Whatever happened to the Durham Report?

Back in April of 2019, Attorney General William Barr appointed John Durham to look into how the FBI investigated whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials. It was sort of an anti-Mueller Report, whose results promised exoneration for Trump and criminal convictions for those who had wronged him. At least, that’s what you’d think if you were following the far right-wing media’s coverage of the Durham Investigation.


In a segment entitled “Barr is searching for truth and justice,” Sean Hannity described it as an investigation of “the origins of the witchhunt into the Trump campaign.” Joe DiGenova, who later went on to become a member of Trump’s post-election legal team, said that “some of these guys are going to go to prison.” The mere existence of the report was, apparently, proof of wrongdoing.


The headlines continued for over a year after the investigation began, and any update from Durham fueled renewed speculation that the report would prove that the deep state was after Trump. An op-ed in Newsmax claimed that it would amount to “the greatest political scandal of our era” and lead to “grand jury indictments and trials of some senior officials.” In June of 2020, Barr promised that major “developments” in the investigation would be dropped in the coming months. When an FBI lawyer pleaded guilty to altering an email that August, President Trump asserted that it was “just the beginning.”


Then came the fall. Trump lost the election, and these news networks became almost singularly focused on spreading his ‘Big Lie’ that the Democrats had stolen the election. What does a probe into 2016 matter when you have the Kraken?


Now, Durham just offers more proof of the deep state’s unwillingness to give Trump a fair shot. In March 2021, the exasperated former president wondered in a short statementwhether there would  “ever be a Durham report” and if the man behind it was even “a living, breathing human being.” In an appearance on Fox News this June, Jim Jordan said “I don’t know when Durham’s report is going to come, and I’m just as mad as anyone else.”

 
The Durham Investigation outlived its usefulness, but for a while it occupied a critical place in the far-right conspiratorial machine. Whether it’s an audit of the Arizona elections taking place in a remote Montana cabin or the promise that Trump will return to power tomorrow, on August 13, the far right media keeps peddling something it gets far too little recognition for offering its viewers: hope. Some definitive proof, groundbreaking report, or indisputable testimony proving their wildest theories right is always just over the horizon but never quite in reach. Despite all the lies, fearmongering, and vitriol from the likes of Hannity and Breitbart, viewers have to keep believing that they’ll finally be proven right. Without that hope, what do they have?

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Narration: Writing & Policy Associate James Lewis