Senate Democrats are gearing up to add another leg to the Trump-Russia catastrophe, years after special counsel John Durham’s so-called “probe of the investigators” began.
According to a press release sent by his office, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) has initiated a fresh inquiry into “alleged misbehavior” detailed in a New York Times article from last week concerning Durham’s effort.
According to Durbin’s statement released on Monday, “these accusations regarding abuses in Special Counsel Durham’s probe are just one of many instances when former President Trump and his cronies politicized the Justice Department.”
Durbin said that the Justice Department should serve the interests of the American people rather than those of the president. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said, “While we wait for the results of current internal probes, we will do our part and take a serious look at these recurring occurrences and the rules and practices that permitted them.”
After the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report in early May 2019, Attorney General William Barr appointed a special counsel, John Durham, to look into the beginnings and progression of the FBI’s investigation into possible collusion between the 2016 campaign of then-candidate Donald Trump and Russia.
While Trump and his supporters have hailed Durham’s investigation, which reaches back into the Biden administration, as a way to expose a “Russiagate” plot against the former president, Democrats, and others have criticized it as a politically tainted effort to discredit Mueller and top officials from the FBI.
The New York Times published an article last week that bolstered Durham’s critics by detailing events that were believed to demonstrate how the investigation “got roiled by internal dissent and ethical conflicts,” such as the reasons for the exits of key prosecutors. Durham allegedly reportedly looked into “strange financial practices” involving Trump at one point, but the tabloid claims the specifics are sketchy and that he never filed charges related to this investigation.
Skepticism was aroused by the account. Margot Cleveland of The Federalist gave six arguments for why she thinks the New York Times “launched a preemptive assault” before the release of Durham’s special counsel report. Investigative writer for The Washington Free Beacon Chuck Ross speculated that the “flimsy” New York Times piece would provide Democrats an “excuse to reject Durham’s report, or frame it adversely for the media if it’s released.”
As of this writing, Durham has won one guilty plea from former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who was accused of forging paperwork to extend the FBI’s FISA monitoring warrant on Carter Page, a former foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign. Clinesmith avoided jail time but did get a year-long ban from practicing law. This year, Durham was dealt a blow when both the prosecutions of Michael Sussmann, a former attorney for Hillary Clinton’s campaign and Igor Danchenko, a key source for British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s anti-Trump dossier, resulted in acquittals in Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia, respectively.
Garland has stated that he would “want as much as feasible to be made public” after Durham’s report is finished, but he has also emphasized the need to take into account Privacy Act concerns and classification issues.