On the day John Durham was appointed Special Counsel, I said that his probe wouldn’t go anywhere, it wouldn’t help Trump one bit, it wouldn’t even give Republicans any fake scandals to work with, and it was only ever a matter of Bill Barr conning a naive Trump into believing Barr could somehow magically save him, so that Barr could keep his own job.
Sure enough, the better part of three years later, that’s pretty much how things have played out. It’s not that I have psychic powers. It’s just that this was always a non-starter. There was simply nothing for Durham to work with. You can’t find something that doesn’t exist.
It serves as the latest reminder that while a corrupt President and corrupt Attorney General can successfully conspire to bury or delay legitimate criminal cases, they cannot manufacture phony criminal cases against their political adversaries and expect those cases to stick. Trial juries just don’t go for that sort of thing. It’s why Barr’s only real successes came in the form of (in some instances temporarily) protecting Trump’s corrupt allies from prosecution. Barr was never going to be able to put Trump’s enemies in prison just for kicks.
It’s also a reminder of just how difficult and complex of a process it is to get even the most legitimate of criminal charges to stick against political figures. Current Attorney General Merrick Garland and his DOJ have been steadily building legitimate criminal cases against Trump world for more than a year, and thus far only Steve Bannon, Tom Barrack, and Roger Stone’s driver have been indicted. The DOJ is still building its criminal cases against the likes of Trump, Giuliani, Gaetz, Stone, and so on, because that’s what it takes to actually get convictions against these types.
The notion that Durham was going to be able to get trial convictions against people who are obviously innocent is laughable. Nothing works that way. For that matter, the Durham probe wasn’t even the kind of phony scandal that the Republicans were going to be able to use to fool average voters in the middle. You have to pick a believable fake scandal in order for that to work. No one in the middle was ever going to believe that the entire U.S. government criminally plotted to frame Donald Trump and his campaign for colluding with Russia.
This was only ever about Trump convincing himself that things would somehow magically turn around for him if he could invent a phony conspiracy to explain why he got three million fewer votes than his 2016 opponent – and Bill Barr opportunistically playing right into Trump’s delusions. That kind of deeply personal phony scandal never ends up being of any political value to a politician or his allies. It’s still not clear why Durham decided to willingly destroy his reputation, legacy, and future by getting involved in this pointless debacle. But from day one it’s been clear how and why Durham would come up this empty.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report