On Monday, Democrats and left-leaning members of the national media were falling all over themselves, breathlessly suggesting that indictments of a former campaign manager for Donald Trump and the campaign manager's assistant suggested the beginning of the end for the Trump presidency.
They ought to know better, but that's been the template from the moment Robert Mueller was appointed to investigate any ties the president or his campaign might have had to Russia.
If they can find anything close to Trump, he'll have to go. "Where there's smoke, there's fire" already has been implied.
But with the indictments, they've got nothing on their target.
The 12-count indictments concern business that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and assistant Rick Gates did as unregistered agents of Ukraine and Ukrainian clients between 2006 and 2015 and money that was subsequently laundered as a result of that association. It also was revealed Monday a former foreign policy advisor for Trump's campaign, George Papadopolous, pleaded guilty weeks ago to making false statements to the FBI as part of the Mueller probe.
The president, who fired the campaign chairman in August 2016 (after only three months on the job) and — according to one congressman — may not even have known him during the time his indictments cover, was not mentioned. But that didn't stop the hints.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said the indictments underscore "the seriousness" of Mueller's investigation.
"It's time for Republicans to commit to protecting this investigation and preserving the rule of law," he said.
Sen Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a day before Halloween, suggested the probe was a "truth hunt and not a witch hunt."
"The issue is even if he is charged with something unrelated to Russia, it could just be the beginning," she told CBS News. "What I want to know is how far this went, who was involved, and who gave the orders."
Others suggested the strategy was to cuff Manafort and Gates — easy pickings because of what evidence already shows — in hopes they'll spill something about the president of which the investigation is not aware.
"If [the former campaign chairman] has nothing to offer," Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz told Fox News, "he's just going to have to defend himself on these financial charges that have nothing to do with Trump. This shows the danger. Sometimes prosecutors can twist you not only into singing but into composing, into making something up against somebody. They're so desperate to make a deal. ... If you can get yourself out of trouble by turning somebody else in, a lawyer is going to help you try to do that."
For a year, Democrats have been trying to tie Trump to Russia. Had their candidate Hillary Clinton won the White House, as was expected, this would be a non-issue. To date, though, they've been unsuccessful, and nothing coming out of Mueller's office indicates he's anywhere near such a thing.
Indeed, events of last week have thrown suspicion about one of the main documents that was to have ramped up the investigation back on the Democrats.
The Washington Post reported that Clinton's campaign and the Democratic National Committee funded a discredited dossier on Trump's supposed ties to Russia, a dossier seen and examined by Obama administration national security officials. The campaign had denied the funding allegation for a year, but no one is denying it this time. Yet Clinton and specific DNC officials have declared they knew nothing about it.
The ties to the Clinton campaign and Obama officials, including former FBI Director James Comey (who served under Mueller when he headed the FBI under Obama), are why suggestions are increasing that Mueller should resign or be fired,
In fact, top congressional Democrats were atwitter with ideas about what to do since the investigation wasn't showing what they wanted.
"The president must not, under any circumstances, interfere with the special counsel's work in any way," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. "If he does so, Congress must respond swiftly, unequivocally, and in a bipartisan way to ensure that the investigation continues."
"Even with an accelerating Special Counsel investigation inside the Justice Department, and investigations inside the Republican Congress," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., "we still need an outside, fully independent investigation to expose Russia's meddling in our election and the involvement of Trump officials."
In other words, we need to keep going until we get the results we want.
It sounds a little desperate, and it's no way to run a government. But if the distant wisps of smoke don't produce fire in the near future, they ought to be put out.