Special Counsel John Durham’s probe of the Russia investigation that Fox all but partnered in has turned into the legal nothingburger we always knew it would be. But the Fox/MAGA mission of smearing the U.S. justice system has already been at least partly accomplished.
From The New York Times:
When John H. Durham was assigned by the Justice Department in 2019 to examine the origins of the investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, President Donald J. Trump and his supporters expressed a belief that the inquiry would prove that a “deep state” conspiracy including top Obama-era officials had worked to sabotage him.
Now Mr. Durham appears to be winding down his three-year inquiry without anything close to the results Mr. Trump was seeking. The grand jury that Mr. Durham has recently used to hear evidence has expired, and while he could convene another, there are currently no plans to do so, three people familiar with the matter said.
Over the course of his inquiry, Mr. Durham has developed cases against two people accused of lying to the F.B.I. in relation to outside efforts to investigate purported Trump-Russia ties, but he has not charged any conspiracy or put any high-level officials on trial. The recent developments suggest that the chances of any more indictments are remote.
One of those indicted, Michael Sussman, was a lawyer with ties to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. He was acquitted of the charge in May, The Times notes. The other indictment was against a Russia analyst who goes on trial next month. But one of the lead prosecutors is leaving the team for another job.
There was a third case against an FBI lawyer “whom an inspector general had accused of doctoring an email used in preparation for a wiretap renewal application,” The Times further reported, but that one resulted in a plea deal with no prison time.
In fact, none other than Kayleigh McEnany, while she was still a Trump campaign official, credited Sean Hannity with the creation of the Durham investigation. Media Matters concluded she was probably correct. That may be one of the few times #LyingKayleigh McEnany told the truth.
But Fox’s MAGA smear campaign against the Russia investigation will do much to outweigh the facts (again). Media Matters’ Matt Gertz notes there had been more than 2,000 weekday segments on Fox discussing either Durham’s investigation or the origins of the Russia probe before Sussman had been acquitted.
The network’s coverage has dwindled since then, but the damage has been done. Durham’s probe fit neatly into Hannity’s counternarrative, in which Trump and his associates were victims of a witch hunt and the real crimes were all committed by overzealous anti-Trump investigators. That conspiracy theory has foundered in court, and the Justice Department’s inspector general concluded in December 2019 that the Russia probe was properly predicated.
Its legacy, however, will be in solidifying the GOP’s turn against the FBI and the Justice Department and setting the stage for the current vein of demagoguery against the various federal probes of Trump and his allies. Hannity sought to put Trump above the law, and, at least for Republicans, he succeeded.
If you think Hannity or his MAGA cohorts will be admitting they were wrong about the Russia investigation, I’ve got a Trump University diploma to sell you.
(Durham image via screen grab)