Trump’s plan to punish and defame the FBI and the Intelligence Community

As a private litigant, Trump, aided, abetted and guided by the disgraced Attorney Roy Cohn, used the law to wear down his adversaries, to make the process too expensive and too unbearable to continue with regardless of the merits of the case. See Zirin, James D., Plaintiff in Chief: A Portrait of Donald Trump in 3,500 Lawsuit, All Points Books, published September 24, 2019.(Available on Amazon here). 

An NBC News report by Ken Dilanian, Julia Anisley and Tom Winter describes an ever-expanding investigation ordered by Attorney General Barr and led by John Durham, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, into the origins of the investigation into Russia’s successful and well documented (see Vol. 1 of the Mueller Report) interference in the 2016 election to help Trump and hurt Clinton. Trump believes, or perhaps more accurately, wants his supporters to believe, that the Russia investigation was a ruse perpetrated by the “Deep State” in order to undermine Trump. By “Deep State” Trump means the Obama administration, the U.S. Intelligence Agencies and the F.B.I. Durham is allegedly asking pointed questions about political bias of intelligence analysts.

Many, if not most, of the individuals interviewed by Durham and his expanding list of investigators will hire lawyers at significant expense. This is right out of the Trump/Cohn litigation playbook as is Cohn’s and now Trump’s strategy of always attacking one’s adversaries.

In effect, Trump through Attorney’s Barr and Durham and their status as being government lawyers, is imposing sanctions – in the form of attorney’s fees – on members of the Intelligence Community and the F.B.I. As he did when he is a private litigant, Trump is using his superior financial position to punish civil servants who he regards as his enemies.

In my view, this set of circumstances raises ethical questions for Attorney General Barr and John Durham. There is a risk of doing great harm to individuals and to the reputations of the Intelligence Community and the F.B.I. It appears that Trump, Barr and, unfortunately, Durham do not care about the harm their investigation will almost certainly cause to career civil servants and the agencies they serve.  It is unclear to me what the predicate of the investigation is. The D.O.J. should not be conducting an investigation solely because Trump wants one and Barr agrees.  And Barr and Durham should not be carrying out Trump’s orders without having a good faith basis in fact for believing that a violation of law has occurred. It is not clear that the Barr/Durham investigation is criminal in nature but it should be clear. As it is, it seems as though the investigation is into a series of discredited rumors. Durham has a sterling reputation. One wonders if he is taking orders from Attorney General Barr, who has shown himself to be a political figure closely allied with Trump (see Barr’s mis-characterization of the Mueller Report before the report was released to the public.)

I wonder if Barr’s and Durham’s travels to foreign countries are efforts to enlist the aid of those countries in Trump’s re-election campaign. With Trump being as volatile as he is and some foreign countries perhaps wanting to position themselves to be in Trump’s “good graces,”(see Italy’s appeal to Trump to lower the amount allocated to Italy of the seven billion dollar award to the U.S. for trade violations committed by the E.U.) how can one trust the information Barr and Durham are gathering from foreign countries?

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