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It’s Time for John Durham to Shut Down His Sham Investigation

His walk-back of an irresponsible statement that launched the Trumpy right into hyperspace could be a sign that he actually has some integrity.

Bob Child/AP/Shutterstock
Attorney John Durham in 2006

And now, John Durham is walking it back. The special prosecutor appointed by Trump Attorney General Bill Barr to investigate the “deep state” “conspiracy” “against” “Donald Trump” (yes, all of those phrases deserve ironic quote marks) released a court filing Thursday that included this sentence: “If third parties or members of the media have overstated, understated, or otherwise misinterpreted facts contained in the Government’s Motion, that does not in any way undermine the valid reasons for the Government’s inclusion of this information.”

Translation: Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media, not to mention Trump himself and his Republican cultists, are out of their minds.

Let me explain. Durham issued a filing earlier this month that seemed to suggest, to people who can’t read, that the Hillary Clinton campaign was spying on the Trump campaign. The New York Post went with “Hillary the Spy” on its cover. Fox went berserk. Trump suggested some Clinton aides deserved to be executed (no, really). Jim Jordan (R-Berchtesgaden) echoed the sentiment.

The details are too convoluted and ridiculous to go into in great detail, but in a nutshell: As you surely know, Trump spent a lot of time alleging that his campaign was being spied on, for instance in that infamous tweet in March 2017 about the Obama administration wiretapping him. It’s all fiction, straight out of the Josef Goebbels School of Political Communication. If you are doing X—setting fire to the Reichstag, say, or cooperating with the Kremlin to win a presidential election—you accuse your opponent of doing the thing that you’re doing.

So if anybody with actual power and responsibility comes along and utters even a syllable that appears to support the desired narrative, it is seized upon as evidence that the nutty conspiracy theory was true all along. That’s what happened after Durham’s earlier filing, which led him to backtrack. It was encouraging to see that the man has at least this smidgeon of integrity. If he had genuine integrity, he’d shut the investigation down, save the taxpayers their money, and settle back into prosecuting mobsters in Connecticut instead of enabling mobsters in Washington. He’s been at this for almost three years now, and he’s snared three small fish who are accused (in one case convicted, but given no jail time) of fudging facts that aren’t exactly suggestive of a grand conspiracy.*

Now, lying to the FBI is no small thing. It’s what Michael Flynn did, and if it was bad in Flynn’s case, then it’s bad in this case, too. Except that the lawyers for Michael Sussmann, who was indicted in September, say in this case that “the law criminalizes only false statements that are material,” and that Sussmann’s false statements were not, and they filed a motion a few days ago to dismiss the whole thing. So we shall see. But Durham is heading into Ken Starr territory, by which I mean he’s dragging this thing out for years and wasting millions of public dollars and getting nothing. Until this little walk-back, he has seemed to understand that his audience is not the American people but the 25 or so percent of the American people who have been convinced that Hillary is a contract killer and child pornographer and traitor and whatever else they say she is.

Anyway. It’s important to follow this because it gives us a big hint as to what the 2024 campaign is going to look like if Trump is the Republican nominee—and what life in Congress will look like if Jim Jordan becomes the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which he will be if the GOP captures the House. He will find some flimsy basis on which to impeach Joe Biden. Fortunately, most of the non-GOP American public will go “uh, what?” and the right will discredit itself yet again, and Biden, if he’s the Democratic nominee in 2024 and the pandemic and inflation are in the rearview mirror, will end up looking more sympathetic to most people than he seems now.

If I’m right about that, then Trump won’t have much of a case to make against Biden. He’ll try fearmongering over “defund the police” and border security and “woke” school curricula and antifa, but Biden is no cultural lefty, and none of that will really stick to him as far as swing voters are concerned. So Trump will make shit up—about Biden, about Hunter, and yes, about Hillary, because it will never stop with her, not even after she slips these surly bonds, when I predict we’ll see a whole new spate of “books” (irony quotes again) about all the undiscovered evil she perpetrated while she walked this earth and when she can no longer sue (not that she ever has anyway—though she threw a hint at Fox last week that it’s on her mind, and I’d love to see her do it).

Back to John Durham: He has the power to shut down a lot of this pernicious madness. If he steps forward this spring or summer to say, You know, I’ve been at this three years now, and I have seen no evidence of any conspiracy against Donald Trump, he’ll be rendering a great service unto this beleaguered nation. Prosecutors—let’s qualify that; most prosecutors, since I mentioned Herr Starr above—don’t like to get too political. Witness Robert Mueller, and his pathetic insistence on remaining above the fray while Rome was burning.

That’s the historic position. But history changes. And it has changed in a big way. Now one of our two political parties, led by a neofascist, is openly against democracy. And it is using you, Mr. Durham, as its instrument. If that doesn’t mean it’s time to take sides, then I don’t know what would. History will be your judge.

* This article originally misstated the number of indictments brought in Durham’s investigation.