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Could this Groton resident prosecute Biden or Obama?

It's hard to think this summer could get stranger, with our president ignoring reports of Russian-backed killings of American troops overseas and defending the Confederacy, but here we are, drifting through a national crisis of racial tensions and a pandemic growing more deadly, with no leadership from the White House.

Nov. 3 seems like a lifetime away.

But don't expect the summer to get calmer. In fact, if the early years of the chaotic Donald Trump presidency are a predictor, I'd say buckle up.

One ticking time bomb is the Justice Department's investigation into the origins of Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, an ongoing criminal probe which sure smells a lot like a Trump revenge play and another chance for him to leverage an American institution to his own political benefit.

Leading the investigation into the Mueller probe is one of our own, Groton resident and the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, the enigmatic John Durham, known for his prosecutions of mobster kingpins, crooked FBI insiders and the former governor of Connecticut, John Rowland, whom he sent to prison.

William Barr, Trump's loyal attorney general, who has been spending a lot of time cosseting Trump cronies caught in the web of Mueller's Russian probe, now seems intent to upend the investigation altogether and show that it was politically motivated.

What could make Trump happier? And how could the timing be better, as we slide inexorably toward a referendum on Trump.

At about the same time Trump began to inexplicably tweet about what, without explanation, he called Obamagate, Barr began dropping some hints that Durham is scoring some dirt.

"In terms of the future of Durham's investigation, you know, he's pressing ahead as hard as he can," Barr said as recently as two weeks ago. "And I expect that, you know, we will have some developments hopefully before the end of the summer."

Barr said in an interview earlier in the month that he is "troubled" by some of what has been uncovered by Durham, and he teased that Americans will be able to "recognize" some of the people under investigation.

The attorney general has been coy or at least very lawyerly in not entirely ruling out charges against former President Barack Obama or Vice President Joe Biden.

In a June 7 article in the New York Times Magazine on Barr, Mattathias Schwartz reported that the attorney general qualified, in an interview in his office, his public statements that he didn't think Durham's work would lead to a criminal investigation of Obama or Biden.

"You never say never," Schwartz wrote that Barr told him. "Things could pop up that change the world ... But I have a pretty good idea of what went down and what was happening, and I don't expect that."

Schwartz noted that Barr was saying he didn't expect to prosecute a former president but wasn't willing to rule it out.

Buckle up.

The star of what's looking like a Barr-directed pre-election bombshell is our Groton-grown prosecutor who seems to have made his pointed lack of a public persona a career obsession.

Durham, whose father was the executive business manager of the George C. Moore Co. of Westerly, was brought up in the expensive shoreline neighborhood of Mumford Cove in Groton.

He attended Robert E. Fitch High School, Class of 1968, Colgate University and the University of Connecticut School of Law.

One summer, before law school, he worked for the Groton Long Point Police Department.

He is assiduously private. In the questionnaire he submitted for the Senate review of his nomination as U.S. attorney he said he has never written a book or magazine article or even a letter to the editor and has never belonged to a club or fraternal organization or granted an interview or given a lecture.

He is a Republican but has been assigned high-profile investigations by attorney generals serving Democratic presidents, including an examination of the CIA torture program, which did not result in prosecutions.

Given his reputation for reticence, it as interesting that he chose to make a public statement late last year about the results of an overlapping investigation into the origins of the Russia investigation, by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who concluded that the F.B.I. acted appropriately in opening the investigation into whether the Trump 2016 campaign helped Russia influence the election.

Not so fast, Durham said in his extraordinary rebuttal.

"While our investigation is ongoing we advised the inspector general that we do not agree with some of the report's conclusions as to predication and how the F.B.I. case was opened," Durham said.

Barr at the same time called the Mueller probe an obtrusive investigation into a political campaign opened with the "thinnest of suspicions."

Buckle up.

Mumford Cove hasn't had this much of the political spotlight since former Connecticut Gov. John Dempsey called the tranquil neighborhood home.

This is the opinion of David Collins.


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