Speed Reads

'You should finish up'

Special Counsel John Durham's final case goes to the jury after a series of prosecutorial setbacks

Special Counsel John Durham made his closing arguments Monday in what's expected to be the swan song of his three-year-long investigation of the Justice Department's inquiry into ties between Russia and former President Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. In the case at hand, Durham charged Russian foreign policy researcher Igor Danchenko with five counts of lying to the FBI tied to his role as a sub-source for former British spy Christopher Steele's salacious, largely discredited Trump-Russia dossier. 

Durham has faced several setbacks in the trial, including his own FBI witnesses appearing to bolster Danchenko's defense and U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga's decision Friday to throw out one of the five charges, ruling that Danchenko's statements to the FBI about minor source Charles Dolan were "literally true." The remaining charges involve Danchenko's statements about phone conversations he said he believed he had with Sergei Millan, a former president of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce.

Durham spent much of his closing argument attacking the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, as he had during the trial. At times, Politico's Josh Gerstein noted last week, "Durham seemed to be training his fire on the FBI, even at the expense of his case against Danchenko." During Monday's closing arguments, as Durham defended his work and went after the FBI and Mueller investigation, The New York Times reports, Judge Trenga — a George W. Bush appointee — told him, "You should finish up."

After Durham and Danchenko's lawyers concluded their closing arguments in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, the jury deliberated for four hours Monday before being excused for the night.

Since his 2019 appointment by then-Attorney General William Barr, Durham has secured one guilty plea from an FBI lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, based on evidence compiled by a Justice Department inspector general. Clinesmith got 12 months of probation but no jail time. The only other case Durham's team developed, charging cybersecurity lawyer Michael Sussmann with one count of lying to the FBI, ended in acquittal after six hours of jury deliberation.