Years after the start of special counsel John Durham‘s so-called “investigation of the investigators,” Senate Democrats are preparing to add another leg to the Trump-Russia debacle.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) signaled the onset of a new investigation in response to what his press team claimed was “alleged misconduct” outlined in a New York Times report published last week about Durham’s endeavor.
“These reports about abuses in Special Counsel Durham’s investigation — so outrageous that even his longtime colleagues quit in protest — are but one of many instances where former President Trump and his allies weaponized the Justice Department,” Durbin said in a statement Monday.
“The Justice Department should work on behalf of the American people, not for the personal benefit of any president,” Durbin added. “As we wait for the results of ongoing internal reviews, the Senate Judiciary Committee will do its part and take a hard look at these repeated episodes, and the regulations and policies that enabled them, to ensure such abuses of power cannot happen again.”
In May 2019, shortly after special counsel Robert Mueller released his report, Attorney General William Barr appointed Durham to investigate the origins and conduct of the FBI inquiry into alleged ties between former President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia.
Stretching into the Biden administration, Durham’s investigation has been cheered by Trump and his allies as a means to unravel a suspected “Russiagate” plot against the former president, while Democrats and others have criticized it as a politically tainted endeavor meant to discredit Mueller and top officials from the FBI.
Last week’s report by the New York Times gave fuel to Durham’s detractors as it divulged episodes that were said to show how the inquiry “became roiled by internal dissent and ethical disputes,” including the circumstances underlying the departures of multiple prosecutors. The newspaper also claimed Durham once expanded his inquiry to include an investigation into “suspicious financial dealings” tied to Trump, but the report asserted the details are largely unclear and said that aspect of the probe did not result in Durham bringing charges.
The story prompted some skepticism. The Federalist’s Margot Cleveland outlined six reasons why she believes the New York Times “launched a preemptive assault” in anticipation of Durham’s special counsel report. Chuck Ross, an investigative reporter for The Washington Free Beacon, surmised the “flimsy” New York Times story will empower Democrats to give Attorney General Merrick Garland an “excuse to block Durham’s report, or frame it negatively for the media if it’s released.”
So far, Durham has secured one guilty plea: that of former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who was accused of falsifying a document in efforts to renew the authority to conduct FISA surveillance on onetime Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page. Clinesmith was spared prison time and faced a one-year bar suspension. Last year, Durham endured setbacks when prosecutions against former Hillary Clinton campaign attorney Michael Sussmann and Igor Danchenko, a key source for British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s anti-Trump dossier, ended in acquittal in Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia, respectively.
Whenever Durham’s report is complete, Garland has said he would “like as much as possible to be made public,” but he also stressed there will be Privacy Act concerns and classification to consider.