Durham’s loss was one more egg laid in the fetid henhouse where Barr first enlisted Durham to nest in May 2019, tasking him with proving the truth of a lie—Donald Trump’s favorite disinformation campaign at the time, that the FBI’s 2016 Trump-Russia investigation was a “witch hunt.” In October 2020, seventeen months after that initial assignment, Barr made Durham a special counsel—which meant that, no matter the outcome of the 2020 election, Durham’s investigation would continue, since special counsels are virtually unremovable. And so it has been: More than sixteen months into the Biden administration, the DOJ remains saddled with Durham.
The moment he let Barr recruit him, Durham, a former U.S. attorney in Connecticut, risked ruining his once-strong professional reputation. That reputation is now in tatters. Durham first knifed it in December 2019, when he joined Barr in an unprecedented attack on the department’s own nonpartisan inspector general. The IG had just issued a 478-page report concluding that the Trump-Russia investigation began properly. Barr and Durham’s actions were widely criticized as inappropriate. William Webster, the revered former Republican director of the FBI and CIA, lambasted Barr’s conduct, saying it risked “inflicting enduring damage” on the FBI. Durham should have known better than to be used in that attack.
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