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GOP ‘living in its own universe’ with reactions to Durham report

John Durham looked for ways to prosecute Republicans’ perceived enemies, but he couldn’t come up with anything. GOP partisans want charges anyway.


In “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” there’s a scene in which villagers decide they want to burn a suspected witch, and John Cleese’s character offers proof of her evil ways: “She turned me into a newt.” When the woman makes clear that she’s not a witch, and everyone notices that Cleese’s character is clearly not a newt, he says sheepishly, “I got better.”

Enraged villagers, indifferent to the evidence, exclaim moments later, “Burn her anyway!”

This scene came to mind this week, as Republicans responded to former special counsel John Durham’s report on the FBI investigation into Donald Trump’s Russia scandal. Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas, for example, wrote in a tweet last night, “I’ve never been a reactive ‘lock ‘em up’ type. But this Durham report is a lock ‘em up moment.”

No, not for those living in reality. Durham’s findings were obviously underwhelming and broke no new ground. An analysis from The New York Times’ Charlie Savage explained today that the probe “ended with a whimper” and failed entirely to live up to the hype. Savage added, “[Durham] charged no high-level F.B.I. or intelligence official with a crime and acknowledged in a footnote that Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign did nothing prosecutable, either.”

What’s more, when Durham tried to prosecute some peripheral figures, his cases failed spectacularly.

In other words, Durham looked for ways to prosecute Republicans’ perceived enemies, but he and his team couldn’t come up with anything. This, according to members of Congress such as Crenshaw, should be seen as proof that Republicans’ perceived enemies deserve to be prosecuted.

Or put another way, we’re watching the “Burn her anyway!” approach unfold in real life.

A separate New York Times report added that the GOP’s partisan reactions to Durham’s findings are on track to become “Exhibit A in how the American right seems to be living in its own universe — and how Mr. Trump still dictates the parameters of that separate reality.”

It’d be effectively impossible to chronicle every misguided Republican response to the report that too many of them failed to actually read, but highlighted an especially offensive reaction from controversial Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.

Speaking to Newsmax, Tuberville said he “can’t even talk about it it’s so bad.” Speaking on “John Bachman Now,” Tuberville said, “If people don’t go to jail for this, the American people should just stand up and say, ‘Listen, enough’s enough, let’s don’t have elections anymore.’”

That really is what he said — out loud, on camera, to a national broadcast audience.

After several years of effort, Durham couldn’t find evidence of criminal wrongdoing, but Alabama’s far-right senior senator wants unnamed people to “go to jail” anyway. If that doesn’t happen, the GOP senator believes the American electorate should be prepared to abandon elections altogether.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but hysterical reactions like these are utterly bonkers. Durham was tasked with uncovering criminal misconduct, and he just didn’t find anything. That’s not a matter of opinion; it’s simply the only good-faith assessment a fair observer can draw from the prosecutor’s written report.

If there were nefarious actors in law enforcement who deserved to “go to jail,” the special counsel would’ve said so. He didn’t.

If Republicans want to argue that some FBI leaders were hasty about launching a specific kind of investigation, we can certainly have that conversation. If the argument is that the bureau got sloppy at times, there’s some evidence to bolster the point, but this was already well documented by Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s findings in 2019, and the bureau implemented institutional changes soon after.

If GOP members of Congress seriously believe the findings represent “a lock ‘em up moment” that should lead the public to weigh an abandonment of democracy, I’d only ask them one brief follow-up question: Did you actually read Durham’s findings, or are you just going along with what Donald Trump and the Republican base expects to hear?