The Mueller report is long out by now, and no matter how much spin the media and Democrats want to put on it, there’s no “collusion” to be squeezed from it. That’s led to a series of calls from conservatives for the origins of the Trump/Russia investigation to be looked at to see just how kosher they were.
Now, they’re getting their wish.
According to The New York Times and The Associated Press, Attorney General William Barr has appointed John Durham, the U.S. attorney in Connecticut, to look at the origins of the probe back in 2016 — and all of the concomitant questions that have arisen in the aftermath.
Both outlets cited unidentified sources in their reports.
“It is not clear what investigative powers Mr. Durham will have or whether Mr. Barr will authorize a team or budget,” The Washington Times noted.
“Special counsel Robert Mueller had a squad of roughly 20 people to conduct his investigation.”
The move comes less than two weeks after Barr’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Mueller report. During the testimony, he had said that the “spying did occur” on the Trump campaign.
“I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal,” Barr told the committee, although he said he didn’t know if any violations of law or policy occurred in the process.
“I am not suggesting that those rules were violated, but I think it’s important to look at them,” Barr said, according to The New York Times.
Durham was a Trump nominee, according to the AP, but he was also unanimously confirmed by the Senate in 2018 and was described as a “fierce, fair prosecutor” by both of Connecticut’s Democratic senators, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy.
The appointment of someone to officially take charge of reviewing the process that led to the intelligence-collection on the Trump campaign, at least from Barr’s office, was widely viewed as a given, given that he’d told the Senate Judiciary Committee that “people in the department” are looking at the matter.
It also becomes the third probe into the origins of the Trump/Russia investigation.
“Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is evaluating the Justice Department’s wiretaps on former campaign associate Carter Page. And John Huber, the U.S. attorney in Utah, is also reviewing a surveillance warrant obtained by the FBI to spy on Mr. Page,” The Washington Times noted.
Page will likely be the locus of the investigation, considering the fact that it was the infamous dossier by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele that was used to cobble together a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrant against Page.
In his report, Mueller said that the dossier’s contents were at best “unverified” and there were plenty of signs, even before it was used to obtain a warrant, that it was utterly unreliable.
How much Barr is going to restrict Durham is anyone’s guess.
Looking at the Page warrant, after all, opens up all sorts of avenues — including the dossier; officials like former FBI Agent Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page and former Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr; the FBI’s conduct involving Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos; and any number of questionable and/or unexplained decisions that were made before and after the Page warrant.
The reaction on the Democratic side of the aisle was pretty muted as of Monday night. It won’t remain that way.
The Durham investigation is something that’s going to be fought tooth and nail, not just because of what it can uncover but because it might actually compete for attention with the panoply of Trump administration investigations that the Democrat-controlled House has planned.
Well, do cry me a river.
From the right, the reaction, meanwhile, is going to be quite the opposite — as rightly it should be. This certainly needs to be investigated.
Then again, conservatives should remember one object lesson from the Mueller investigation:
Never overpromise and underdeliver, especially when you’re not the one who’s going to be delivering.
That being said, to paraphrase Churchill, while this certainly isn’t the beginning of the end, it could, perhaps, be the end of the beginning.