Legal experts mock failed Durham probe: No other prosecutor “has ever posted such a dismal record”

One legal analyst noted Durham got "two acquittals at trial in a system where the feds win 95% of their cases"

By Areeba Shah

Staff Writer

Published October 19, 2022 12:35PM (EDT)

Special Counsel John Durham (Ron Sachs/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images)
Special Counsel John Durham (Ron Sachs/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images)

Special counsel John Durham, who was appointed by Trump Attorney General Bill Barr to investigate the origins of the Russia probe, ended his three-year investigation after failing to convict yet another frequent target of former President Donald Trump.

Igor Danchenko, a think tank analyst who provided much of the research for the infamous Christopher Steele dossier, was acquitted Tuesday on charges of lying to the FBI about where he got his information.

The defeat marked likely the final blow of his investigation, though Durham is expected to submit a report to the Justice Department later this year.

Durham was appointed in 2019 by Barr. His first two cases ended in an acquittal and a guilty plea with a sentence of probation.

After nine hours of deliberations for over two days, the jury reached its verdict on Tuesday. Despite Trump and his supporters' claims that the Durham inquiry would reveal a "deep state" conspiracy against him, the three-year investigation failed to produce evidence of such a conspiracy.

"While we are disappointed in the outcome, we respect the jury's decision and thank them for their service," Durham said in a statement. "I also want to recognize and thank the investigators and the prosecution team for their dedicated efforts in seeking truth and justice in this case."

So far, no one charged by Durham has ended up in prison and only one government employee has pleaded guilty to a criminal offense, according to the Washington Post

Legal experts mocked the legacy of Trump's failed Durham probe and called out his record in court.

"Wow. Don't think any other special counsel or independent prosecutor has ever posted such a dismal record," tweeted former U.S. Attorney Harry Litman.  

Neal Katyal, a former Acting Solicitor General, added that "Durham wins about as much as every other Trump lawyer."

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti also took a jab at the special counsel's career, adding that "Many federal prosecutors have lost fewer trials in their entire career than John Durham lost in the past year alone."

"It is apparent that his judgment is poor and that he overcharged these cases. His use of the legally meaningless 'no collusion' phrase at trial betrays his bias," he wrote.

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"Along the lines of the late Sec. Raymond Donovan's famous question— 'Which office do I go to to get my reputation back?'—I'd like to ask, where do we taxpayers go to get our money back for Durham's frivolous, ridiculous, and politically motivated frolic and detour?" tweeted conservative attorney George Conway.

Others, like former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance White, described the Durham investigation as a "complete bust". 

It is "an abject lesson in what happens when the Justice Department is weaponized to do a president's political bidding. It will be held up to generations of prosecutors as a cautionary tale about what not to do," Vance wrote

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin called the investigation a "disgrace" and a "fiasco".

"Two acquittals at trial in a system where the feds win 95% of their cases. Trump and Barr said Durham would prove the Russia investigation unjustified. He's proven the opposite," he tweeted.

National security attorney Bradley Moss recalled right-wing claims that the "Durham probe was going to indict half the Beltway and send all kinds of evil Trump haters to jail." But, Moss wrote, "Durham couldn't convict a ham sandwich." 

By Areeba Shah

Areeba Shah is a staff writer at Salon covering news and politics. Previously, she was a research associate at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a reporting fellow for the Pulitzer Center, where she covered how COVID-19 impacted migrant farmworkers in the Midwest.

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