The mood on the set of MSNBC was grim.
Rachel Maddow fought back tears of rage. Brian Williams struggled to make sense of it all. A former U.S. senator flailed her arms in frustration and indignation.
Their collective panic attack, however, was not caused by the results of the Democratic presidential primary in New Hampshire on Tuesday night. The electoral tie between an aged socialist and a sinister small-town mayor did not alarm the panelists assembled around the colorful set, shoulders stooped in despair, eyes ablaze.
The humiliating fifth-place finish of the former vice president who claimed he would beat Donald Trump "like a drum," the aviator sunglasses-clad bestie of Barack Obama who allegedly would stomp the president in the Heartland, did not at all concern the network's gobsmacked hosts.
No, Maddow and company's hysterics centered around the news that Attorney General William Barr had intervened to reduce an egregious sentencing recommendation against Roger Stone, a former Trump confidant convicted of five counts of lying to Congress, one count of witness-tampering, and one count of obstruction of justice. (Otherwise known as a day at the office for California congressman and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.)
Federal prosecutors, continuing their work from the now-concluded Mueller investigation, told a judge that Stone, who is 67 years old with no prior criminal record, should serve seven to nine years in jail. When Barr heard the news, he appropriately intervened. (Some news outlets reported that the Stone prosecutors had misled the attorney general's office about their intentions.) The four government lawyers, including two alums from Team Mueller, subsequently resigned from the case.
In a follow-up filing on Wednesday morning, Barr agreed that Stone should serve some time behind bars — just not the same amount as a criminal who robs a bank with a loaded weapon or a sicko who has child pornography on his computer.
But it is too late to calm the unhinged: the Left and NeverTrump Right is in full meltdown mode.
Lawmakers from the very same political party that seeks to decriminalize basically everything — even creating lawless fiefdoms in major cities where noncitizens can break the law with impunity after they illegally enter the country — are apoplectic that a quirky Boomer won't rot in prison for a handful of process crimes.
"This is one of those days in history you will tell your kids and your grandkids what you were doing when this unspooled," Maddow, a Russian collusion truther who has made that claim at least a few hundreds times over the past three years, ranted in her show's opening Tuesday night. "A rule of law crisis is unfolding in the incumbent administration."
This constitutional emergency, the most serious one since at least last week, was prompted by Donald Trump's public criticism of Stone's original sentence which, according to the Left's newest conspiracy theory, signaled to his attorney general that he'd better act fast.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), fully recovered from her paper cuts after ripping Trump's State of the Union address last week, took matters into those same hands and tweeted that the president "engaged in political interference in the sentencing of Roger Stone." (Can't they think of anything other than "political interference?" Seems that threat hasn't worked too well.)
Schiff, who could have taught poor Roger Stone a thing or two about how to get away with lying to Congress and tampering with witnesses, did his usual drama queen routine on social media.
"For those who were convicted of lying to cover up his crimes, Trump urges lighter sentences and dangles pardons," Schiff tweeted. "He demands his enemies be investigated and prosecuted. He retaliates against witnesses and public servants."
Most of the tantrums, however, have been directed at Barr.
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), fresh off her fourth-place finish in New Hampshire, raged about both Barr and Stone in her post-defeat comments. The faux Native American and sanctuary city booster insisted Barr should resign, be impeached, or face his own investigation. She was joined in outrage by colleague Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) as well as fellow presidential primary losers, Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.)
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, an official whose work Schumer has conveniently ignored over the past several months, demanding an internal investigation into Barr's move. House impeachment henchman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) promised to "get to the bottom of this." (Only if he outruns Schiff again.) Barr is scheduled to testify before Nadler's committee on March 31.
This is all rather transparent, isn't it? As far as trying to rid the White House of Donald Trump, the Democrats, as Kenny Rogers would sing, are out of aces. The Mueller farce ended with a mumbling whimper last summer on Capitol Hill; an impeachment crusade based on a brief call with a foreign leader backfired on both the party and their self-proclaimed leading presidential candidate. Trump is more popular than ever, the economy is on fire, and the Republican Party is once again favored over the Democratic Party, according to recent polls.
So, by all accounts, as Barr closes in on the coup plotters, the Democrats have no smokescreen left. The attorney general's public comments promising to expose the "Praetorian guard" — his words — who employed the most powerful government tools allowed to sabotage Trump's campaign, transition team, and presidency have terrified the coup plotters ever since Barr's appointment last year.
U.S. Attorney John Durham, Barr's point man on the investigation into the origins of Crossfire Hurricane, the official name for the FBI's illicit probe of the Trump campaign, appears to be conducting a criminal inquiry at this point. Former CIA Director John Brennan, a central architect of the collusion hoax, admitted last year that Durham wanted to question him.
(Barr also is concerned with what happened between Election Day 2016 and Inauguration Day 2017; Brennan's sketchy intelligence community assessment, hastily published in late December 2016 to claim the Russians interfered to help Trump win, reportedly is under review.)
The report issued in December by Michael Horowitz laid out in detail the misconduct by top FBI officials related to the FISA warrant against Carter Page. That was followed by a stern thrashing of the FBI by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The Justice Department recently concluded that two of the four applications were unlawful; it's likely the remaining two will be deemed illegal as well.
Senator Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), who's made one empty threat after another promising to "get to the bottom" of FISAgate, told CBS News reporter Catherine Herridge this week that he has a witness list for testimony and possible public hearings. It includes James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Sally Yates, Rod Rosenstein — all signers of the garbage FISA warrants — and current FBI Director Christopher Wray.
The quickening, finally, is here.
Further, Barr confirmed his department has received information from Rudy Guiliani, acting as the president's personal lawyer, related to political corruption in Ukraine, including 2016 election interference and the Bidens' personal dealings in that rogue country. If Guiliani has the goods, the entire pretext for the Democrats' impeachment vote will implode right as the 2020 campaign season gets underway.
So, in that regard, the Left's convulsions are warranted, just not for the reasons they now are giving the public. They, like so many who've followed this scandal and waited for justice, get the sense something big is about to happen. Let's hope their instincts, for once, are right.