June 4, 2023

“Bombshell,” shouted The Federalist in all caps. A “treacherous charade,” declared former President Donald J. Trump. “Who Goes to Jail?” asked Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene.

A report from Special Counsel John H. Durham on the origins of the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s work with Russia recommended no further prosecution, made no surprising revelations, and declined to propose any “wholesale changes” to the FBI rules for politically sensitive investigations.

But in the world in which Mr. Trump and his supporters operate, Mr. Durham’s four-year investigation was Watergate times 10 or 100. Mr Durham’s awesome prosecuting powers led to two minor criminal cases, both of which ended in acquittals. A former FBI attorney pleaded guilty to altering an email to prepare a wiretap request.

Yet in the conservative media bubble and in Congress, the former president and his allies found what they needed in Mr. Durham’s 306-page report. The content, they say, reinforces a long-held view that the FBI’s investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 election known as Crossfire Hurricane — and the Trump campaign’s active or passive complicity in it — was a political vendetta masterminded by Hillary Clinton and her willing federal law enforcement henchmen.

Now the research of Mr. Durham now officially concluded, no lawsuits or charges will bring forward such claims. But the Republican interpretation of the final Durham report will fuel a narrative of “Deep State” corruption that fuels not only Trump’s quest for the 2024 White House, but many of his rivals for the Republican nomination. The defamation of the federal bureaucracy was already an emerging theme in the struggle to be the Republican standard bearer. Regardless of Mr Durham’s actual conclusions, his report seems to serve that theme.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Mr. Trump’s closest competitor in the still-flagged Republican primary, vowed Monday to “clean the house” at “armed federal agencies,” which he said had “made up a false conspiracy theory.”

“Heads need to roll,” said another competitor, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley.

Mr. Trump had called the Russia investigation “the crime of the century,” and since no one makes time for that crime, the Durham report could still prove to be Exhibit A of how the American right seems to live in its own universe — and how Mr. Trump still dictates the parameters of that separate reality.

On his Truth Social website, Mr. Trump said the special counsel had concluded that “the FBI should never have launched the Trump-Russia probe!” Mr. Durham even said he agreed that the FBI should have opened a preliminary investigation.

“I, and much more importantly, the American public, have fallen victim to this long-running and insidious charade started by the Democrats — started by Comey,” Trump told Fox News Digital. “There is a high price to be paid for our country to endure this.”

Repeated fundraising emails from Mr. Trump had the headline “I WAS FRAMED.”

Conservative website The Federalist picked up the bat and attacked The New York Times’ initial coverage of contacts between Russian intelligence officials and associates of Mr. Trump, reporting that The Times won a Pulitzer Prize.

And on Twitter, Trump’s most trusted allies in Congress hailed the final report as explosive and groundbreaking, the opposite conclusion of the mainstream media. Mr. Durham may not have brought major prosecutions, but the Republicans did claim them.

“Democrats attempted a coup against President Trump with their ‘Russia Russia Russia’ hoax,” wrote Mrs. GreeneGeorgia Republican.

Colorado Republican Representative Lauren Boebert urged her supporters to “get active” and “fight to make things better.”

“Let this be your wake-up call: they are trying to take our country from us,” she said wrote on Twitter.

Others who piled up included rep Elise Stephanie of New York, chairman of the House Republican Conference; the commentator Ben Shapiro; and representative Matt Gaetz, Republican from Florida. Conservative media outlets such as The New York Post and Breitbart weighed in, accusing Mrs. Clinton, President Biden, former President Barack Obama and a large group of Democrats in what Breitbart called the “collusion hoax.”

“Shut down the FBI,” said entrepreneur and Republican nominee Vivek Ramaswamy, who has made criticism of the “governmental state” central to his campaign.