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    Saturday, April 01, 2023

    OPINION: Groton’s most prominent Republican shamed by New York Times

    FILE - In this April 25, 2006 file photo, U.S. Attorney John Durham speaks to reporters on the steps of U.S. District Court in New Haven, Conn. Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith will plead guilty to making a false statement in the first criminal case arising from U.S. Attorney John Durham's investigation into the probe of ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign. (AP Photo/Bob Child, File)

    It’s hard not to see the likely fallout for Connecticut Republicans these days from the horrors their party seems intent on unleashing in Washington, from cuts to Social Security and Medicare and ending assistance to Ukraine to a catastrophic national debt default.

    The principal national agenda of Republicans, other than sabotaging the economy, seems to be learning what was on Hunter Biden’s laptop.

    Indeed, the corrosion in Connecticut of public confidence even in moderate mainstream Republicans is certainly already underway.

    You don’t have to look much further than the harm that famed Groton prosecutor John Durham has done to his reputation, with his flirtation with Trumpism, to see what may lay in store for other leading figures in the Connecticut GOP.

    At least Durham doesn’t seem to harbor any political ambitions and will be able to slink soon into some deep retirement bunker.

    Really, based on the withering description in the New York Times this week of his alliance with former Attorney General Bill Barr, as the two tried to do President Donald Trump’s bidding and besmirch the law enforcement officials behind the Russia probe, Durham must want to crawl into a very dark hole.

    You might even expect to see him in a wig and dark glasses if he turns up any time soon in any of his old local haunts in Groton, where he attended Robert E. Fitch Sr. High School, once worked for the Groton Long Point Police Department and grew up in Mumford Cove, where he still has a home.

    The extensive story in The New York Times, by reporters Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman and Katie Benner, followed a months-long review of the alliance between Barr and Durham in trying to find flaws in the Russia probe.

    They broke a lot of longstanding ethical Department of Justice standards, the story reports, and three prosecutors involved in the Durham investigation left as a result.

    Nora Dannehy, his No. 2 and longtime aide, quit in 2020 in anger over Durham’s neglect of prosecutorial ethics, according to the Times, and went on to become legal counsel to Gov. Ned Lamont.

    “Ms. Dannehy, a longtime close colleague, increasingly argued with him in front of other prosecutors and FBI agents about legal ethics,” the Times story reported.

    Ms. Dannehy was especially angry about Durham’s plans to prepare a preliminary report on the investigation prior to the 2020 election, the story said.

    The story grew long legs this week and inspired lots of headlines across a wide spectrum of media, besmirching Barr and Durham.

    “Report exposes Durham as tool of Barr’s illegal weaponization of DOJ,” was typical.

    “Details expose Barr’s Durham probe as a law enforcement scandal,” was another.

    “The stunning hypocrisy of Special Counsel John Durham’s inquiry into Trump-Russia-probe,” was one of many headlines singling Durham out.

    The usually reticent and conservative prosecutor, Durham’s former associates said, exhibited strange new traits during his alliance with Barr, which included weekly meetings and occasions when the two strategized and “sipped scotch” together.

    Some former colleagues were especially alarmed at the way he turned to a grand jury to secure access to private emails after a federal judge had twice refused him, because it was an intolerable invasion of privacy.

    He initiated what became unsuccessful prosecutions against the advice of other prosecutors and then lost in court.

    Robert Luskin, a former DOJ prosecutor who represented witnesses Durham interviewed, told the Times he had a hard time squaring Durham’s prior reputation as a straight shooter with his conduct under Barr’s supervision.

    “This stuff has my head spinning,” Luskin told the Times. “When did these guys drink the Kool-Aid and who served it to them?”

    The Times story ends with an especially embarrassing anecdote, describing the way a judge rushed Durham along in a closing argument in a trial he lost.

    The judge interrupted Durham as he proferred some of the Trump distortions of the Russia probe: “You should finish up Mr. Durham.”

    Let the fall of John Durham be a cautionary tale for other once-mainstream Connecticut Republicans, as the crazies take over their party.


    This is the opinion of David Collins

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