On October 19, 2020 — when Donald Trump loyalist William Barr was still U.S. attorney general — he appointed Republican John H. Durham as special counsel for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation of the origins of the Trump-Russia probe. Right-wing media have been aggressively hyping Durham's investigation. But according to conservative Andrew C. McCarthy, a legal analyst for Fox News and the National Review, MAGA Republicans are going to be "sorely disappointed" by the 71-year-old Durham.
In an op-ed published by Fox News' website this week, McCarthy explains, "There is a great deal of extravagant commentary in right-leaning media regarding Special Counsel John Durham's probe into the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation. Trump supporters, in particular, are exuberant at the prospect that Durham, at long last, has cracked the case and is poised to prove a sweeping conspiracy between the Clinton campaign and Obama administration officials to undermine Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and his presidency. Those harboring this fantasy are going to be sorely disappointed."
McCarthy goes on to explain why he isn't as bullish on Durham's investigation as others in the right-wing media.
"Because government officials must have broad discretion to commence investigations, especially when national security may be at stake, alleged abuses of that discretion are extraordinarily difficult to prosecute as crimes," McCarthy notes. "For these reasons, among others, it is virtually certain that the special counsel is veering toward a final narrative report that will be very damning, but not a sweeping indictment that will implicate government officials and the Clinton campaign."
McCarthy describes the controversial, much-debated Steele dossier, compiled by British spy Christopher Steele in 2016, as "bogus," noting that Durham's recent indictments have included Democratic attorney Michael Sussmann and Igor Danchenko, a Steele dossier source. But the attorney argues that right-wing media pundits are inflating the importance of those indictments.
"Durham has not charged that there was an overarching conspiracy to defraud the federal court, motivated by a desire to portray Trump as a clandestine agent of Russia," McCarthy observes. "He has merely charged two people with lying to the FBI in investigative interviews…. The two defendants recently indicted, Sussmann and Danchenko, are not accused of lying about the substance of the sensational Steele dossier allegations. To the contrary, they are merely accused of lying about their sources."
That McCarthy himself is making this argument is significant. Throughout Trump's presidency, McCarthy was a frequent defender of his and a harsh critic of the Russia investigation. He downplayed the serious wrongdoing Trump and his allies were found to have engaged in, and he often hyped up theories that the then-president was being improperly targeted by a vindictive cabal. Yet even McCarthy is now admitting that there's little sign of substantial criminality in Durham's work. He even noted that the FBI, much demonized by Trump defenders, is actually the putative victim of Durham's indictments.
"If Durham were building toward an overarching indictment alleging a corrupt conspiracy between the Clinton campaign and the FBI to deceive the court, he would not be charging people with lying to the FBI," he wrote.
McCarthy wraps up his op-ed by emphasizing that those who are hoping for a "large-scale indictment" to come from Durham's probe are bound to be disappointed.