In May 2019, Attorney General William Barr made an announcement millions of Americans had been waiting for: A U.S. attorney outside the Beltway would investigate the corrupt origins of the FBI’s probe into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and government efforts to sabotage the incoming president after he was elected.
For the past 14 months, we have been waiting (impatiently, I confess) for news from John Durham, the Connecticut prosecutor Barr tapped to lead the long-delayed inquiry. After all, by the time the attorney general initiated the targeted probe, there was plenty of evidence of wrongdoing by top officials in the Obama Administration, including James Comey, John Brennan, and Andrew McCabe among others. Special Counsel Robert Mueller had wrapped up his two-year partisan witch hunt and despite unlimited resources—along with the unflinching support of Republicans on Capitol Hill—Barack Obama’s former FBI director could find no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
But Mueller did plenty of damage in the interim. Just weeks after his May 2017 appointment, Mueller started rounding up Trump associates: George Papadopoulos was arrested at Dulles Airport in July 2017 on a concocted charge. A few months later, Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager, was arrested; Lt. General Michael Flynn finally relented to a plea deal for which he still hasn’t been sentenced. (The judge in the case is refusing to drop the charges against Flynn, per the government’s request.) All that and more happened within the first six months of Mueller’s investigation.
Yet Durham has produced nothing for public consumption.
In an interview last month, Barr said there might finally be some news in the next month or so. “[Durham] is pressing ahead as hard as he can, I expect we will have some developments hopefully by the end of this summer,” Barr told Fox News Channel’s Maria Bartiromo on June 21. “His investigation will continue, it’s not going to stop because of the election. What happens after the election will depend on who wins the election.”
In other words, the clock is ticking—and Barr knows it.
A Post-Election Announcement?
On Thursday, hope for a pre-election resolution took a big hit when Fox News reported that if Durham can’t finish his work in the next several weeks, he will “punt it until after the election,” one unnamed source disclosed.
In some respects, it might already be too late for Durham to present a case that’s legitimate in the eyes of the public. Obamagate continues to be of intense interest to Trump’s base but it could be considered old news by most Americans. Further, Democrats and the media have waged full-out war on the attorney general, attempting to discredit Barr as a Trump lackey doing the president’s political bidding. Indictments announced even this summer undoubtedly will be condemned as attempted election interference, and it’ll be hard to dispute that claim at this late date.
So, what in the world is taking so long?
Yes, the coronavirus crisis slowed all court proceedings and investigative work. But it’s hard to understand why clear-cut evidence of criminal misconduct hasn’t been enough to justify a single indictment so far. The report issued by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz outlined extensive instances of abuse of power, including false presentations to a secret court. One FBI lawyer intentionally doctored evidence. More than three years ago, former Obama officials leaked classified information to the media, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in jail. Those suspects have never been identified let alone charged with a crime.
Former CIA Director John Brennan told Congress the infamous Steele dossier wasn’t used as back-up material for his damning Intelligence Community Assessment that claimed the Russians meddled in the election to help Trump win. That, according to Horowitz’s report, was a lie.
Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe admitted lying to federal investigators under oath three times, yet he’s a free man and a CNN contributor.
Former FBI Director James Comey and his top gang—including McCabe, Peter Strzok, and Lisa Page—long ago should have been charged with conspiracy against the United States for masterminding the entire Russian collusion hoax and foisting it on the American people for nearly three years.
There’s more low-hanging fruit. Fusion GPS chief Glenn Simpson was representing a Russian businessman before the Justice Department while seeding the bogus Steele dossier to that same agency and to the American news media but has never been charged with a foreign lobbying violation. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) repeatedly lied about evidence of Russian collusion, including in a February 2018 memo addressed to his House colleagues, but never has been charged with lying to Congress.
In fact, nearly every Obamagate perpetrator misled the American people about Russian collusion but, as Representative Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) pointed out, they told much different stories to Congress behind closed doors.
“Guilty As Hell, Nothing Happens”
It appears Trump, like his supporters, are fed up with the delays and inaction.
The president lashed out Thursday in a series of tweets blasting the “totally corrupt” Obama administration and the inept overseers of justice. “This crime was taking place even before my election, everyone knows it, and yet all are frozen stiff with fear,” Trump raged. “No Republican Senate Judiciary response, NO ‘JUSTICE,’ NO FBI, NO NOTHING. Major horror show REPORTS on Comey & McCabe, guilty as hell, nothing happens. Catch Obama & Biden cold, nothing.”
Hard to argue with that. Ironically, Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) last week expressed the same frustration with Durham’s probe. The former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, now led by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), whined on Twitter that it would be “SAD SAD” if there were no indictments related to the scandal until after the election.
That’s awfully rich coming from Grassley. As chairman of the committee in charge of overseeing the Justice Department, Grassley did little but write letters for two years. Senate Republicans knew in early 2017 that the Steele dossier was opposition research paid for by the Democrats and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign but backed Mueller’s witch hunt anyway. While Nunes and House Republicans did the heavy lifting and took the shots, Senate Republicans dithered.
Graham is performing no better than Grassley, despite months of threats. Graham, too, is permitting Obamagate conspirators to testify in private rather than forcing them to come clean with Americans in an open hearing. After finally convincing his Republican-controlled committee to approve a weak resolution authorizing subpoenas for about 50 Obamagate perps, Graham has only questioned Bruce Ohr, a Justice Department official friendly with Christopher Steele, whose wife worked on the anti-Trump project for Fusion GPS behind closed doors.
Trump has every right to be enraged that four years after Barack Obama’s top henchmen concocted and executed the biggest political scandal of all time, not one person has been held criminally responsible while trials against his associates drag on.
Further, the president been betrayed by the leadership of his own party. It was a matter of nanoseconds after Democrats took control of the House before they leveraged every ounce of their new power to savage Trump and Republicans. Republicans, on the other hand, have sat “frozen stiff” while wielding powerful gavels and making empty promises. (I wrote a partial list of the Senate GOP’s failures here.)
Something could change in the next week or so but for now, between Trump’s tweets and Fox News reporting on a possible delay until November, it looks more and more like justice for Trump—and the country—will be denied.