Arguing with Donald Trump and the president's most fervent supporters is usually a wasted effort. If they truly believe his paranoid whining about "the deep state conspiracy" to oust him, they're not much interested in facts or logic.
Trump's increasing efforts to promote confusion over the origins and conduct of the Russia investigation nevertheless deserve to be refuted. So do his repeated complaints that he is the victim of a political scandal even worse than Watergate.
He can continuously bamboozle his Fox-befuddled followers because the Russia saga is complex and convoluted — and because they all live in his world of "alternative truths." It is not the real world that the rest of us inhabit.
In Trump's world, the Russia investigation is a "witch hunt," the biggest ever of course, conceived years ago at the instigation of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton by unnamed yet nefarious intelligence officials — those denizens of the "deep state."
In the real world, U.S. intelligence officials open an investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election during July of that year — after hearing from Australian and other friendly intelligence agencies about the Kremlin's hacking into Democratic emails.
In Trump's world, the Obama Justice Department cruelly violated the privacy of his former campaign adviser Carter Page in order to advance the conspiracy against him, while hiding behind the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
In the real world, Page's contacts with Kremlin agents both in the United States and Russia had attracted the attention of the FBI counterintelligence division long before Trump announced his campaign for president. In fact, Page became a person of interest in a 2013 investigation that eventually led to the imprisonment of one Russian spy and the expulsion of two confederates who had diplomatic cover. To obtain the FISA warrant, prosecutors had to persuade a federal judge that there was "probable cause" to treat Page as a witting clandestine operative for the Russian government.
In Trump's world, the FBI sent Stefan Halper, a longtime Republican source, to "spy" on his presidential campaign in 2016. Halper's mundane conversations about Russia with three campaign operatives were, according to Trump, part of the bureau's gigantic conspiracy to undermine him.
In the real world, Halper did nothing that harmed Trump's campaign, while the FBI used every means to conceal its investigation into the campaign's Kremlin connections during the weeks before Election Day. The bureau's highly effective effort to protect Trump resulted in a front-page New York Times article on Oct. 31 with a wholly misleading and premature headline: "Investigating Donald Trump, FBI Sees No Clear Link To Russia."
In Trump's world, the FBI allowed Hillary Clinton to escape prosecution for using a private email server (as Colin Powell did before her) and top FBI officials schemed to help her win the presidency.
In the real world, as everyone knows, then-FBI director James Comey twice violated Justice Department rules to harm Clinton's campaign by publicly criticizing her and by revealing, just days before the election, that his agents were examining emails on her aide Huma Abedin's laptop. (Trump should remember what Comey did because it helped him win the election — and because he later cited it as an excuse for firing Comey.)
To this day, in Trump's world, the FBI and the Justice Department are controlled by "deep state" forces hostile to him and determined to remove him from his duly elected position as president. And the special counsel investigation is merely the instrument of these hostile bureaucrats, who are probably Democrats.
In the real world, Trump himself appointed the career law enforcement officials who now run the FBI and the Justice Department — notably including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray, both of whom happen to be lifelong Republicans (as is special counsel Robert Mueller).
There is no evidence whatsoever to support the fantastic falsehoods of Trump's world — a construction of presidential lies on a scale that would thrill Josef Goebbels.
Concerned only with preserving himself, he slanders federal law enforcement officers and undermines the nation's bulwarks against terrorism, espionage and crime almost every day. In the end, he won't escape the judgment of the American people and of history. But meanwhile he is inflicting terrible damage on the systems that protect us all.
To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.