By Debra J. Saunders / syndicated columnist
Fun fact: It took special counsel Robert Mueller less than two years to release his report into Russian interference in the 2016 election, dubbed Crossfire Hurricane. It’s been more than two years since then Attorney General William Barr named John Durham to head a probe into the origins of the Russian investigation.
One investigation resulted in a raft of indictments and convictions. The other, not so much, probably because Durham is more scrupulous than the Mueller team.
“We’re still interested in the results of John Durham’s investigation,” Steve Groves, a former aide to President Trump now with the Heritage Foundation, told me. “And now that his investigation has lasted longer than the Mueller investigation, hopefully we’ll learn about his findings soon.”
For his troubles, Mueller can boast a long list of scalps. That might lead the public to believe his team uncovered massive wrongdoing in the Trump campaign. That’s not the case.
The March 2019 Mueller report found that Russia did try to tilt the presidential race in Trump’s favor, but the probe “did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” That’s right: no collusion.
Mueller’s biggest fish, Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was convicted for bank and tax fraud that predated the campaign. His sentence: 7 1/2 years.
Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pled guilty to lying to the FBI about a post-election conversation with Russian diplomat Sergey Lavrov.
A jury found Trump whisperer Roger Stone guilty of seven felonies, including lying to Congress and obstructing Mueller’s probe. His sentence: 40 months. Trump pardoned Stone and Flynn before they were incarcerated.
After cutting plea deals, George Papadopoulos, a one-time foreign policy adviser to the campaign, served 12 days in federal prison, and Dutch attorney Alex van der Zwaan served 30 days in jail; both for lying to the FBI during the investigation. Such convictions often are referred to as “process crimes” because they involve not original offenses but interactions with the criminal justice system itself.
In contrast, there has been one conviction stemming from the Durham probe for a false statement, and the offender, an FBI lawyer, will not go to jail.
In August, FBI attorney Kevin Clinesmith pled guilty to a felony count of making a false statement while working to secure FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) surveillance on Trump campaign foreign policy adviser Carter Page.
In the early days of the Russian probe, an FBI official had asked if Page had served as a source for the government, as Page maintained; Clinesmith falsely altered a document by adding “not a source” in a fourth FISA application.
Clinesmith has maintained he thought his alteration was accurate, as if it were an honest mistake.
Be it noted, after the election, Clinesmith texted, “I am so stressed about what I could have done differently”; as well as, “The crazies won finally” and “Viva la resistance!”
Clinesmith’s punishment for making a false statement? Prosecutors recommended three to six months, according to Politico. Federal Judge James Boasberg instead sentenced Clinesmith to 12 months’ probation and 400 hours of community service.
Carter Page generously testified that he did not want Clinesmith to serve time.
“I don’t want him to go to prison” either, former Department of Justice spokesman Mark Corallo told me. But given that Page’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated, “shouldn’t his law license be taken away?”
Now we learn, Clinesmith cut a deal with the Washington, D.C. Bar that, if approved, would allow him to practice law by August.
Corallo is appalled. Clinesmith “shouldn’t be allowed to practice law. He violated somebody’s constitutional rights,” said Corallo. FBI staff shouldn’t use their authority for partisan payback.
“When cops break the rules, we’re supposed to hammer them,” said Corallo. Not in this justice system and with these career bureaucrats.
Random Trump liars go to jail while the FBI liar doesn’t.
The New York Supreme Court suspends the former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s law license while a federal judge agrees to allow Clinesmith to return to the law. Yes, I know, Giuliani is an embarrassment, but unlike Clinesmith, he hasn’t been convicted of a felony.
Debra J. Saunders is a fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership. Email her at email@example.com.