What are the odds that the Durham investigation is for real and will bring the bad actors to justice?
Following the disclosure that U.S. attorney John Durham has been tasked with investigating and prosecuting potential crimes in the origin of the Russia Hoax, we learned some very encouraging facts that suggest that the Russia Hoax will be fully aired and miscreants brought to justice. Like Howie Carr, who had a front-row seat when John Durham went after corruption in the FBI Boston office, I am "cautiously optimistic" (Howie's term) that Durham and his boss A.G. Barr want to get to the bottom of the hoax and put those who may have committed crimes in prison.
In Boston, Durham faced a gigantic scandal that was very damaging to the FBI and did not blink. He got John Connelly, Whitey Bulger's protector, sentenced to 40 years in prison. This does not sound like a prosecutor who can be persuaded to lay off getting to the truth in order to protect the reputations of important people and institutions.
But we must concede that there are plenty of reasons to worry that that the biggest political scandal in American history — the political weaponization of both the federal intelligence and law enforcement communities to spy on political opponents of the sitting president and remove a duly elected president from office — will be swept under the rug. Even a sober-minded man of integrity like William Barr might be persuaded that the harm to public trust in our system would be too profound and that our allies and foes overseas might see us as so weakened that they would take actions inimical to our interests.
Yesterday, Rush Limbaugh provided a fascinating insight into the level of distrust the conservative base has in the ability of our institutions and their leaders to right themselves. After reviewing what Durham could accomplish, he came back after a commercial break and said:
Holy cow. Some of you people are on fire out there today. I checked the email during the break, and I got a bunch of people sending me notes. "I don't care about this guy's resume. I'm fed up with hearing about people's resume!" They're talking about the guy that Barr has appointed. "I'm gonna wait see results. I don't care what this guy's done. You know, that's all we get. We get resumes, we get past history, we get performance, we get our hopes raised, we get our expectations raised, and then nothing ever happens.
"So you can stuff this guy's resume, Mr. Limbaugh, as far as I'm concerned. I'm waiting to see if anybody delivers on this." I understand the sentiment, folks. I understand the sentiment. I can count as easily as you can the number of times over whatever length of time in the past you want, 30 years, 10 years, 15, five, it doesn't matter. The number of times we've been led to believe that heads are gonna roll, things are gonna happen, the bad guys are gonna get caught. I mean, for two years we've been, "Breaking news! Breaking news!
"The bottom's gonna fall out tomorrow," and it never does. "Breaking news! Breaking news! Heads are gonna roll tomorrow," and they never do. "Breaking news! Breaking news! Full operation exposed, details tomorrow morning," whatever. Never happens. I understand that.
Keeping in mind the need to understand how fiercely the permanent bureaucracy and globalist faction in both parties want to frustrate President Trump's agenda, and how damaging a thorough housecleaning would be for them, let's review the reasons to hope that there will be a serious follow-through by Barr, Durham, and John Huber (the U.S. attorney for Utah who was tasked by A.G. Sessions with investigating the Clinton Foundation and surveillance abuses), especially after the I.G. Horowitz report is released, as is expected within the next 2 or 3 weeks.
Eric Felten noticed something already on the public record last October: that Durham already was investigating leaks to the media from the FBI. This means that at least seven months before his role was revealed, and months before William Barr took office, Durham was on the case. The revelation came not from a leak, but from testimony by James A. Baker, the FBI's general counsel under James Comey.
The testimony is excerpted by Felten in RealClearInvestigations. The great Jim Jordan of Ohio was quizzing Baker:
"So did you talk to Mr. Corn about anything that the FBI was working on," Jordan asked, "specifically the now infamous Steele dossier?"
Suddenly, Baker's lawyer, Dan Levin, jumped in: "One second," he said before he and his client had a conversation off the record.
When the microphones were back on, Levin declared he would "not let [Baker] answer these questions right now. You may or may not know, he's been the subject of a leak investigation which is still — a criminal leak investigation that's still active at the Justice Department." And so Levin concluded, "I'm sorry. I'm cutting off any discussion about conversations with reporters."
North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows wanted to make clear what Baker's lawyer was claiming: "You're saying he's under criminal investigation? That's why you're not letting him answer?"
Levin and the lawmakers sparred a bit over whether Baker was invoking his Fifth Amendment rights, and the congressmen finally got around to asking who was leading this criminal probe:
"There is an ongoing investigation by whom?" Jordan said.
"The Justice Department," Levin responded.
"I mean, is the inspector general looking at this or is this—"
"No," said Levin, "it's Mr. John Durham, a prosecutor."
The specter of Durham haunts the rest of the interview. Baker can't talk about what he told his old friend David Corn in their conversations about the dossier because it would put Baker in legal jeopardy.
The fact that this was kept secret so long, even in the face of this admission slipping out and remaining unnoticed, suggests that the Durham investigation — and maybe Huber's too — is doing exactly what effective prosecutors do: keeping grand jury proceedings secret, applying pressure to witnesses to sing, maybe offering deals for lighter prosecution and sentence recommendations if they implicate higher-ups, and going for convictions by trial juries, not in the court of public opinion.
The very same James A. Baker, interestingly enough, is anticipating release of the Horowitz report, and conceding that the IG will find "mistakes."
Baker, who admitted last week the inspector general makes him "nervous," said the government watchdog will probably find some errors.
"The inspector general is looking at everything we did," Baker said on CNN. "If the IG usually finds mistakes that we made, so I expect him to find mistakes this time."
Baker said last week at an event in Washington, D.C., that he took a leading role in overseeing the FISA warrant applications to obtain the authority to spy on Page. Baker said on Monday he does not believe there was any intent from the people he worked with to do "anything wrong or illegal," including politically motivated spying.
A second serious implication of all of this is that when Barr was recruited to become AG for the second time, he knew that Durham already was at work on busting open at a minimum the collusion between FBI senior officials and media figures to perpetrate the Russia hoax on the public and lead to the appointment of a special counsel via the resulting public pressure.
Photo credit: Department of Justice.
I have long believed that the only reason a man like Barr, who was earning millions of dollars a year as a DC lawyer at the very top of his profession, could be lured back into the snake pit of DC politics under Trump would be his devotion to the integrity of our legal/judicial system. If he were a cynic just interested in preserving the establishment that let him succeed so mightily, why not just stay where we was? He had to know that taking on the task of rescuing the system from its abusers would lead to the sort of vilification he now is enduring.
I think that the same logic can be applied to another revelation we learned yesterday: that Durham has enlisted the CIA's head Gina Haspell to aid in his probe. Is this a danger sign or an indication that someone highly knowledgable is on the case?
My friend Mike Nadler observes in an email: "As a career bureaucrat, Haspell seems to love her agency and may not tolerate its misuse for partisan political purposes." I would add to that historically the CIA was very much a boys' club. Haspell's reputation was as a devoted career official, who no doubt endured a lot as a woman coming up the ranks. She may not be part of the club, but rather a harbinger of a new order at the CIA.
However, it must be considered that she could be implicated, in which case she could be obfuscating and trying to torpedo the investigation (which seems unlikely if Barr and Durham are as serious as I suspect they are) or alternatively that she is spilling what she knows. Sundance asks:
Who was the CIA Deputy Director of the National Clandestine Service for Foreign Intelligence and Covert Action over Europe, while John Brennan and Peter Strzok were running their European 2016 counterintelligence operations?….
And Sundance says that it was Haspell. She probably knows a lot.