the national interest

Why Barr Appointing Durham As Special Counsel Could Backfire on Trump

Photo: Bob Child/AP

Attorney General William Barr announced today that John Durham, the prosecutor he hired to investigate anybody who investigated the Russia scandal, was made a special counsel last month. Durham’s status as special counsel gives him protection from firing, presumably under a Biden administration.

Trump’s critics are skeptical, and his loyalists are gleeful. But that impulsive reaction might well be wrong. Durham’s appointment is bad news for Trump.

Durham has spent more than a year investigating the investigators in a fruitless attempt to prove out Trump’s wild charges that the Obama administration illegally surveilled his campaign. The Russia investigation has been turned inside out through multiple probes — by the Justice Department Inspector General, the Republican Senate, as well as Durham — and has produced barely anything of note. Durham can finish his search, and he’s unlikely to find anything worse than a handful of staffers neglecting to put cover sheets on their TPS reports.

Unlike the Russia investigation, which Trump stymied by withholding an interview and getting his top aides to clam up by dangling pardons, Durham’s subjects have all cooperated. So let him finish.

On the other side of the equation, Trump and his administration could be subject to any number of criminal investigations because — well, they’re a bunch of criminals. Trump himself has already been implicated by the Justice Department for ordering Michael Cohen to violate campaign-finance laws (Cohen went to jail) and for committing numerous acts to obstruct the Russia investigation. DOJ rules prevented it from formally charging Trump while he served as president. The department has also charged Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas with crimes related to their shakedown in Ukraine, and Parnas is cooperating with authorities and has said his actions were personally ordered by Trump, who has met with him in several documented instances.

It is hardly unlikely even more crimes will pop up, given the unusual character of the people surrounding Trump. The Washington Establishment will insist that the Biden administration should let bygones be bygones.

But at the same time, Durham will still be there, looking backward, not forward — indeed, Durham is probing an investigation that, as of January 20, will have begun two administrations ago. So, yes, investigate them all. Turn over every rock. There will be only one former president around who was a career criminal surrounded by other crooks, and it won’t have been Barack Obama.

Appointing Durham As Special Counsel Could Backfire on Trump