Without President Donald Trump or Attorney General William Barr appointing a special counsel, the Durham investigation into the origins of the Russia collusion hoax will, in all probability, die a bureaucratic death. Without President Trump in the White House, there will be little reason for investigator John Durham to provide a comprehensive or substantive criticism of how the Washington establishment seems unable to tolerate any administration that it doesn’t like or that doesn’t conform to its agenda.
If Joe Biden assumes the presidency, it will most assuredly be business as usual (as his preferences for cabinet indicate), and Durham’s investigation will become quaintly irrelevant
If Joe Biden assumes the presidency, it will most assuredly be business as usual (as his preferences for cabinet indicate), and Durham’s investigation will become quaintly irrelevant. It’s unlikely that we’ll ever see a report released—or at least, one that anyone outside of Washington’s dustiest corners gets to see.
On Sunday, President Trump said he would consider appointing a special counsel because he, too, wants to know what happened to the Durham investigation. “Where’s Durham,” he asked Fox News’ Maria Bartiroma on “Sunday Morning Futures.” Trump also said that he “would consider a special prosecutor because you know, this is not a counsel, it sounds so nice. I went through three years of a special counsel prosecutor. I call it prosecutor because it’s a much more accurate term.”
Try to think back to before the current election—the brouhaha of a defiant and intransigent Trump refusing to concede electoral defeat to a Democratic machine, wondering how a President-elect Joe Biden could attract 80 million votes while he spent most of the campaign in his basement refusing to answer questions. Attempt, if you will, to remember a pre-pandemic America; a time when you didn’t see daily casualty lists displayed on the corner of your television screen from countless news programs, and the coronavirus did not completely subsume all other reporting.
Try, if you can, to recall an America with a robust economy, held together by a President constantly under attack by a Democratic leadership that was fixated on either impeaching him, or threatening to do it again when they failed the first time. It was a time when President Trump seemed not only triumphant against his political enemies, but seemed assured of securing a second term. And this despite political foes who, enabled by their stolid friends throughout a federal government, had employed chronic harassment and investigation. But the President, despite knowing he was in the crosshairs of the establishment, may have downplayed the true strength and spread of the resistance, thinking it was only limited to a few figureheads—even after former Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin expressed gratitude for the power of the “deep state” in trying to impeach Trump.
In May 2019, Attorney General William Barr asked John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, to investigate how extensively the FBI and other government agencies had gathered intelligence on then-candidate Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign. Durham is described as having extensive experience investigating organized crime and public corruption cases—making him an ideal candidate to take on the FBI.
By October, that initial inquiry had evolved into a full criminal investigation. The announcement came in the aftermath of the Department of Justice (DOJ) report on abuses by the department and the FBI when they sought authorization through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to conduct surveillance on members of the Trump campaign for allegedly colluding with Russian officials. DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s revelations confirmed the suspicions of President Trump and many in his inner circle that the FBI had become a political weapon of his opponents and had been used to undermine his campaign at the behest of Democratic partisans within and without the Department of Justice—including President Obama himself.
So, while Horowitz exposed and criticized what the FBI did to undermine the Trump campaign and presidency, Durham was tasked with explaining why it did so—how did FBI leadership operate, and why did the Bureau seek FISA applications to effectively spy on Americans with apparently little regard for legal justification? Durham, a severe-looking man who resembles a no-nonsense schoolmaster, would undertake an investigation into why there was a Russian probe to begin with, and interview some of its key figures.
But that investigation may have outlived the Trump presidency and has so far produced no revelations of why the DOJ and FBI acted in the political interests of the Democrats and acted improperly and perhaps illegally against Donald Trump. If Joe Biden occupies the White House, any subsequent report will be either neutralized or buried by the incoming administration—unless a special counsel, appointed now, by the President, is on hand to push the process forward.
IT STARTED WITH THE (NOW) DISCREDITED STEELE DOSSIER
It’s important to remember that Durham was appointed to explain the DOJ excesses documented by Inspector General Horowitz. Horowitz’s report took particular aim at the outrageously prurient (and now discredited) dossier produced by Christoper Steele and ordered by the Hillary Clinton campaign—reportedly with the full knowledge of then-President Barack Obama. Steele, a former British MI6 agent who was available for intelligence work to the highest bidder, provided Clinton with a highly salacious briefing, replete with tales of Trump seeking perverse sexual favors from Russian prostitutes and securing the assistance of shady Russian oligarchs.
Even though the Steele dossier was largely fanciful (something the FBI was well aware of), it was still used to order surveillance—no, let’s call it spying—of Trump’s officials.
Even though the Steele dossier was largely fanciful (something the FBI was well aware of), it was still used to order surveillance—no, let’s call it spying—of Trump’s officials. Carter Page, a former Naval officer who was an advisor on Trump’s election campaign and has revealed that he has served as a CIA asset, was one of them. He was only vindicated after having his reputation shredded and being called a “Russian agent” by the Democratic National Committee. Page is now suing the DOJ for $75 million.
