Top prosecutors in the so-called Durham probe into the origins of the Russigate investigation have reportedly found “no evidence” to support the foundational theory that spawned the investigation—namely, that Obamagate occurred and that Barack Obama himself needed to be punished for it.
According to a New York Magazine story relying on anonymous sources “familiar with the probe,” U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut John Durham has come up empty-handed and is growing increasingly frustrated with Attorney General Bill Barr over developments in the investigation–or, rather, the lack thereof.
Barr, for his part, has reportedly pressured Durham and his team for months over the investigation into the investigation–insisting that the prosecutor release the results before Election Day in an effort to use the full apparatus of the U.S. Department of Justice as a salve for President Donald Trump‘s electoral woes.
And while Barr has often energized the president’s base with updates about the progress of the Durham investigation, he has also repeatedly disappointed the same base by not producing high-profile indictments.
“Under the longstanding standards of the department, criminal charges are appropriate only when we have enough evidence to prove each element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. That is the standard we’re applying,” Barr said in late May when asked a question about potentially incriminating former President Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden.
The 77th and 85th attorney general also name-dropped the heads of the prior administration during that news conference.
“There is a difference between an abuse of power and a federal crime,” Barr continued. “Not every abuse of power, no matter how outrageous, is a federal crime. As to President Obama and Vice-President Biden, whatever their level of involvement, based on the information I have today, I don’t expect Mr. Durham’s work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man. Our concern over potential criminality is focused on others.”
But such pressure and insinuations–alleged to be private and clearly telegraphed in public–being brought to bear on the inquiry has already caused some collateral damage to the effort itself. In early September, Durham’s longtime aide Nora Dannehy resigned out of concern that the team was being pressured—by Barr for political reasons—to come up with results well before November.
Dannehy’s official resignation letter was terse and polite–lacking any reference to Barr’s alleged pressure campaign. But according to her colleagues, the government attorney was forced to choose between her years of working with Durham and her belief that the DOJ should not be used to exercise, facilitate or exert influence on U.S. elections.
That high-profile defection certainly didn’t do the Durham probe any favors in terms of optics or efficiency, but if Monday’s report is any indication, losing a lawyer might not be the biggest cause for concern among the MAGA faithful.
Per the New York magazine report by Murray Waas:
Shortly after the resignation of his prized deputy and with the election looming on the horizon, Durham phoned Barr. He forcefully told the attorney general that his office would not be releasing a report or taking any other significant public actions before Election Day, according to a person with knowledge of the phone call. Dannehy’s resignation constituted an implied but unspoken threat to Barr that Durham or others on his team might resign if the attorney general attempted to force the issue, according to a person familiar with Durham’s thinking.
The report goes on to cite sources who say that Dennehy’s departure wasn’t actually aberrational at all. Instead, Durham actually shared the concerns that prompted his top aide’s exit, according to the report.
Those sources claim that both Dannehy and Durham were “troubled” that Barr has been misrepresenting the investigation in public since it began.
As Law&Crime previously reported, the attorney general previously rubbished an internal watchdog report that found no issues with the original counterintelligence investigation into Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign–while using the opportunity to talk up Durham’s probe and projecting the idea that his hand-picked man would deliver dirt on the previous administration.
But that hoped-for dirt has proven elusive.
While the probe remains ongoing, there has reportedly been no evidence to support the White House’s long-promised pet theory that the 45th president was targeted by untoward Obama era officials—and the Obama White House itself— as part of unlawful deep state coup. That preliminary finding also reportedly extends to both Obama and Biden themselves.
One of those anonymous sources cited in the New York report there “was no evidence…not even remotely…indicating Obama or Biden did anything wrong.”
Despite all the speed bumps, hiccups and large animals in the middle of the highway that have kept the probe from being finished post-haste, Barr’s publicly projected baseline assumption has been that the investigation would yield stark dividends for the White House. As of now, however, that does not appear to be well-supported.
Barr tasked Durham in May 2019 with investigating the Russia investigation. Eighteen months have passed since then.
[image via via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]
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