Attorney General William Barr has appointed his own very special prosecutor to investigate the origins of the Russia investigation that led to the appointment of Robert Mueller. U.S. Attorney John Durham was appointed to that role by Trump, but he’s had plenty of experience making cases against FBI agents and government agencies.
A 2008 Boston Globe article shows that Durham is a specialist in going after government officials. In 1999, Durham was named a special prosecutor in a series of Mafia-related cases in which he helped convict retired FBI agent John Connolly of racketeering charges in connection to the “Whitey” Bolger case. In the same case, Durham helped overturn the 1960s conviction of four men after convincing a judge that they had been framed by the FBI. He investigated multiple corrupt politicians, including gaining the felony conviction of Republican Gov. John Rowland of Connecticut.
All of this makes it seem that Durham is a tough prosecutor who has been tapped by both Republicans and Democrats to look into cases of corruption and systemic abuse. That’s true. But it’s also true that Durham’s investigations have sometimes produced some unexpected results.
As Mother Jones notes, then-Attorney General Eric Holder tapped Durham to lead the investigation into 101 instances in which the CIA was suspected of violating the law by using “enhanced investigation techniques.” Durham almost immediately threw out 99 of those cases, choosing to concentrate on two that had led to deaths. Then, despite one of those cases involving a man who was stripped naked and doused with cold water until he died of hypothermia, and the other featuring a man who was hung by his arms until he suffocated and found to have somehow received five broken ribs under interrogation, and had become part of a photoshoot in which a grinning soldier posed with his frozen corpse … Durham issued no charges at all.
For anyone who ever wondered how it was possible that no one in the Bush administration ever faced a single charge from “black sites,” “enhanced interrogation,” and prisoner deaths: The answer is John Durham.