Enter Durham to make some sense of all this, and to pry some notion of what motivated these bureaucratic actors. The investigation apparently continues. And, while there have been tantalizing suggestions that Durham was onto something big given the expanded investigation, we have yet to hear anything remotely resembling that—even though Durham was said to be “very dialed into” the task at hand from the get-go.
In September, the resignation of Durham’s aide Nora Dannehy prompted reports that the team was under political pressure to complete their investigation expeditiously—in time for the presidential election. (Durham’s office acknowledged the aide’s departure, but declined to comment on why she left.) Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, who might as well have been thrusting his arms into the air with exasperation, said in October that there “should be” more indictments coming from the Durham probe.
Then, we were told that it was unlikely that Durham could conclude his investigation before the 2020 presidential election. Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC) did not seem altogether downcast by that revelation, saying he would be “shocked” if a report wasn’t forthcoming after the election with a long list of indictments. He failed to acknowledge how inconvenient the prolonged timeline would be for Trump’s re-election bid, since any damning report would have surely assisted Trump in further defining his presidency as a running battle with government agencies honeycombed with Democratic hacks. It might also indicate that all of the time and energy that the President expended in defending himself against broad charges of Russian collusion were the direct result of sheer political partisanship to begin with.
For his part, President Trump, obviously hoping any report would provide him with some much-needed ammunition to use against the Democrats in an electoral contest that most polls, up through November, had predicted his loss, indicated his disgust with Durham’s timing. He said it was “a disgrace” that no results would be forthcoming before Election Day.
“Every day that ticks by it’s going to become an absolute necessity that a special counsel is appointed on the way out,” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.” He continued:
“Now that doesn’t mean that [President-elect Joe] Biden wouldn’t fire the special counsel but at least you’d have a special counsel office setup, with money, so that this investigation can continue, because I’m not seeing the indictments that I should be seeing when you take into the account that I’ve made 14 criminal referrals involving dozens and dozens of people.”
The congressman and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee described the frustration of waiting for over a year-and-a-half for the release of an anticipated Durham report. Nunes said there is “a growing concern that Durham is not going to come out with anything and then Biden and Obama are going to be back in and they’re going to shut this investigation off.”
Still, Durham and Barr have never promised to deliver an actual report—nor have they speculated on when the investigation would actually conclude its work.
TRUMP NEEDS TO FIGHT, AND FIGHT AGGRESSIVELY
It is ironic that President Trump could well have to conclude his presidency by appointing a special counsel given how his presidency began with the appointment of another special counsel—one that ultimately proved to be an utter waste of time and nothing but a diversion for Democrats anxious to hamstring Trump’s presidency from its earliest days. Trump never forgave then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the entire matter, and letting his deputy cave to political pressure to appoint Robert Mueller to investigate the Russian collusion hoax. In retrospect, it is thought-provoking to consider how much more Trump could have achieved as President if this asinine investigation about nothing had been stillborn.
President Trump addressed that very issue in his interview with Fox—his first since the fateful election night. The President remarked:
“It was a Russia hoax, just a pure hoax and a very sad thing for the country, and as much as I’ve done and I think I’ve done more virtually in four years more than any president in the history with Space Force and tax cuts, biggest regulation cuts in history, biggest tax cuts in history … as much as I’ve done, I could have done more except that I was under investigation for almost the entire, from the day I came down the escalator … I was under investigation.”
And, in the absence of Trump’s second term, do you think Durham will bother to provide a report? Will there be any incentive to rock the bowels of the justice department and the FBI if Joe Biden is President and the Democrats remain in control of the House—and perhaps, God forbid, the Senate? Will that desperately-needed internal assessment of how government departments have been hijacked by liberal activists and led by Democratic Party loyalists ever be heard by the public?
Of course not.
If President Trump failed at anything during his presidency, it was in underestimating the political will and amorality of his opponents. Trump clearly feared that the presidential election would be rigged, and he must have taken Biden literally when the former Vice President said he had a “voter fraud” organization working for him. He knew there were dark electoral shadows on the horizon, and he talked a lot about the election being compromised by mail-in voting. Still, he did nothing really to prevent it, and only began fighting back when the election was over and the Democrats could well demonstrate that possession is nine-tenths of the law.
They spent the last four years calling him an illegitimate President.
Similarly, President Trump might have talked and tweeted about this concept of a “Deep State,” and about how embedded the Democrats were within the strata of government bureaucracy, but did he really understand that these people play by their own rules and wanted his presidency to fail? President Trump did not purge the civil service, nor did he use the power of the Justice Department to identify and punish his enemies.
It would not be like Trump to appoint a special counsel to ensure that Durham has something to say after all this time, or to ensure that Durham’s findings—whatever they may be—are not relegated to a classified Senate Judiciary report that never attains the public profile to be forgotten.
But President Trump has faced—and continues to face—a ruthless political opposition that never even acknowledged his first presidential win. They spent the last four years calling him an illegitimate President. And they did everything—everything—in their power to keep him from succeeding. Trump needs to fight, and fight aggressively, for transparency and justice—a special counsel should be part of that strategy.