Attorney General Barr Will Go Out With a Whimper, Not a Bang

That Durham investigation into the Trump-Russia probe could just fade away

As Donald Trump continues to rage on Twitter about a “rigged election,” Joe Biden has assured us that on January 20th, the 45th president will leave the White House or be escorted out the door. Stephen Miller, Mike Pompeo, Betsy DeVos, Mike Pence and others who wrought so much damage to our democratic ideals and institutions will depart with him. 

But no one in the Trump administration has done more damage than Attorney General William Barr. Mark Joseph Stern of Slate documented it all in, “Goodbye Bill Barr.”

In just two years, Attorney General William Barr transformed the Department of Justice into a sleazy, third-rate law firm devoted to shielding Donald Trump and his friends from the consequences of their crimes. A coterie of attorneys with prestigious law degrees and sterling résumés joined Barr’s crusade to place Trump above the law. The attorney general’s tenure played out as a natural experiment: What happens when the embodiment of the right-wing Federalist Society becomes the nation’s chief law enforcement officer? The answer has been a ghastly disaster for the rule of law.

Other than issuing an edict instructing U.S. Attorneys to investigate Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud (which, of course, produced nothing), we haven’t heard much from the attorney general lately. There has not been a peep out of John Durham, the U.S. Attorney from Connecticut that Barr appointed to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia probe. Durham failed to produce an October surprise in the form of a report damning the investigation. Now, there are also rumors that there will be no Durham report at all. 

In the past, Barr has been unable to stay silent. He broke with Justice Department policy to comment on the Durham investigation while it was still underway, declaring that the Trump-Russia investigation was “one of the greatest travesties” in American history based on a “bogus scandal.” When DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz issued his finding in December 2019 that the FBI had adequate reason to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, Barr disagreed. “The F.B.I. launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken,” he said.

Investigative journalist Murray Waas reports that he talked to two sources familiar with the Durham investigation who told him why the U.S. Attorney and his team haven’t come up with anything. First of all, Nora Dannehy, Durham’s trusted deputy, resigned from the investigation in September, telling colleagues that it was in response to Barr’s pressure for them to release a report before the election. According to Waas’s sources, Durham called Barr shortly after that and made it clear that “his office would not be releasing a report or taking any other significant public actions before Election Day.” The implied threat was that if the attorney general kept up the pressure, Dannehy wouldn’t be the only one to walk away. Durham and other members of his team might follow suit. 

Waas’s sources also told him that “there has been no evidence found, after 18 months of investigation, to support Barr’s claims that Trump was targeted by politically biased Obama officials to prevent his election.” In other words, Durham and his team are reaching the same conclusions as Inspector General Horowitz and the Senate Intelligence Committee, not to mention the internal CIA investigation conducted by Mike Pompeo

So, as the Trump presidency comes to an end, let’s review what we know about its relationship with Moscow.

  1. The Mueller team found that the Trump campaign had colluded with the Russian government. But because former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein limited the investigation to criminal matters, the special counsel’s report stated that the evidence didn’t reach the criminal conspiracy standard.
  2. The Mueller team found that the president had attempted to obstruct justice on at least 10 occasions, but Barr simply dismissed the charges.
  3. The FBi never finished its counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to the Russian government, nor has any other agency.  
  4. No one who has investigated the origins of the Trump-Russia probe has found any evidence to support Barr’s claim that it was a “bogus scandal.”

These are facts that Attorney General Barr has attempted to obfuscate, and right-wing media continues to ignore

Barr has two months left as attorney general, so he could still release a Durham investigation report. But if Waas and his sources are right, it is more likely that we’ll hear nothing further because the last thing Barr wants is a report that exonerates the Trump-Russia probe—proving, once again, that he can’t be trusted

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