Robert Mueller’s investigation began on May 17, 2017. Less than five months later, Mueller indicted Paul Manafort and Rick Gates on 12 counts each, including conspiracy against the United States, fraud, and money laundering. At the same time, Mueller accepted the guilty plea of George Papadopoulos on a charge of lying to the FBI. A month and a half later, Michael Flynn pled guilty. Sixteen months after he began, Mueller had issued 31 indictments, accepted five guilty pleas, filed 190 charges, and successfully prosecuted four cases resulting in prison sentences. Only the indictment of Roger Stone and the still-unresolved issues around Flynn’s final outcome fell outside that window.
That 16-month window is worth mentioning because that’s how long Attorney General William Barr and U.S. Attorney John Durham have been pursuing their “investigation.” In all that time, Durham has filed exactly one indictment. That charge was for altering an email that eventually made no difference at all in what happened next, and the information wasn’t surfaced by Durham. It came from the inspector general report that was issued while his investigation was getting underway.
Despite endless tweets from Donald Trump and a Greek chorus of Republicans claiming that Mueller was taking too long and costing too much, there’s been an eerie silence over Durham’s endless quest and how it keeps coming up dry. There also seems to be almost no concern given to the fact that right from the start, the Durham investigation has inflated into a boundary-free look into any damn thing Barr wants, many of them with absolutely no relation to the stated purpose. Which apparently now includes a lengthy look into the Clinton Foundation.
Although it was announced as an investigation of the previous investigation, it’s been clear from the beginning that Durham’s task was actually to examine a whole string of Q-connected conspiracy theories that included trying to find some evidence to support the lies that got Donald Trump impeached. To that end, Barr and Durham traveled the world, trying to find some possible source for their claims who wasn’t either Rudy Giuliani, a Russian agent, or both. Months ago, the investigation spilled far over its banks and began investigating officials who had not even a tangential relationship to the work of Mueller.
At this point, Durham has pursued claims of DNC servers that never existed in Ukraine, chased down false charges that Obama officials “unmasked” Trump campaign officials who were chatting with Russians, investigated his fellow U.S. attorneys involved in conducting the prosecution of Michael Flynn, and done intelligence assessments unrelated to either Russia or Trump. All of this is expected to lead up to Barr producing some kind of October surprise for Trump, but the pressure to put out the kind of damning information Barr wants, even if it is unsupported by the evidence, has already led to the resignation of Durham’s lead assistant.
As The New York Times reported on Thursday, Durham’s unbounded investigation has continued its endless bloat into an ever more Q-flavored pursuit of the “deep state.” That now includes focusing not just on trying to find support for mass delusions centered around Joe Biden, but polishing up older claims about … Hillary Clinton. Because four years later, Clinton still apparently occupies a premium space in Trump’s mind.
Durham has been chasing down documents and pulling in FBI agents for interviews about an investigation into allegations—false allegations—made against the Clinton Foundation in 2016. While Donald Trump’s “charity” turned out to be a complete scam with its collapse resulting in a legal battle still underway in 2020, the Clinton Foundation did, and does, legitimate good in the world, including contributing to the health care of millions. But Durham is apparently weighing every move made by FBI investigators who ultimately cleared the Clinton Foundation with those who investigated the Trump campaign’s connections with Russia.
There is no connection between the two, but Durham apparently wants to be able to deliver Barr a report that says the FBI went easy on Clinton while pushing harder on Trump. This is “highly unusual” behavior at the Department of Justice because it is legally worthless. The allegations are not comparable. The cases are not connected. And the investigating teams had almost no overlap. There is zero genuine value in trying to rate one investigation against the other—especially when one of these investigations ultimately found the allegations unfounded, and the other decisively did not.
If Durham’s intention is to leave the impression that the FBI went too hard on Trump, he has a problem beyond his pointless feint toward Clinton. While Durham has been conducting this investigation that was supposed to be about whether or not there was cause to begin the Russia investigation, the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report saying that the investigation was justified by “unprecedented Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election” and that they found no evidence of political motivation in the investigation. That report went on to confirm almost every possible aspect of the Trump-Russia story, right down to evidence that the “pee tape” is a real thing.
Donald Trump complained about the Mueller report an amazing 319 times on Twitter alone. That includes over 120 times in which Trump complained about either the length or cost of the investigation. But the Mueller investigation found real crimes. The Senate investigation confirmed those crimes, and went even further in naming Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort as an active Russian asset.
The Durham investigation has become a bloated tick on the side of the Justice Department, expanding in all directions and searching desperately for anything—anything—that might provide Trump with a talking point. Why does anyone, left or right, think it’s okay for Barr and Trump to have a team that can go anywhere, and look into anything, without restrictions on time, cost, or topic, to find ammunition against political opponents? That’s not an investigation, it’s an inquisition.