Bill Barr's secret appointment of a U.S. Attorney to investigate the origins of the FBI's investigation into Russia's influence on Donald Trump, the Trump campaign, and the 2016 election has received a big blow. A lawyer for the Hillary Clinton campaign was just acquitted of a charge of lying to the FBI, leaving legal experts to wonder why John Durham, the former U.S. Attorney appointed by then-Attorney General Bill Barr, just months before his resignation, is continuing in his role as special counsel, and why the investigation, now more two years old, hasn't closed down.
"The first courtroom test for Special Counsel John Durham ended in defeat Tuesday as a federal jury found a Democratic attorney not guilty of making a false statement to the FBI about allegations of computer links between Donald Trump and Russia," Politico reports. "The jury deliberated for about six hours before acquitting Michael Sussmann, 57, on the single felony charge he faced: that he lied when he allegedly denied he was acting on behalf of any client in alerting the FBI to claims that a secret server linked Trump and a Moscow bank with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin."
Former U.S, Attorney Joyce Vance, who is now a law professor and an MSNBC/NBC News legal analyst, criticized the very existence of the Durham investigation after Sussman was acquitted.
"The failure to convict today, largely was a result, in my judgment, of the fact that the FBI has to establish that not only was Jim Baker – their general counsel – lied to, but the lie was material," Vance told MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell in the noon hour Tuesday. "And of course, the defendant Mr. Sussman maintained that he never lied about who he represented or why he was there. And also the lie even if there was one wouldn't have been material because the FBI would have still investigated this information."
"So this entire situation smacks of sour grapes," Vance continued, referring to the Durham investigation itself. "Perhaps, at best, an effort by former Attorney General Bill Barr to curry favor with the [Trump] White House. At worst an effort to appease Donald Trump and investigate one of his pet theories: what Trump always called 'the Russia hoax.'"
Former SDNY federal prosecutor:
I hope that Michael Sussman sues Durham, Barr, DeFilippis, & others who were responsible for this completely political/frivolous prosecution. I recommend @lauferlaw.
— Richard Signorelli (@richsignorelli) May 31, 2022
Political scientist, editor for The Atlantic:
John Durham threw away his reputation to become a Trump lickspittle. He and Bill Barr just slapped down for their behavior. A three year witch hunt.
— Norman Ornstein (@NormOrnstein) May 31, 2022
Talking Points Memo founder and editor:
this was never a real investigation or prosecutorial effort. it was a political assignment from bill barr to create a phony story for Donald Trump. it would be best if Durham just walked away in shame because the level of corruption here is beyond belief.
— Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) May 31, 2022
Noted conservative commentator:
Big blow to John Durham / Bill Barr project of punishing those who warned the country about Russia's support for Donald Trump https://t.co/NoB2szJmgn
— David Frum (@davidfrum) May 31, 2022