An attorney representing 2016 Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton took a victory lap in a Tuesday op-ed published by The Washington Post.
"Well, that was a quick acquittal!" wrote David E. Kendall. "The Michael Sussmann prosecution brought by Trump administration special counsel John Durham tried to generate a Clinton-conspiracy bang but ended with a not-guilty-verdict whimper.
Kendall noted Durham was appointed special counsel by Trump Attorney General Bill Barr.
"Durham’s counterfactual scenario generated endless speculation and fulmination among the MAGA faithful, including by Trump, but it collapsed when proof had to be introduced in open court subject to the rules of evidence," he wrote. "With his oversized and oblivious ego, the former president has never acknowledged the reality that the Russians zealously tried to help him defeat Hillary Clinton."
Also writing in The Washington Post, journalists Paul Waldman and Greg Sargent said Durham's goal was to probe that Russiagate was a "big big nothingburger."
"In this sense, Durham’s flop is only the latest in a long string of failures," they wrote. "None of these efforts have been able to disappear a fundamental truth: The stubborn facts show that Russiagate actually was an extraordinarily grave and disturbing scandal."
The two noted five separate efforts to cover up Russia, beginning with then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) warning Democrats against organizing a bipartisan condemnation of Russian interference as the 2016 election was still under. Barr also mislead the public about the contents of the Mueller report and Republicans distorted a report by the Justice Department inspector general. Trump homeland security chief intervened to slow warning of Russia again interfering in the 2020 election and the president berated his intelligence chief for briefing Congress.
"In some ways, that campaign was successful. Trump pardoned a long list of cronies with ties to the Russia scandal (Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos). And every Republican is pretty much required to say it’s no big deal if a hostile foreign power helps a presidential candidate get elected, provided that candidate is a Republican," they wrote. "But the long-held dream of Trump and his allies to erase the enormous significance and depravity of the Russiagate scandal stands as decidedly unfulfilled. And thus it will likely remain."
Kendell, however, warned the special counsel may still release a report, that he expected to be biased.
"Despite the setback of the Sussmann verdict, it’s possible that Durham will ultimately draft a report that does in words what he has so far been unable to do in court — proclaim Trump is a victim and that the allegations of Russian support for him were a 'hoax' of the Democrats or the 'deep state.' Such a report will have all the appeal and credibility of a self-published memoir," he wrote. "A future whitewash in a special counsel report is bound to fail in light of the overwhelming, undeniable and ineluctable amount of evidence of Russian government efforts to help Trump and harm Clinton."
CNN's John King described the verdict "a big defeat."
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