Playing to Trump's base
Barr has said the IG investigation should be finished up in May or June. The New York Times reported that Huber has largely handed over his work to Durham. The apparent overlap has raised questions about why Durham’s review is needed at all.“Why would you not wait for the inspector general?” asked Rebecca Roiphe, a former prosecutor and expert on prosecutorial ethics at New York Law School. “If not, they seem to be making some kind of political statement.”Durham’s “review” of the Russia probe is not yet a full-fledged criminal investigation, according to The New York Times, which means that it lacks the full range of law-enforcement tools, such as the power to subpoena documents or compel witnesses to testify.
“It’s frightening, and it smacks of misuse of the Department of Justice for political purposes.”
But Durham is known to have been working quietly on a related case at least since last October, when he led a criminal leak investigation against the FBI’s former top lawyer, Jim Baker, according to Congressional transcripts.Baker was one of the top officials present at the inception of the FBI’s probe of Trump’s links to Russia in mid-2016, and has recently begun speaking out publicly in defense of the bureau’s decisions.Baker, who has not been charged, told journalist Michael Isikoff this week that he welcomes Durham’s “scrutiny” of the FBI’s work, and looks forward to “cooperating and helping.”Trump’s supporters on Capitol Hill have seized upon private text messages sent among FBI investigators expressing disdain for Trump as evidence that the probe was launched to derail his candidacy.Mueller’s final report, however, says Trump campaign aide George Papadapolous triggered the probe in May 2016 after telling an Australian diplomat that the campaign had “received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to candidate [Hillary] Clinton.”
“Why would you not wait for the inspector general?”
Durham’s work eventually led to the conviction of FBI agent John Connolly, a childhood friend of notorious Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger. Connolly was first convicted of warning Bulger of his impending arrest, prompting the gangster to flee, and later of murder after he tipped off the gang about an informant.Stern, Boston’s U.S. Attorney at the time, said he asked Reno to send Durham in from Connecticut because he needed someone from outside Boston’s scandal-plagued home team. He said Durham handled the tense local politics with deft instincts.“There was deep hostility between the state police and the FBI in general,” said Stern.While he was there, Durham helped prove that four men had been wrongfully convicted of a mob murder three decads earlier, by digging up five secret FBI files that had never been turned over to the prosecution.
“[I]t almost looks like Barr may be counteracting the direction of the White House by picking someone who is simply not going to be a political hack.”