibilities, and in analyzing and responding to politically charged allegations in the future."
That's hardly the kind of bombshell Trump and his allies were hoping for or that Barr had teased when he opened the investigation. But the former president immediately sought to drown out that fact with a tidal wave of social media posts, praising Durham for uncovering "THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY!"
"CONGRESS MUST DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS," Trump wrote, accusing his foes of "treason" and describing them as "SCUM, LIKE COCKROACHES ALL OVER WASHINGTON." "MUST NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN!"
Meanwhile, his allies on Capitol Hill quickly picked up the charge. Jim Jordan, who is leading a special panel on the so-called "weaponization of the federal government," invited Durham to appear before the House Judiciary Committee next week, where he'll surely get a warm welcome from members like Matt Gaetz, another top Trump ally on the Hill. "The Durham report is an absolutely DAMNING treatise on the weaponization of the FBI against President Trump," Gaetz wrote Monday, calling for lawmakers to "defund and deauthorize government entities that are converted from the just cause of defending our nation into enforcement wings of political parties." Trump's sycophants in the Senate sprung into action, too: Ted Cruz suggested the Washington Post and the New York Times should have their Pulitzers revoked for their coverage of the Russia investigation, and Graham, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, called for a hearing in the upper chamber. "The facts confirm," Graham tweeted, "that the investigation was launched and continued as part of a political agenda."
But of course, the facts hardly confirm that at all. As the Timesnoted, the report establishes that the Mueller probe was triggered not by the Steele dossier, but by a tip from an Australian diplomat that, according to the Durham report, "the FBI had an affirmative obligation to closely examine." Durham questioned the rigor with which they examined that tip, and repeated criticisms Horowitz had raised—including the use of the Steele dossier in wiretap renewal applications. But Horowitz found no evidence of missteps based on political motivations, and Durham in four years of investigation apparently didn't find anything to shake that conclusion.
Which is really something, considering Durham's investigation does seem to have been "launched and continued as part of a political agenda," as Graham would say. As the Timesreported in January, Barr—who mischaracterized the findings of Mueller's report in 2019—put Durham on the case months later to find flaws in the original probe, apparently believing that Trump was indeed the victim of abuse by his investigators. But rather than finding some kind of deep state malfeasance, Durham—whose investigation seemed to be marred by some of the same flaws as the one he was examining—wound up wading into a criminal probe into possible financial wrongdoing by Trump himself. Barr, who was in regular contact with Durham, was chatty in the media about other aspects of the investigation, but declined to clear up the implication that the "criminal" turn in the probe meant it had turned up evidence against Hillary Clinton—not the former president. (No charges were ever brought against Trump in the case.)
Unsurprisingly, the Durham report fails to address its own flaws, as the Times notes. And while it might provide more grist for overheated conspiracy theories by Trump and the Republicans, that's about all they'll have to show for it.
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