Reports signaling the demise of John Durham‘s special counsel investigation are greatly exaggerated, says Devin Nunes, who believes Republicans winning back power in the midterm elections will provide the prosecutor’s endeavor a new lease on life.
After two high-profile defeats in court and no other prosecutions in sight, the conventional wisdom among Durham’s critics, and even some supporters, was that his yearslong effort to root out misconduct surrounding the FBI‘s Russia inquiry was a dud and nearing its end. Undergirding this view is the statute of limitations and reporting by the New York Times that said Durham is expected to prepare his final report by the end of the year, before the Justice Department makes a decision on releasing its findings to the public.
Nunes stands out as one of Durham’s more unflappable advocates, along with former Attorney General William Barr, who appointed Durham to the task in 2019. After a jury in northern Virginia dealt Durham a blow this month in his case against a leading source for disgraced former British spy Christopher Steele‘s infamous anti-Trump dossier, Barr suggested the special counsel’s report will “leave a very good foundation for pursuing it further on the Hill.” Nunes took that idea one step further, with an eye toward the GOP winning back power in Congress next month.
“If Republicans have a good day in two weeks, I think that will at least give Durham more of a lifeline to continue,” Nunes said in a podcast this past week. “And I would say that I think it’s really important for the future of this country for Durham to continue this investigation.”
Nunes is now CEO of Donald Trump’s media venture, Trump Media and Technology Group, and has taken the lead in boosting the former president’s Twitter alternative Truth Social. Before his foray into the social media sphere, Nunes was a member of Congress from California, and was chairman and then ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. In his closing act, during which he clashed with his Democratic counterparts, Nunes led a congressional investigation into the Russia matter stemming from the 2016 election and sent more than a dozen criminal referrals to the Justice Department.
Although he is out of Congress, Nunes remains very much engaged in the conversation around the so-called Russiagate controversy, and has high hopes for his former Republican colleagues in the House not only to support Durham, but also open up a new front.
“If Republicans do gain control of Washington — of Congress — they’re going to have to put in a 9/11-style commission or a Church commission that was created back in the 1970s to fix this whole problem with the DOJ and the FBI,” he told host Dinesh D’Souza. Key to this undertaking would be subpoena power and a broader purview than what individual committees have with their set jurisdictions for oversight, Nunes stressed, as he believes there is corruption that stretches far beyond the justice system — into the wider intelligence community and outside of government, including Big Tech and the media.
It remains to be seen whether GOP leadership is up for such a task, however there is a push among some, particularly Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), to investigate wider allegations of politicization in the FBI after the emergence of more than a dozen whistleblowers. And Democrats are sure to push back, with the view that Republicans are simply eager to inflict damage on Trump’s political foes and undermine Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation.
Durham has secured one conviction, but has lost two cases in court. One was in Washington, D.C., this summer against lawyer Michael Sussmann, who was charged with lying to the FBI about whom he was representing when, in September 2016, he presented internet data that suggested a now-discredited link between Trump and Russia’s Alfa-Bank. In particular, Sussmann was indicted on charges of concealing his clients — Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and “Tech Executive-1,” known to be former Neustar executive Rodney Joffe — from FBI general counsel James Baker. The jury in sided with Sussmann.
Then, this month, a jury in Alexandria, Virginia, found Russian national Igor Danchenko not guilty of making false statements to the FBI about his contributions to Steele’s now-discredited dossier, ending a trial in which Durham had personally taken the reins.
Critics piled on, including Andrew Weissmann, a former Justice Department official and FBI general counsel who was a leading prosecutor for Mueller in his special counsel investigation into links between Trump and Russia that spun out of the FBI’s inquiry under scrutiny by Durham. “Durham has shot all his credibility — 12 jurors unanimously rebuked him,” he tweeted about the Danchenko acquittal. Matthew Miller, who was director of the Justice Department’s public affairs office from 2009 to 2011 during the Obama administration, suggested on MSNBC that Durham should not have the final say on the matter because he might “unfairly tarnish some people at the FBI.”
Among Durham’s cheerleaders, frustration boiled over.
“We’ve been waiting and waiting and told [to] hold our breath there’s more coming — just be patient, be patient. This is — I don’t even think disappointing does justice to how bad this is,” Trump’s first White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, said on his Newsmax show. “This is just — after everything that the Right has been through and all of the misallegations and misappropriation and the ‘Russia, Russia, Russia’ that was taken us through the first couple years of this Trump administration. To see this all go down the tubes, and all of the faith put into this special counsel, John Durham, unbelievably disappointing.”
D’Souza, a conservative commentator, said Durham appears to have a “spotty record” thanks to his loses in court, but Nunes took heart with how the special counsel criticized the FBI during the Danchenko trial and a scarcity of leaks from the investigation. “He’s now exposed the FBI and he almost had to put them on trial,” Nunes said. “And I will say this — and this is why I have trust in Durham: All my time 20 years in the swamp I never saw an investigation that was going on that didn’t have massive leaks all over the place, right?”
Admitting that all outsiders such as himself can do is “read the tea leaves,” Nunes remains optimistic that with congressional Republicans in charge after the midterm elections, there will be ample time to root out what he sees as a criminal conspiracy that extends from the Democrats to even the Mueller team, and they will serve as a roadblock against the Biden administration — though it has so far only openly signaled that it would not impede Durham’s work — against shutting the prosecutor down.
“The rumor is, but it’s only rumor. He’s supposed to be writing a report. Everybody in the fake news are speculating, ‘Well Durham’s done. He’s just writing a report.’ We don’t know that right now,” Nunes said. “And I think Durham’s just going to continue to investigate. Obviously, if Republicans do well, I think that gives them a little bit of a life line because it’s not — they can’t just get rid of him.”
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