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The failure of the John Durham probe belongs to Barr — and Trump

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Special Prosecutor John Durham, who once had a solid reputation as a prosecutor, now has arguably the worst trial record ever special counsel or independent public prosecutor in American history: no wins, two losses.

Durham’s disgraceful record is further tarnishing the reputation of former Attorney General William Barr.

Durham’s disgraceful track record further tarnishes the reputation of former Attorney General William Barr, the man who brought Durham to Washington in May 2019 and tasked him with poking holes in the FBI’s 2016 Trump-Russia investigation. Just before his departure from the Trump administration in December 2020, Barr protected Durham from removal by elevating him from a US attorney within the Justice Department to the more protected role of special counsel.

On Tuesday, Durham suffered his second consecutive loss on trial. A DC jury acquitted Igor Danchenko on all four remaining points in Durham’s 2021 charge for making false statements to the FBI. Last Friday, October 14, the federal judge oversaw the case thrown the first count as not supported by the evidence.

Durham’s previous defeat came in May, when another DC jury acquitted Michael Sussmann, Clinton’s former campaign attorney. As in Danchenko’s trial, Durham failed to convict Sussmann for make false statements to the FBI.

To be sure, in 2020 and before he was named special counsel, Durham made a guilty plea, that of Kevin Clinesmith, the one-time FBI agent who lied to a court about Trump campaign aide Carter Page. However, it would have been somewhat shocking not to get a plea here; eight months earlier, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz meticulously catalogued evidence of Clinesworth’s wrongdoing.

Fast forward to Durham’s current loss. Special counsel sought to prove that Danchenko had lied about information he provided the FBI about the so-called Steele file. The agency’s investigation into Donald Trump began with sources independent of that dossier and did not rely on it, as The New York Times reported. Fox News hosts do though don’t like or accept that record. And if the Philip Bump of the Washington Post writesswhile unproductive, Durham’s prosecution of Danchenko has certainly helped MAGA supporters and Trump continue to circulate and repackage old conspiracies.

And therein lies the reason underlying Durham’s losing trial record. He has done what prosecutors are required to avoid: using the criminal court to amplify a false political narrative.

He has done what prosecutors are required to avoid: using the criminal court to amplify a false political narrative.

In fact, it seems that Durham’s assignment from Barr was to become the court of Trump’s meme that the FBI’s work was a “witch hunt.” It would be naive to say that he was just following the facts.

On Monday, during Durham’s closing argument against Danchenko, the special counsel made a point of reprimand the 2016 FBI investigation. He called the FBI “the elephant in the room.” As reported by the Washington ExaminerDurham argued that “the FBI failed here”, “mishandled the investigation” and “didn’t do what… [it] should have done.”

During last week’s trial, Durham attacked both FBI agents he put on the stand. He did so after those officers, after cross-examination, testified that Danchenko had been a valuable source of information. It would be an understatement to label a trial strategy that treated FBI agents as hostile witnesses “unique” in the annals of DOJ prosecutions.

Durham also joined Barr’s attack on his own department’s independent inspector general after the IG’s 2019 report concluded that the FBI had legitimately launched the Trump-Russia investigation. “We’ve informed the Inspector General that we disagree with some of the report’s conclusions about … how the FBI case was opened,” Durham wrote:.

Impartial federal prosecutors just don’t do such things.

We also know that in September 2020, Nora Dannehy, Durham’s highly regarded assistant, resigned from his team without public explanation. The Hartford Courant reported her concerns about “pressure from Barr … to get results before the election.”

Durham, however, stayed with Barr. And it really is Barr’s career that is most undermined by the apparent failure of Special Counsel. Durham’s work casts another dark shadow on the man who was his patron. And Barr’s Energetic Efforts After Jan 6 to Restore His Image can’t erase his sad final legacy as Trump enabler.

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