Column: The Mueller Boosters Decry Durham's 'Debacle'

June 3rd, 2022 5:58 AM

There once was a tale of two special investigators. First came Robert Mueller, appointed by President Trump’s original Attorney General Jeff Sessions to probe for collusion between Trump and the Russian government. The second was John Durham, appointed by Trump’s second Attorney General Bill Barr to probe the origins of what sparked the Mueller investigation.

In the media’s eyes, Mueller was a righteous hero like Eliot Ness, devoted to exposing Trump. Even though he was praised as a straight shooter by Democrats before this job, Durham is now dismissed as a right-wing media fixation. When Mueller issued his final report in 2019, the liberal media took a victory lap. Mueller’s team of prosecutors, dominated by Democrats, heavily borrowed from their anti-Trump investigations.

CNN’s Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy touted how journalists “pointed out that the Mueller report corroborated much of the reporting that’s been done for the last two years.” CNN reporter Shimon Prokupecz echoed that Mueller had “corroborated a lot of the good journalism that was done.”

CNN analyst Bill Carter praised the media for its courageous refusal “to let go of the tail of the real narrative.” It didn’t matter that Mueller’s report failed to achieve the primary liberal/Democrat objective of removing Trump as a Russian-imposed president. The narrative was more important than the court results.

By contrast, when Durham’s first trial – of Clinton lawyer Michael Sussmann – ended in a not-guilty verdict from a D.C. jury on May 31, CNN’s “Reliable Sources” newsletter proclaimed it was “The Durham debacle”! 

Oliver Darcy complained Durham’s probe “has been hyped endlessly by the right-wing media machine,” then quoted fellow liberal Philip Bump at The Washington Post, who proclaimed this was “a lengthy fishing expedition that simply doesn’t have the goods.”

CNN reporter Marshall Cohen announced "The verdict is a major defeat for Durham and his Justice Department prosecutors, who have spent three years looking for wrongdoing in the Trump-Russia probe.”

Darcy also noted leftist journalist Jonathan Chait argued in New York magazine that even bringing the Sussmann charge of lying to the FBI was “a testament to the failure of his probe, since all he was charging was false statements. Of course, false-statements charges were used by Team Mueller to prosecute Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, Michael Cohen, and George Papadopoulos.

There are two important reasons why CNN and other liberal outlets hate the Durham probe. Conservative media stars like Sean Hannity hyped Durham’s potential to undo the Democrats in the 2020 election. The fact that Durham didn’t do that should underline his independence. He didn’t issue election-eve indictments, like Lawrence Walsh did to the Republicans with Caspar Weinberger in 1992.

But the second reason is Durham’s revelations of how the Clinton campaign tried to ply its often-fraudulent opposition research to friendly “mainstream” outlets. They don’t want anyone focusing on how Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS were granted a wide berth to accuse Trump of a foreign-owned presidency. Sussmann was taking Clinton campaign research into a top-level meeting at the FBI so the Clinton campaign could tell reporters the FBI was investigating Trump’s ties to the Russians in the last days of the 2016 campaign. 

All this punditry demonstrates that one of the most fertile fields of media bias is the promotion of scandals. John Durham was guaranteed a hostile reception from journalists who wanted everyone to believe the most overwrought tales about Trump while they posed as the Guardians of Facts and Truth. Any attempt to dig into the manufacturing of their sensationalist narratives has to be disparaged as a “debacle.”