Juan Williams: Trump's search for dirt falls flat

“When they go low, we go high,” then-first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaObama says change may be coming 'too rapidly' for many YouTube confirms it picked kids featured in Harris video Photos of the Week: Congressional Baseball Game, ashen trees and a beach horse MORE said during the 2016 campaign.

Well, in 2020, the Trump campaign is hellbent on going even lower than ever before.

They went so low last week that their "October Surprise" against Joe BidenJoe BidenOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by American Clean Power — Methane fee faces negotiations White House rejects latest Trump claim of executive privilege The No Surprises Act:  a bill long overdue MORE crashed!

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Trump had promised federal charges against Obama-era officials for purportedly conducting a “coup” that undermined his presidency from the start by illegally probing Russia’s ties to Trump’s 2016 campaign.

The president wanted to see President Obama, Biden and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSuper PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump I voted for Trump in 2020 — he proved to be the ultimate RINO in 2021 Neera Tanden tapped as White House staff secretary MORE in handcuffs.

But Attorney General William BarrBill BarrMeadows hires former deputy AG to represent him in Jan. 6 probe: report Why it's time for conservatives to accept the 2020 election results and move on Bannon's subpoena snub sets up big decision for Biden DOJ MORE announced that John DurhamJohn DurhamAndrew McCabe's settlement with the Department of Justice is a signal to John Durham Barr-Durham investigation again fails to produce a main event Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' MORE, the prosecutor looking at the case, will not finish his work before the election.

Trump’s October Surprise was grounded. He got nothing.

Then, Trump’s second attempt at an October Surprise also failed to take flight.

This time another U.S. attorney, John Bash, totally pulled the plug on a separate probe into the “unmasking” of Americans caught on phone taps talking with Russians, in this case Trump campaign officials.

“The greatest political scam, hoax in the history of our country,” Trump announced, implying that those involved deserved 50-year jail sentences.

Bash sent no one to jail — zero.

Again, Trump got nothing — no visions of Democrats in handcuffs to rev up the faithful at campaign rallies.

He is not happy with the attorney general.

“Unless Bill Barr indicts these people for crimes. ... To be honest, Bill Barr is going to go down as either the greatest attorney general in the history of the country or he’s going to go down as, you know, a very sad situation,” Trump said on Fox Business Network before Barr disappointed him.

Pay close attention to that quote.

Trump said out loud he is willing to go so low as to ask his attorney general to indict political opponents without any basis, weeks before the election. 

Faced with collapsing poll numbers, Trump is open to using federal law enforcement to divert attention from his divisive talk and his failed handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

And he is still going at it, trying to go lower than low.

In the tradition of crime families, he turned to old friends to get the job done.

Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiLev Parnas found guilty of breaking campaign finance laws Giuliani associate Lev Parnas won't testify at trial Four Seasons Total Landscaping comes full circle with MSNBC special MORE and Stephen Bannon alerted the New York Post to emails suggesting that Trump’s opponent in the November election, Joe Biden, possibly met a top executive at a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma Holdings, at the request of his son, Hunter Biden, who was on the firm’s board.

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Bannon, who was indicted on federal fraud charges in August, contacted the paper about the emails, which were supposedly found on a hard drive left in a Delaware computer repair shop. Giuliani, the former New York mayor who also is under investigation, then gave a copy of the hard drive to the New York paper.

The story took flight on pro-Trump websites, especially after Facebook and Twitter declined to let their platforms be used to circulate the potentially explosive but unverified information.

Mainstream newspapers and computer security professionals pointed out that Giuliani refused to produce the actual emails, and there is no evidence that the then-vice president ever met with the man.

The Washington Post reported the next day that national security officials at the White House were warned last year that “Giuliani was being used to feed Russian misinformation to the president.”

The New York Times noted that American intelligence officials “had picked up chatter that stolen Burisma emails would be leaked in the form of an ‘October surprise.’”

So, a third attempt by Trump to launch an October Surprise remained grounded.

A fourth effort involved pressuring Director of National Intelligence John RatcliffeJohn Lee RatcliffeSunday shows preview: Senate votes to raise debt ceiling; Facebook whistleblower blasts company during testimony Biden, Trump battle over who's to blame for Afghanistan Sunday shows preview: US grapples with rising COVID-19 cases MORE.

Ratcliffe declassified intelligence from the time of the 2016 campaign, including reports that Hillary Clinton’s campaign wanted to call attention to Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign.

This is the same reporting that the Senate Intelligence Committee, with a Republican majority, long ago discarded as unimportant.

Why? The committee heard from every U.S. intelligence agency that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump and damage Clinton.

But Trump later tweeted that he authorized “the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to the greatest political CRIME in American history, the Russia Hoax.”

And Ratcliffe ended up in a mud fight that damaged his reputation.

Former acting CIA Director Mike Morrell and former Under Secretary of Defense Mike Vickers called Ratcliffe’s actions “the most blatant and egregious politicization of intelligence that we, two career intelligence officers, have ever seen,” in a Washington Post op-ed calling for Ratcliffe to resign.

Trump’s political rhetoric has long been divorced from reality, much less a coherent strategy to win reelection.

But at best his repeated attempts to ignite an October Surprise seem to rely on grievances from the 2016 race — most of all, the same old attacks on Hillary Clinton.

Trump is now a desperate man clinging to power to stave off the humiliation of a defeat on Election Day.

He can try again to pressure Barr on indicting his political opponents on bogus charges.

But for now, Trump’s attempts to patch together another October Surprise are too low, even for Barr.

Now that is saying something.

Juan Williams is an author, and an analyst for Fox News Channel.