American Oversight Statement: Barr Appoints Durham as Special Counsel

On Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr disclosed that he had appointed U.S. Attorney John Durham as a special counsel to continue his investigation of the law enforcement officials responsible for looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election.  

American Oversight has been investigating concerns of misconduct, lack of transparency, and the political motivations behind Durham’s investigation, which was first announced in 2019 following the conclusion of the Russia probe led by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Appointing Durham as a special counsel provides additional protections against being fired. 

Durham’s assignment, criticized as a political effort to delegitimize Mueller’s findings, has been a significant aspect of Barr’s ongoing politicization of the Justice Department. Records uncovered by American Oversight revealed extensive contact between Barr and Durham in the months immediately surrounding the release of Mueller’s report. In addition, Barr’s frequent comments on the progress of Durham’s investigation, despite Justice Department policy disfavoring such comments, have raised further questions about politicization.

“The role of the Durham investigation was to lend credibility to conspiracy theories and undermine a legitimate inquiry into foreign interference into our elections,” said Austin Evers, executive director at American Oversight. “William Barr is salting the earth and attempting to guarantee that the hyper-politicization of the Justice Department outlives the Trump administration, and this move undermines the credibility of future special counsels.”

 American Oversight will continue to investigate Durham’s probe and to fight for the release of documents that can provide more information on how Durham’s work was shaped. More information about American Oversight’s investigation, including a timeline of Durham’s investigation, our Freedom of Information Act requests, and the documents we’ve uncovered is available here.