On May 13, 2019, then-Attorney General Bill Barr let it be known that at Donald Trump’s “request,” he was conducting an investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation. To conduct this investigation, Barr appointed his very own special prosecutor, U.S. Attorney John Durham. For the next three-and-a-half years, Republicans made confident predictions that “Bull” Durham was going to be the man to finally “lock ‘er up.” Surely Durham, unleashed with no deadline, budgetary limit, or constraint on where he looked, would prove conclusively that every conspiracy theory pushed by Trump was true.
But after more than three years and more than $40 million spent, Durham managed to produce just a single charge: accusing Democratic-linked attorney Michael Sussmann of lying to the FBI for not revealing secondhand connections to Hillary Clinton’s campaign when talking to them about Donald Trump’s Russia dealings. In May, a jury found Sussman not guilty of the ridiculous charge.
Now The New York Times reports that the grand jury seated in connection with Durham’s investigation has been allowed to expire. Several members of Durham’s team have already left, and those who remain are now working to complete “a final report.” A report that shows they found absolutely nothing.
Durham had a solid background as a man who would twist any law to assist the Republican cause, such as when he decided there was absolutely nothing wrong with the kidnapping and torture the Bush administration practiced before and during the invasion of Iraq. The U.S. attorney signed on to help to create a false narrative about the Russia investigation, rewriting the order of events and insisting that there was no cause to involve the Department of Justice or the FBI. He even accompanied Barr overseas as they tried to talk U.S. allies into lying about intelligence sources.
In the runup to the 2020 election, Republicans regularly played on the idea that Durham was going to provide them with an “October surprise” by reversing the Russia narrative, absolving Trump of the crimes he committed in his first impeachment, and just generally stomping on Democratic faces. That lust for a coming bombshell grew even greater when Durham let it be known that his investigation had “evolved into a criminal investigation” and that a grand jury had been seated. Surely all those “lock ‘er up” chants were about to be fulfilled.
But before that bombshell could arrive, Durham’s lead investigator left the team, there were indications that Durham’s investigation was coming up dry, and sad news that his report “was unlikely to be ready in time for the election.”
There would be no report. Not in time for the election. Not in the next two years.
In fact, by September 2020 Durham seemed to have already lost the thread of what he was supposed to be investigating and was instead taking a deep look at the Clinton Foundation, apparently checking into Q-anon conspiracy theories about “deep state” connections. He found absolutely nothing. By that point, his investigation had already been underway for 16 months, a time period in which Robert Mueller’s investigation issued 31 indictments, accepted five guilty pleas, filed 190 charges, and successfully prosecuted four cases resulting in prison sentences.
Even though Durham had nothing to show for nearly two years of searching, Barr, supposedly oh-so-upset over Trump’s lies about the election, gave Trump a parting gift before he left the White House: He changed Durham’s status to that of special counsel, expanding his reach still further, and gave him forever to dig up anything he could.
For MAGA Americans, the Durham investigation was an answer to prayer. They had a prosecutor who could go anywhere, subpoena anyone, and investigate anything in order to find all those pizza tunnels and lizard men hiding at the bottom of the deep state. It all made for a super tasty bit of revenge fantasy. Just as their Q-notes insisted that Trump was always about to return from Mar-a-Lago and reveal that he had really been in charge all along, John Durham was always about to come smashing through the doors at Democratic Party HQ with a fist full of arrest warrants.
After all, the memes were unstoppable!
Now it seems there finally is going to be a Durham report. And like everything else Durham is done, it’s going to be a pointless exercise in finger-pointing unsupported by evidence and good for nothing but boosting his chances of being a “legal commentator” on Fox News.
Durham’s investigation is coming to an end without ever laying a single charge against Hillary Clinton or anyone with more than a passing connection to her campaign. It’s coming to an end without finding anything like a conspiracy to use the FBI against Trump. It’s coming to an end … and that’s about the only good thing that can be said about it.
This is exactly the conclusion that everyone should have expected on day one. John Durham was hired as a professional witch hunter, and there simply are no witches to find. Everything about the FBI’s investigation into Trump was already well known. There were no secrets. No conspiracy.
That didn’t stop Durham from making that claim in court when prosecuting Sussman. The verdict shows exactly what the jury thought of his unsupported statements.
A month before Barr revealed that Durham’s report wasn’t yet baked, the Senate Intelligence Committee, then led by Republican Sen. Richard Burr, issued its own final report on the Trump campaign’s connection with Russia. That report found more than 100 contacts between Trump’s team and Russian agents. It found that Trump’s campaign directly collaborated with Russia on multiple occasions and in various ways to alter the outcome of a U.S. election. It found that multiple members of Trump’s campaign lied to investigators about these connections. It found that the coordination of Trump’s campaign and the Russian government “represented a grave counterintelligence threat.”
Those are the facts of what happened. Durham was never going to find anything that made this any less true. What Durham needs to report is all the conspiracy theories he investigated and found to be false.
But don’t worry. Just because Durham’s investigation is ending without a single conviction to stand on, that doesn’t mean right-wing media is going to stop claiming he found something huge. They’re certainly not stopping today. In fact, the Durham investigation is likely to go on endlessly in the MAGA mind. If Donald Trump can be secret president, running the country from Mar-a-Lago while Biden wonders why his red button does nothing, then surely John Durham can keep on investigating forever. No grand jury? Who needs one. Durham will be always about to come through Democratic doors, laser grenade and electro-whip of justice in hand.
He’ll always be just one rabbit hole away,
The last sad cry for help ...