By this stage, everyone should already have grasped this, right? It would be difficult to imagine any prosecutor dropping indictments on significant political figures within a month of a presidential election. Unless the prosecutor’s named Lawrence Walsh, that is.
Axios reports that William Barr has begun delivering the bad news that John Durham is no Lawrence Walsh. That’s actually not bad news at all, except in one small way:
Attorney General Bill Barr has begun telling top Republicans that the Justice Department’s sweeping review into the origins of the Russia investigation will not be released before the election, a senior White House official and a congressional aide briefed on the conversations tell Axios.
Why it matters: Republicans had long hoped the report, led by U.S. Attorney John Durham, would be a bombshell containing revelations about what they allege were serious abuses by the Obama administration and intelligence community probing for connections between President Trump and Russia.
- “This is the nightmare scenario. Essentially, the year and a half of arguably the number one issue for the Republican base is virtually meaningless if this doesn’t happen before the election,” a GOP congressional aide told Axios.
- Barr has made clear that they should not expect any further indictments or a comprehensive report before Nov. 3, our sources say.
After Labor Day came and went without a peep from Durham, we should have checked those expectations anyway. For all the hyperbolic attacks on Barr by Democrats and the media, he’s much less of a political actor than it would take to push indictments in the middle of a general election campaign. Don’t forget that Barr was AG at the time that Walsh dropped his stinky Iran-Contra biscuit on Cap Weinberger and George H.W. Bush four days before the 1992 presidential election. Any Republicans relying on a Durham Hail Mary at this point were only deluding themselves.
So when will we see some work product from Durham? Axios also reports that Barr’s telling Republicans that Durham’s working on building solid prosecutions before unveiling indictments. Everyone just needs to be patient, Barr is emphasizing, including Donald Trump, who is not noted for having an unending spring of forbearance on such matters. (As Jeff Sessions could testify ad nauseam.) In fact, Trump’s already starting some throat-clearing about Barr that might bring strange new respect from his detractors:
FBI’s been slowly getting stuff out and you’re seeing it. Rick Grenell has done a phenomenal job, John Ratcliffe has done a phenomenal job. And, you know, to be honest, Bill Barr’s going to go down either as the greatest Attorney General in the history of the country or he’s going to go down as a very sad — sad situation. I mean, I’ll be honest with you, he’s got all the information he needs.
They want to get more, more, more, they keep getting more. I said, you don’t need any more. You’ve got more stuff than anybody’s ever had. Now, it — you know — with Durham, I don’t know what happened to Durham, but we’re going to find out what happened to Durham, but he’s got so much stuff. Look, Mr. Horowitz was appointed by Obama. He wrote approximately 78 pages on Comey that was scathing, scathing and they didn’t go after Comey.
In order for these indictments to hold up — assuming any get issued at all — they’ll have to look as apolitical and independent as possible. That’s why Barr assigned the task to Durham in the first place, and why Durham has kept a lower profile than some cloistered monks ever since. It doesn’t help to have Trump publicly demanding indictments and hinting that Barr’s job hinges on meeting that demand. Nor does it help to have Republicans basing their electoral strategy around Durham-mas. Everyone should have taken the hint from Durham’s strategy and satisfied themselves with the use of Horowitz’ report and other investigative documents in this election cycle.