A lot of things happened. Here are some of the things. This is TPM’s Morning Memo.
Bill Barr’s Trusty Stooge
Special Counsel John Durham got spun so many different ways by Bill Barr that by the time he released his 300-plus-page final report yesterday – after a four-year investigation that stretched longer than the Mueller investigation he was investigating – his reputation, dignity, and sense of proportion had all disappeared.
The problem with trying to hold Durham to account on the facts now is that it requires extensive knowledge of events that are now creeping from current affairs into the historical past: the run-up to the 2016 election, Russia’s meddling in the election, Trump’s many misdeeds in this arena before and after his inauguration, the Mueller investigation, the origins of the Durham probe, the many bogus conspiracy theories that gave rise to the Durham probe and that it unselfconsciously helped to reinforce.
It’s a lot.
I’ve followed it all closely for years, but I can’t keep it all in my head. You probably can’t either. Neither can most journalists or policymakers. And therein lies much of the disadvantage that misinformation thrives on. It was easy for bad-faith, conspiracy-minded MAGA supporters to hold up Durham’s tome yesterday and declare that it showed exactly what they said all along, even though it didn’t.
But let me zero in on what I think is the most glaring example of Durham’s bad faith, Bill Barr’s ratfuckery, and the politicization of the Justice Department under Trump.
The Big Missing Piece
Back in January, the New York Times did a commendable, ground-breaking bit of reporting on the Durham probe. Times reporter Charlie Savage more than any other mainstream report has had a very clear-eyed view of Durham and his mess of an investigation. One of the bombshells from that report was that Durham’s remit had secretly expanded to include an allegation of wrongdoing against Trump:
Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham never disclosed that their inquiry expanded in the fall of 2019, based on a tip from Italian officials, to include a criminal investigation into suspicious financial dealings related to Mr. Trump. The specifics of the tip and how they handled the investigation remain unclear, but Mr. Durham brought no charges over it.
The guy investigating the investigators it turns out was also investigating the target of the original investigators. Big news!
But what does Durham’s final report, which under the rules and regs is supposed to explain his decisions to prosecute and to decline to prosecute, say about the Italian tip about Trump financial dealings, about his actions or decisions in that matter, about the ultimate conclusions he reached?
Bupkis! It’s not mentioned at all.
Here’s how Savage et al put it delicately in their story on the final report:
… Italian officials unexpectedly gave Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham a tip about suspected financial crimes linked to Mr. Trump. While the tip was unrelated to the Russia investigation, Mr. Barr had Mr. Durham investigate the matter rather than referring it to another prosecutor. Mr. Durham brought no charges.
Mr. Durham’s report did not mention any of those matters.
It looks all the world like Bill Barr used John Durham to bury an allegation of wrongdoing against then-President Trump. And it worked.
Wanna Go Deeper On Durham?
TPM On TV
TPM’s Hunter Walker was on MSNBC last night talking about his big scoop:
RIP Public Higher Ed In Florida
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signs into law new bans on DEI in public universities and on curricula that includes, how to put it, any critical analysis of U.S. history.
DeSantis Kowtows To the Big Lie
When you want to take on Trump, but you can’t confront the Big Lie:
The Cult Of Guns
Seven weeks after the Covenant School shooting in Nashville, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed a bill expanding the civil immunity enjoyed by the dealers, manufacturers and sellers of guns and ammunition.
Virginia Man Charged In Attack On Connolly’s District Office
A Virginia man whose father says he suffers from schizophrenia allegedly attacked two staffers in the district office of Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) with a metal baseball bat. Xuan Kha Tran Pham, 49, was charged with one count of aggravated malicious wounding and one count of malicious wounding in the suburban DC attack. There doesn’t appear to be any particular political motivation for the attack. “I think we are talking about real mental illness,” Connolly said.
Atlanta DA Fani Willis is asking a court to dismiss former President Donald Trump’s pre-indictment nonsense as premature and legally insufficient.
Rudy Has A New Problem On His Hands
Noelle Dunphy, a former employee of Rudy Giuliani, is suing him in New York state court for $10 million, claiming that he sexually assaulted and harassed her. And she says she has the receipts.
Debt Ceiling Status Update
As the President and congressional leaders convene this afternoon at the White House, the state of play in the debt-ceiling hostage-taking is still pretty muddled:
- Punchbowl: “This comes after a week of talks involving top Hill aides and White House officials. While both sides said the staff-level discussions were productive, they only served to reinforce the main problem in the stalemate so far — the principals haven’t given any ground yet because they haven’t been involved in the talks.”
- Politico: “The emerging outline of a debt limit deal between Biden and House Republicans has fed growing dismay among progressive Democrats over the White House’s negotiating strategy — and raised fears that a president who once dared Republicans to test his resolve is preparing to give on a host of GOP demands to make the issue go away.”
For what it’s worth, nothing that’s been reported so far looks like the actual contours of a deal that will win agreement from both sides. Stay tuned.
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