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Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the increasingly dramatic events on Capitol Hill in the aftermath of the release of the Special Counsel Report.
Democratic leaders in Congress proved the perils of “jumping the shark” this month. The phrase comes from the 1977 episode of the television comedy “Happy Days” in which one of its leading characters, the “Fonz,” jumped over a shark in a water skiing stunt in swim trunks along with his signature leather jacket. That moment was viewed as a desperate ratings stunt by a dying television series struggling to keep viewers engaged. Today, the phrase has come to define similar instances of desperation.
With the many overhyped political moments of the last two years, it is not clear when the shark jump occurred. Soon after the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, legal experts and commentators on air began confidently declaring the crimes of Trump campaign “collusion” were obvious and established. As the report approached completion, commentators spoke widely of a finding of criminality as a virtual given.
Yet, Mueller then stated that his investigation “did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.” The Russia investigation without criminal Russia collusion was like Geraldo Rivera opening the safe of Al Capone only to find empty bottles. To make matters worse, Mueller did not reach a conclusion on obstruction but Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein found that the evidence would not support a criminal charge of obstruction.
Democrats then proceeded to try and shift attention from collusion to obstruction, but their unwillingness to actually open an impeachment inquiry has undermined their claims that obstruction crimes were well established. Almost instantly, you could feel national attention waning and lawmaker desperation growing. There have been some cringeworthy stunts during the past few weeks. Democrats tried to make redactions in the report be the focus, in order to avoid questions over the refusal to move toward impeachment. The problem is Barr released 92 percent of the report and 98 percent of the report to select members of Congress.
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