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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

Other Papers Say: Which probe real ‘witch hunt’?

By St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Published: May 22, 2023, 6:01am

The following editorial originally appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

An investigator appointed by the Trump administration to thwart questions about Donald Trump’s suspicious campaign help from the Kremlin finally delivered his report last week. Special counsel John Durham legitimately criticizes the FBI for instances of overzealousness but uncovers no specific misconduct. Thus has Durham’s original mission been achieved: to offer something, anything, to Trump’s conspiracy-mongering base.

Durham’s four-year, $6.5 million investigation of the investigators has yielded one minor guilty plea and two acquittals.

Compare that to the outcome of the original Robert Mueller investigation that Durham was investigating — which yielded eight guilty pleas, one conviction and significant evidence that Trump personally obstructed justice — and it’s clear which probe was the real “witch hunt.”

It’s a core tenet of MAGA lore these days that the Mueller probe of Kremlin interference in the 2016 election was an illegitimate “deep state” attack on Trump, but that it ultimately exonerated him. Like so much of MAGA lore, both those assertions are false.

The Mueller investigation wasn’t about Trump himself. Its focus was the Russian government’s attempt to sway the election in Trump’s favor. Mueller’s report firmly proved Russian meddling, and it also established that Trump’s campaign did nothing to block that effort. At one point, Trump’s campaign tried to help facilitate it by meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer in Trump Tower in Manhattan.

Trump himself would later concoct a public lie about the purpose of that meeting. None of this is disputed.

Mueller’s report didn’t specifically accuse Trump of any crime, but it made clear this was by no means the “total exoneration” that Trump would repeatedly claim afterward. For good measure, Trump’s then-attorney general, the deeply compromised William Barr, made sure to redact and withhold Mueller’s report until he could issue his own summary completely misrepresenting to the public what was in it.

Compare that to current Attorney General Merrick Garland’s handling of the Durham report. Durham was appointed by Barr shortly after Mueller’s report came out, and it was clear from the outset that his mission was to discredit that report. Yet the Biden administration offered no interference as Durham continued his probe after Trump left office. No one threatened to fire anyone. Garland delivered Durham’s report to Congress Friday — unedited.

This is the difference between an administration that respects the law and a predecessor who very much didn’t.

MAGA world will crow that Durham’s report is evidence of … something … the same way it did with the recent nothingburger from congressional Republicans regarding Biden’s non-connection to his son’s shady business deals. This is what they do. It doesn’t mean there’s any beef in the bun.