Saturday, September 12, 2020


We know that Donald Trump's reelection campaign has wasted millions of dollars on advertising the campaign knows won't affect the election outcome, just to please the boss:
Some spending choices appear devised, at least in part, to satisfy Mr. Trump himself, including the Super Bowl ads, which were purchased as part of an advertising arms race with [then-presidential candidate Mike] Bloomberg. The two ads on game day cost more than the Trump campaign spent on local television through the end of July in each of four battleground states: Wisconsin ($3.9 million), Michigan ($3.6 million), Iowa ($2 million) and Minnesota ($1.3 million).

Another Trump-pleasing expense: more than $1 million in ads aired in the Washington, D.C., media market, a region that is not likely to be competitive in the fall but where the president, a famously voracious television consumer, resides.
D.C. is solidly blue. So are Maryland and Virginia. And yet the Trump campaign was advertising in D.C. because seeing ads for himself during his daily TV binge pleased Trump.

I'm beginning to feel the same way about the least surprising October surprise in American politcal history, the upcoming report William Barr commissioned from John Durham. It's big news today that a top aide to Durham just resigned.
Federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy, a top aide to U.S. Attorney John H. Durham in his Russia investigation, has quietly resigned — at least partly out of concern that the investigative team is being pressed for political reasons to produce a report before its work is done, colleagues said.

Dannehy, a highly regarded prosecutor ... has worked with or for Durham for decades....

Colleagues said Dannehy is not a supporter of President Trump and has been concerned in recent weeks by what she believed was pressure from Barr, who appointed Durham, to produce results before the election.
The process of generating this political hit job is a bizarre combination of punctiliousness and partisan hackery. We know that the report is intended to harm Trump's enemies just before the election, and yet Barr hired Durham, who's considered respectable, and we now know that Durham hired at least one prosecutor who's not a Trump fan. So they care about making this look at least somewhat legitimate.

That's why, even though it's believed that Durham might be looking into Ukraine (and thus possibly Hunter Biden) as well as the folks who brought us the Russia investigation, I believe that Barr might have been speaking the truth when he implied that Hunter Biden won't be a target:
Whether Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham plan to take public investigative steps close to the election, flouting a longstanding Justice Department practice of avoiding overt activity within 60 days of an election if it could have a political impact on the vote, has been the subject of growing scrutiny.

Mr. Barr ... has put forward a narrow interpretation of the so-called 60-day rule, saying it only meant the department should not indict a candidate for office or a close campaign associate.

“The idea is you don’t go after candidates, you don’t indict candidates, or perhaps someone that’s officially close to a candidate — that is essentially the same — within a certain number of days before an election,” Mr. Barr said in an April interview with the conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. “But, you know, as I say, I don’t think any of the people whose actions are under review by Durham fall into that category.”
Maybe Barr was lying. Maybe what he said was true at the time and isn't true now.

Or maybe this will be his way of insisting that he's not a politcal operative -- See? We didn't go after anyone close to Joe Biden within sixty days of the election -- because he considers the Russia investigation a target-rich environment.

But as I've said before, most of America tuned out Russiagate even before the pandemic and the killing of George Floyd -- the narrative is too convoluted, the cast of characters too unwieldy. Angry Trump haters care, and Trump fans care -- they're angry at the investigators.

Most of all, Trump cares. The Russia investigation is a source of deep shame for him. It implies that his glorious victory in the 2016 election wasn't legitimate. He wants the narrative rewritten and the investigators punished.

So I think what we'll get just before the election is a politicized assault on prosecutors and investigators most of the public doesn't care about -- but Trump does. I think we'll get a report that will cheer millions of voters who were 100% certain to vote for Trump anyway, while it infuriates voters who were 100% certain not to vote for Trump, and bores every other rank-and-file voter, while thrilling Trump.

In other words, this will be the equivalent of running Trump ads on television in D.C. It's for Trump's consumption more than anything. It's for the audience of one.


On the other hand, it's possible that Barr was weighing his words very carefully when he said the Durham report wouldn't go after anyone "officially close" to Biden just before the election -- Biden's son, after all, isn't close to the candidate in an "official" capacity. The only way this October surprise will be effective is if Hunter Biden is targeted. But my bet is that the targets will be the investigators, because that's what Trump wants.

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