Imagine a novice jeweler sitting down to count a batch of diamonds he’s just bought. He pulls one out of his bag, marvels over it, tallies it on his sheet and passes it to the expert sitting beside him to determine its value. The expert quickly realizes it’s not a diamond at all, but glass, and tosses it in the trash. But the jeweler, not listening, already has two more “diamonds” in his hand, each larger than the first. His tally sheet is up to three — but the expert quickly junks these new ones, too. Over and over, scores of sparkly rocks tumble out in front of the overwhelmed jeweler, whose count of his fortune continues to swell. The expert, though, knows that his boss has been swindled into buying the equivalent of a broken bottle.

Maybe the expert can get through to the jeweler, once the counting has concluded. Maybe he can convince the jeweler that his haul is worthless. Or maybe he can’t. Maybe the jeweler will accuse his employee of stealing his diamonds. Maybe he’ll claim that they have some other inscrutable value. Maybe he’ll accept that some of the purported diamonds aren’t legit but that he’s got enough real diamonds to still be the wealthiest man in town. The intoxication of the fortune he believed was in his grasp would probably be a hard spell to break. Or maybe the sparkly rocks will just keep coming.

This is the core problem with President Trump’s insistence that the 2020 presidential contest was stolen from him, which it wasn’t. Any shiny rock that appears in front of the president is then passed along to his tens of millions of Twitter followers as diamonds. By the time these are invariably shown to be worthless, it doesn’t matter: He and his supporters already think that they’re flush with examples of purported fraud.

Trump is intentionally trying to keep this sense alive by passing along even obvious nonsense as definitive proof of this alleged malfeasance. It’s like the jeweler coming across a bottle cap, holding it before the loupe he barely knows how to use and happily exclaiming that this one must be 10 carats.

But instead of making the point with rhetoric, let's use this example, retweeted by Trump on Sunday afternoon.

If you are familiar with the website Gateway Pundit, you can’t read this sentence because you’re already rolling your eyes. It is not the absolute least-reputable website on the Internet but, then, the Internet is a big place.

So what's the “BREAKING HUGE” smoking gun here? Well, it's a tweet from a former National Security Agency official named Bill Binney in which Binney claims that there simply weren't enough voters for President-elect Joe Biden to have gotten more than 80 million votes.

His argument, such as it is, goes like this. There are 212 million registered voters in the United States, and The Washington Post — that most estimable of news sources — reports that turnout was 66.2 percent. Therefore, Binney claims, there could only have been about 140 million voters. Take Trump’s 74 million votes and Biden could only have gotten about 66 million votes, max.

BREAKING. HUGE.

Now a casual observer will notice one immediate problem with this claim: Why are we assuming that all of Trump’s votes are legit in this scenario? The answer is: because.

But the bigger problem is that Binney's comparing apples and oranges. Voter turnout in the United States is not generally a comparison of registered voters to actual voters but, instead, between the population eligible to vote and those who do. In other words, the denominator of this equation is every citizen over the age of 18 who isn't excluded from voting, not everyone who is actually registered. That's a lot more than 212 million voters — it's closer to 240 million. Hence the 66.2 percent.

I mean, The Post's article has that explanation right at the top of our chart comparing recent turnout rates — a chart that Gateway Pundit includes in its article.

It says, right there, “as a share of the voting-eligible population.” But Gateway’s pundits instead allege that The Post refuses to question Biden’s support because of our “far-left extreme bias.”

It’s laughably stupid — but also obviously stupid. Binney and the Gateway gang think that some 14 million votes just materialized out of nowhere and no one picked up on it until Binney got out his calculator? That every state was like, “Hmm, we’ve got a 500,000 more votes than voters which seems odd, but I don’t want to rock the boat?” Ludicrous.

But here was this sparkly little object that the president of the United States saw when panning through his Twitter feed, so it gets elevated. Even the most cursory read of the article makes clear that it's ludicrous, but it seems unlikely that Trump even went that far.

That’s the other thing about Trump’s electoral-fraud jewelry story: He doesn’t appear to have an in-house expert. He’s just putting everything in the front window of his store and proclaiming to anyone around how his is the most luxurious, the fanciest jewelry store in Washington.

And, to belabor the analogy, he’s making a killing selling his worthless rocks to those who want to believe they are diamonds.