Welcome to Exhibit A for the defense in any prosecution initiated by John Durham. The lack of action so far in prosecuting officials involved in Operation Crossfire Hurricane has frustrated Chuck Grassley enough to issue a public demand for indictments. Tagging Donald Trump, the Senate Republican lamented on Twitter that “Durham shld be producing some fruit of his labor.”
Just what does the former Judiciary Committee chair expect Trump to do about it?
.@realDonaldTrump #CommonSense IF NO PROSECUTIONS TIL AFTER ELECTIONS SAD SAD //just think Flynn Mueller Impeachment/ The deep state is so deep that ppl get away w political crimes/Durham shld be producing some fruit of his labor
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) July 6, 2020
This is such an amateurish tweet on so many levels, one has to wonder whether Grassley’s account got hacked. Certainly, Republicans suspect that the Obama administration used the Department of Justice and the intelligence agencies to target Trump’s campaign. That might be most evident in the prosecution Grassley cites here — Michael Flynn’s. Thanks to a probe by fellow US Attorney Jeffrey Jensen, the DoJ was forced to admit investigatory and prosecutorial misconduct and move to dismiss the case. That alone should prompt some efforts to punish those who broke the law in the Flynn case, and it already has.
Durham’s been at it for quite a bit longer, however. Trump’s defenders have expected to either see indictments, or a report explaining why none were sought, before this much time had passed. They want retribution for what they see as politically motivated prosecutions, which is fine and dandy, but … does Grassley want Trump to order Durham to charge people, which is precisely what Republicans accuse Obama officials of doing? Or is Grassley merely sucking up to Trump with his version of a Trumpy tweet? Either way, it’s embarrassing, especially since Grassley should know better.
The election context makes this even worse. If one wanted to argue that charges got filed in response to election-year pressure, an attorney could hardly hope for a more explicit statement in support of that theory, even with its lack of coherence. That same sentiment and motivation undergirds the theory that Operation Crossfire Hurricane was nothing less than a deliberate plot to either prevent Trump from getting elected or to sabotage his presidency if he won. Now Grassley wants the DoJ to gin up indictments ahead of an election, apparently whether Durham otherwise believes them to be legitimate or not. How is that different than the alleged political pressure on the FBI in 2016?
The smartest political course for Durham and Attorney General William Barr to steer is to keep their mouths shut on his investigation until Durham completes it. For the most part, Barr has stuck to that strategy, Durham hasn’t talked at all, and Trump rarely if ever mentions it directly. That leaves plenty of room for credibility and independence if Durham finds crimes and wins indictments from the grand jury. The dumbest course for the administration to steer would be to have Trump endlessly demanding prosecutions from Durham on Twitter, which would make this look like nothing more than payback in reverse. Why Grassley now wants to egg Trump into adopting the dumbest course is difficult to see. At least Trump hasn’t taken the bait … yet, anyway.