John H. Durham, the Trump-era special counsel, set off political reverberations last year when he unveiled a lengthy indictment of an analyst he accused of lying to the F.B.I. about sources for the so-called Steele dossier, a discredited compendium of political opposition research about purported ties between Donald J. Trump and Russia.
But the trial of the analyst, Igor Danchenko, which opens on Tuesday with jury selection in federal court in Alexandria, Va., now appears likely to be shorter and less politically salient than the sprawling narrative in Mr. Durham’s indictment had suggested the proceeding would be.
In an 18-page order last week, the judge overseeing the case, Anthony J. Trenga of the Eastern District of Virginia, excluded from the trial large amounts of information that Mr. Durham had wanted to showcase — including material that undercuts the credibility of the dossier’s notorious rumor that Russia had a blackmail tape of Mr. Trump with prostitutes.
Certain facts Mr. Durham dug up related to that rumor “do not qualify as direct evidence as they are not ‘inextricably intertwined’ or ‘necessary to provide context’ to the relevant charge,” Judge Trenga wrote, adding that they “were substantially outweighed by the danger of confusion and unfair prejudice.”
In that and other disputes over evidence, Judge Trenga, a George W. Bush appointee, almost always sided with Mr. Danchenko’s defense lawyers. Mr. Durham, they said, had tried to inject irrelevant issues into the trial in “an unnecessary and impermissible attempt to make this case about more than it is.”
Republicans have sold their unpopular program in part by maintaining a narrative vision of the world that tells MAGA supporters what they want to hear. Since the beginning of Trump’s term, a key part of that narrative has been that the FBI investigation of the ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russian operatives was a witch hunt. In April 2019, Trump's attorney general William Barr tapped U.S. attorney John Durham to discredit that investigation.
Journalist and professor Bill Grueskin collected the headlines from the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page for the past year. They read: “Durham Cracks the Russia Case,” “Durham Delivers on Russiagate,” “John Durham Shows How the FBI Lets Its Informants Mislead It,” and so on.
But that’s not how it panned out. Durham ultimately indicted three men. One pleaded guilty to altering an email in a different case; he got probation. Durham accused another of lying to the FBI; a jury acquitted him. Durham indicted a third, Igor Danchenko, for lying to the FBI; today a jury acquitted him as well. Durham used the trial to rail against the FBI, but his inability to win a conviction after more than three years of work undermines the MAGA narrative that Durham was going to find the goods to pin a witch hunt on bad FBI agents and acquit Trump once and for all.
firmly believe that this will finally put the Obama administration into a hole so deep and dark that we don't see another Democrat President for 20 or so years.