These, with apologies to Tom Paine, should be the times that try conspiratorialists’ souls.
Or their beliefs, anyway.
The wild-eyed theories that have sustained the GOP for several years are now falling like dominoes. Republicans spent much of 2016 up in arms that Hillary Clinton used a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state — and that a small amount of classified material was included in e-mails it processed.
In conservative imaginings, this was a matter of such great moment that many thought Clinton should be prosecuted. That belief endured even after an extensive FBI probe — the late-campaign reopening of which may have cost Clinton the election — found no cause for charges.
Inconvenient indeed, a conclusion like that. But in the way of confirmed conspiratorialists everywhere, the hard-core Hillary-haters regrouped. The reason the G-men hadn’t hauled Hillary off in chains? The bureau was part of a Clinton-protecting cabal.
“While there were some instances of classified information being inappropriately introduced into an unclassified system in furtherance of expedience, by and large, the individuals interviewed were aware of security policies and did their best to implement them in their operations,” the report concluded.
For a president who had told his gullibles that Clinton should be in jail, this could have been an acutely embarrassing moment. Fortunately for him and them, he is utterly incapable of embarrassment.
And he still had his face-saving, truth-defying, electoral deflection: The assertion that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that meddled in our 2016 election, and to hurt him. That’s a favorite for this reason: It provides a pleasing alternative to the conclusion of US intelligence agencies that Russia intervened to help Trump.
Discredited? Well, in the rational world. But for those willing to be borne aloft on the wings of delusion, it certainly offered an emotionally satisfying story. Why, like Daenerys on her dragon, poor kooky Devin Nunes tried to ride that debunked beast into battle during the House impeachment hearings.
So how embarrassing it must have been when steely-eyed Russia expert Fiona Hill, a former member of Trump’s own National Security Council team, declared that the Ukraine claim emanated from a Russian disinformation campaign.
“In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests,” she adjured the House Intelligence Committee. (Good luck with that, Dr. Hill.)
Now an even bigger illusory edifice is teetering unto collapse: Trump’s assertion that the FBI was out to get him. That never made any logical sense, of course. After all, the FBI was probing his campaign’s possible ties to Russia before the election; if the bureau had wanted to sink him, leaked word of that investigation to a major news outlet would probably have done the trick. That didn’t happen.
Still, once he won and word of the FBI probe broke, Trump began charging that the FBI and, later, Special Counsel Robert Mueller, were part of a “Deep State” attempt to remove him from office. At Fox News, that became a nightly part of the Hannity Insanity.
Well, Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who has been looking into the origins of the Russia investigation for months, is now winding up his work — and several news stories say he didn’t find any systematic FBI bias against Trump. About the most serious thing he uncovered: One low-level FBI lawyer added extra information to an e-mail from another agency. That e-mail was part of an informational package for another agent to read before attesting to the assertions in the FBI’s application to surveil Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page. (Mueller removed the agent in question from the Russia probe after several text messages disdainful of Trump and Mike Pence came to his attention.)
But overall, the IG’s report will apparently land with a dull thud.
Trump will of course seize on molehills and declare them mountains. But let’s hope that at least some of his voters will refuse to follow him into yet another fog bank.