In the past 48 hours or so, President Trump and his allies have debuted a new set of absurdities designed to defend him amid the worsening Ukraine scandal. Let’s sum up the emerging set of positions:

  1. Trump didn’t really pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden. Fake News!
  2. The whistleblower was lying when he claimed Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden. Deep State!
  3. Democrats are perpetrating a massive fraud on the American people in claiming Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden. Drain the Swamp!
  4. When Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden, it was absolutely the right thing to do. The Fake News and the Deep State are telling you otherwise because Trump is indeed succeeding at DRAINING THE SWAMP!

The careful reader will discern the problem here. Trumpworld is suggesting he didn’t actually pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to help him rig the election by manufacturing smears of his potential general-election opponent — while simultaneously claiming he did the right thing in doing so.

This set of inanities illustrates just how untenable Trump’s standing in this whole scandal has become. It also points to how Trump and his allies hope to lay down a covering fog of disinformation as the facts become more and more inarguable.

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Ron Johnson’s howler

The first of these absurdities comes from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). On “Meet the Press,” Johnson sprayed a bunch of conspiracy theories about the genesis of the Russia investigation, then claimed that Trump’s only goal is to get to the bottom of that.

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“Unlike the narrative of the press that President Trump wants to dig up dirt on his 2020 opponent, what he wants is an accounting of what happened in 2016,” Johnson claimed. Trump quickly hailed Johnson for supposedly routing “Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd.”

Of course, the rough White House transcript of Trump’s call itself unequivocally shows that Trump did pressure Zelensky to “dig up dirt on his 2020 opponent.” Trump told Zelensky that Biden “stopped the prosecution” of his son, which is a lie, and prodded Zelensky to “look into it,” thus pressing him to manufacture a smear of Biden.

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They can’t make that transcript disappear

The second and third of the absurdities listed above come from Trump himself. Trump just tweeted that the House Intelligence Committee’s early contact with the “highly partisan” whistleblower was “illegal” and that the committee’s chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) put words in Trump’s mouth in a “fraudulent” way.

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That latter claim is a reference to a recent committee hearing at which Schiff dramatized Trump’s pressure on the Ukrainian president by imitating a mobster carrying out a shakedown.

The idea that this early whistleblower-committee contact was illegal and undercuts the whistleblower’s claims is a straight-up lie. And even if you question the wisdom of Schiff’s dramatization, it was an accurate representation: Schiff dramatized Trump urging Zelensky to manufacture dirt on Biden, and to contact lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr to facilitate this.

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The transcript confirms that those things actually happened. When Trump claims the conduct of House Democrats and the whistleblower in revealing all this was partisan, fraudulent and illegal, he’s trying to fog over that core truth.

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Indeed, Trump has taken to suggesting that the whistleblower was fake and that his account was wrong, which, again, is belied by the White House’s own transcript (and let’s not forget that officials buried this transcript on a super-secret system until the whistleblower unmasked the scheme). As Adam Serwer notes, all this is really tantamount to faulting the deep state for not letting Trump get away with the corrupt acts that actually did take place.

Which brings us to the fourth inanity: Now that Trump got caught in these extraordinarily corrupt acts, he’s trying to cast them as the right thing to do, even as he and his allies try to sow doubts about whether they happened at all.

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Trump’s ad tells the whole story

Heck, this ridiculousness is shamelessly and unabashedly on display in the new ad that Trump is running against Biden. Watch it:

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The ad’s core claim rests on the idea that the Ukrainian prosecutor Biden wanted ousted was investigating his son, which, again, is a lie. But the ad’s additional point here is that when Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to examine this, he was fighting “corruption." Note that Trump says this ad shows he’s DRAINING THE SWAMP!”

The core deception driving this whole disinformation campaign, of course, is not merely that Trump is lying about what Biden did, but also the fluid and continuing conflation of “investigate Biden” with “investigate corruption.”

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Trump is claiming both that what Biden in Ukraine did was corrupt and merits investigation (because Biden is corrupt), and that his calls for an investigation of corruption in Ukraine have nothing whatsoever to do with Biden (because those demands are entirely apolitical).

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But that’s not sustainable. The transcript confirms that his demand was directed at Biden, and even more incoherently and absurdly, Trump himself wants the story to be all about Biden!

And so, Trump and his allies are now cornered. The only argument they have left is that calling for a foreign power to “investigate” his political opponent is the right thing to do, and that the deep state and Democrats only want to stop this because they, too, belong to the “swamp.”

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In Trump’s right-wing populism-speak, the real reason the “deep state” and the “swamp” are enemies to be vanquished is that they are functioning as meaningful obstacles to Trump’s bottomless corruption -- to his efforts to sell out our foreign policy and rig our elections to maintain his and his supporters’ grip on power.

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