Over the course of several months, Donald Trump has periodically blurted out special counsel John Durham’s name, hoping the prosecutor would bolster some of the former president’s conspiracy theories. Before leaving the White House, Trump even suggested Durham’s probe could serve as a possible vehicle for retaliating against his perceived enemies.
But the longer the investigation continued, the more impatient the Republican become. “Where’s John Durham?” Trump asked in 2020, 2021, and 2022.
As it turns out, we can now answer that question: Durham is in court, losing in embarrassing fashion. NBC News reported:
A federal jury in Washington on Tuesday found Hillary Clinton campaign lawyer Michael Sussmann not guilty on a charge of lying to the FBI. Prosecutors from special counsel John Durham’s office had contended that Sussmann misrepresented himself during a meeting with the FBI’s general counsel in 2016 in hopes of orchestrating an “October surprise” against rival Donald Trump.
Durham and his team have been at this for nearly three years, and this was the first trial against someone charged by the special counsel’s office. It didn’t take jurors long to conclude that the case against Sussman was wrong.
For those who might benefit from a refresher — you’d be forgiven for thinking, “John Durham’s name sounds familiar, but I can’t remember why I’m supposed to care about him” — let’s revisit our earlier coverage and explain how we arrived at this point.
The original investigation into Trump’s Russia scandal, led by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, led to a series of striking findings: The former president’s political operation in 2016 sought, embraced, capitalized on, and lied about Russian assistance — and then took steps to obstruct the investigation into the foreign interference.
The Trump White House wasn’t pleased, and the Justice Department’s inspector general conducted a lengthy probe of the Mueller investigation. Not surprisingly, the IG’s office found nothing improper.
This, of course, fueled even more outrage from Trump, so then-Attorney General Bill Barr tapped a federal prosecutor — U.S. Attorney John Durham — to conduct his own investigation into the investigation in the fall of 2019.
Special counsel Durham charges Democratic lawyer with lying to FBISept. 17, 202102:10
After an extended period of apparent inactivity, the prosecutor last September indicted cybersecurity attorney Michael Sussmann for allegedly having lied to the FBI. Soon thereafter, evidence emerged that Durham’s indictment was misleading, relying on selective quotes and omitting relevant details from their proper context. In December, Sussman’s lawyers disclosed evidence that raised additional doubts about the reliability of Durham’s charges.
Indeed, the whole case was terribly odd. Sussman met with the FBI nearly six years ago to discuss alleged connections between the Trump Organization’s computers and the Kremlin-linked Alfa Bank. According to Durham, he claimed he wasn’t acting on Clinton’s behalf when he secretly was. Sussman’s defense team has said he never claimed not to have clients, and it didn’t much matter who he worked for anyway.
The case nevertheless went to trial, where Durham failed.
At this point, Durham’s investigation into the Russia scandal investigation has lasted longer than Mueller’s original probe.
Indeed, let’s not forget that during the Mueller investigation, Trump and his allies routinely made the case that the inquiry was taking too long, cost too much taxpayer money, and needed to wrap up. All the while, Mueller and his team put together an impressive list of criminal convictions.
Any chance we’ll hear related chatter now about Durham’s increasingly pointless exercise?
Update: The jury forewoman, who did not give her name, told reporters outside the courthouse that “I think we could have spent our time more wisely.” Ouch.