U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, once considered becoming a screenwriter. But he abandoned glitzy Hollywood dreams for the meaty thrills of Washington intrigue.
And as lord high inquisitor of Trump Impeachment Theater, he's the author of yet another failed revenge fantasy crafted by Democrats to satisfy "The Resistance" and keep their angry leftist base in line.
Schiff must know that there are two plotlines left open to him in this drama. In one, he is the hero he's always wanted to be. And in the other, which seems more likely, he's exposed in a Senate impeachment trial, and becomes the fall guy who wears the jacket for helping to re-elect President Donald Trump in 2020.
Then he'll be at the mercy of the mob.
Since Trump shocked the Washington political establishment by becoming president in 2016, America has been subjected to constant, angry political theater that has accomplished one thing: busily distracting the Democratic base from examining the reasons why they lost the presidency.
"The Resistance" and their media handmaidens have talked endlessly of dragging Trump from office before the election. They've dreamed of using the 25th Amendment to pronounce him mentally unfit and have him removed from office. They've threatened to abolish the Electoral College, which would topple the republic. And there was their failed Russia collusion narrative, another revenge fantasy that collapsed when Robert Mueller's investigation failed to show Trump colluded with Russia to win the White House.
Of the many Democratic cries for impeachment based on Trump's boorish demeanor, the Schiff hearings over Trump's ill-advised phone call to the Ukrainian president seemed strongest.
Trump had offered foreign aid and asked for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter in a place that is more corrupt than Chicago. Hunter Biden reaped treasure from a Ukrainian gas company. And Joe publicly bragged that he forced the Ukrainian government to fire a problematic prosecutor -- one who was looking at Hunter's involvement -- by threatening to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees.
The Biden maneuvering is a quid pro quo the Chicago Way, but Schiff controlled the hearings and would not allow testimony explaining that part of the story.
Republicans have argued there was no quid pro quo in the Trump phone call. But after watching the testimony, it seems clear to me there was an attempt at it. Trump wanted an investigation of the Bidens, and dangled military assistance while asking for a favor.
But he didn't get his favor. Ukraine got the weapons it desired. A corrupt Chicago politician would have gotten at least something.
After Trump shocked the Democrats by releasing the contents of his call with Ukraine, all that was left for Schiff to do was to offer up bureaucrats who don't like Trump to give their impressions. That didn't advance the argument.
If only the House Democrats had held oversight hearings, they could have ended this with a condemnation or censure of the president. But they didn't. Instead they had Schiff preside over hearings to remove a sitting president a year out from an election.
This farce never rose to the level of impeachment. A censure? Yes. But to remove a sitting president, the nation must be convinced that what they've seen is serious criminal activity, that the impeachment would be a bipartisan, and that it would be fair.
There was no serious crime. Ukraine got what it wanted. Trump didn't get what he wanted. This was partisan from the beginning. And it became publicly obvious that to Schiff, fair is a four-letter word.
Americans expect fair play, and they didn't see it here, because Schiff refused to allow the so-called whistleblower to testify as to how it all started. This started in the shadows, with the whistleblower reportedly working with Schiff's committee to craft his complaint before it was made public.
Schiff kept it out of the hearings, proving he was running a rigged game. Now, new polls show Democrats have lost all-important independent voters who are swinging sharply against impeachment. And more bad news: A former FBI official is reportedly under criminal investigation for tampering with evidence that allowed the Obama administration to seek secret FISA court approval to spy on members of the Trump campaign.
The report of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is expected in early December. U.S. Attorney John Durham continues his expanded criminal investigation into the politically murky origins of the Russia probe.
"If there was an FBI agent sworn to uphold the Constitution who can be proven to have altered the document in connection with a legal proceeding, including the obtaining of a FISA warrant, that's really serious," said former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, no fan of Trump, on CNN. "It doesn't get a lot more serious than that."
As we wait for Horowitz, Schiff can consider his two possible plotlines: In one he holds Trump's political head above the cheering throng, becomes the senator from California, and is covered in glory.
In the other, the House Democrats impeach Trump and the matter is put before the Senate for trial. And Schiff is called to testify, questioned under oath about his relationship with the whistleblower, who'll also be called to testify. The Democrats don't have the votes to convict in the Senate. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will deftly stitch that jacket of blame for Schiff to wear.
Unfortunately for Schiff, there was no one to whisper in his ear as he preened, that all glory is fleeting.
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John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune who also hosts a radio show on WLS-AM.