The Trump-era special prosecutor begins his first trial this week, but the verdict hardly matters.
Most people are probably not looking for a reason to revisit the 2016 presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, but if you are, then you’re in luck this week.
Beginning Monday morning in Washington, special counsel John Durham — the prosecutor who was appointed in 2019 by Attorney General William Barr to investigate the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation in the wake of the Mueller report — finally gets to present his case to a jury in federal court. Though it’s come to represent much more in the public imagination, the actual charge is quite narrow. The defendant is Michael Sussmann, a lawyer who worked at the outside law firm representing the Clinton campaign, and he is facing a single count of lying to the FBI’s top lawyer in the run-up to the election in order to instigate a criminal investigation into Trump.
Since Durham’s appointment, however, a clear dynamic has dominated his investigation — namely, a palpable desire among right-wing operatives, commentators and media outlets to use Durham’s work, no matter how thin or nebulous the underlying evidence may be, to try to vindicate the theory that Trump was grievously victimized by the Democratic Party in an effort to defeat him and later hobble his presidency. When it comes to perpetuating that narrative, whether or not the jury ultimately rules in his favour, Durham has effectively already won. If the investigation has revealed anything of note, it is just how secondary the law has come to be in politically-charged prosecutions like this one.