Fox News has an update Tuesday to the announcement from yesterday evening that Attorney General Barr had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham to investigate Spygate. According to Fox’s sources, Durham has actually been conducting the investigation “for weeks” now.
Fox included in its report the reminder that Barr testified more than a month ago that he (Barr) was reviewing the conduct of the operation against Trump.
“I am reviewing the conduct of the investigation and trying to get my arms around the aspects of the counterintelligence investigation that was conducted in the summer of 2016,” Barr testified on April 9.
The formal announcement of Durham’s role was made on May, 13 May, however. I read this as follows: Barr was initially looking into the paper trail on what happened to see what was there and the kind of effort it would take (and, for that matter, be worth). Was there enough there there to justify the taxpayers’ time and resources? In the military this is called a preliminary inquiry, which renders the decision factors for whether a formal investigation, which could lead to charges, is in order.
Clearly, Barr has concluded that the operation against Trump merits an investigation, focused at a minimum on the conduct of the Justice Department and FBI. We should want him to have done this; it means he didn’t just jump into it on the essentially political assumption that the operation needed investigating. Many in the public certainly think it does, and most Republicans in Congress do. But we haven’t approached it through the rubric of a formal process. It appears Barr has done so.
It’s also good news if he has, because it means this will go faster. Barr intends to come up with answers and do what the law indicates with them. That will be different from what Mueller did – especially considering that, first of all, Mueller’s charter was really an only tenuously law-tethered hybrid, and he could basically do what he wanted with it. What he wanted, as the chief and face of the special counsel enterprise, was manifestly to pile up incidental, process-crime scalps, lodge dead-end indictments of non-extraditable foreigners, and write a report full of gratuitous, one-sided detail, apparently so it would be a good basis for further political attacks on Trump.
There’s no argument that that isn’t what Mueller wanted. It’s what Mueller did, when he was under no constraint of law to do it. Barr, we can anticipate, or Durham, will not do that. Whom he doesn’t indict, we will not hear more about, at least not from him. We have good reason to hope that he won’t drag the process out looking for more rat holes to go down.
Perhaps at some point we will find out what John Huber has been doing all these months. My impression has been that it always had more to do with Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation (separately and as linked issues) than with the FBI operation against Trump. Durham’s focus will apparently be on the latter, which is what we need.
Meanwhile, if the major muscle movements of Barr’s review have been detectable in the Justice Department, that helps explain the extreme reaction to him from congressional Democrats and the media. They weren’t just urging his immediate impeachment out of deranged, psychotic spite; they were probably aware that a process likely to uncover some very uncomfortable things was already underway.