A wild animal is most dangerous when it’s cornered. We’re seeing that now.

Putin chump Donald Trump, aided by obsequious fright-wing Republicans and amplified by servile TV talking heads, is feeling the heat from Robert Mueller. With each indication that the Russia probe is inching ever closer to his throne, he’s lashing out ever more crazily—conjuring paranoid notions of secret conspirators plotting his downfall.

For proof, check out the Fox News alert (“Secret Society to Resist Trump”), the Sean Hannity tweet (“Anti-Trump SECRET SOCIETY at DOJ”), the Rush Limbaugh bloviation (“not surprised that there’s a secret society”), and some of the remarks on Capitol Hill, although they seem a bit wobbly. Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson hinted this week that an “informant” has outed the “secret society,” but he later walked back his statement. Texas Rep. John Ratcliffe said “there may have been a secret society” but added, “I’m not saying that actually happened.”

They’re doubling down on the crazy precisely because Mueller is turning up the high heat.

The special counsel has reportedly talked to Jeff Sessions and James Comey, and now he wants Trump under oath. He may be zeroing in on an obstruction of justice charge. He’s also probing Trump’s finances, including possible money-laundering entanglements with Russian figures, and Rick Gates, an ex-Trump staffer recently indicted on money-laundering charges, is now reportedly signaling that he might be willing to cooperate. This ain’t Atlantic City, where Trump could stiff contractors and get away with it. This is the big leagues.

And this is a very dangerous phase we are entering. To save himself, Trump is clearly willing to slime the credibility of our law enforcement agencies. To help him, most Republicans are clearly willing to re-brand themselves as the party of paranoia. And Putin is surely pleased, because this way he’s infecting our democracy without firing a shot.

I refuse to explain in detail the genesis of the “secret society” meme. If you want detail, go to the tinfoil media. The basic gist is the phrase surfaced—without context—in a text exchange between FBI agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page. The lovers swapped tens of thousands of texts in 2016 and 2017, and at times they dumped on Trump. (They also, at various times, dumped on Democrats, including Obama attorney general Eric Holder).

But Sean Hannity thinks these texts are “like Watergate, but far worse...It reeks of conspiracy.” And his client, Trump, has been very excited about the texts—especially because, as it turns out, an unknown number of texts, exchanged between December 2016 and May 2017, are missing.

Unfortunately for Hannity and Trump, it turns out the texts were erased in a widespread technical screwup at the Department of Justice that affected nearly 10 percent of the FBI’s 35,000 employees. Care to guess who broke that story? A reporter on the website of Fox News.

As for Trump, he said on Wednesday that he’d “love” to take questions from Mueller. He’d “love to do it as soon as possible,” under oath. But that remark has the value of a three-dollar bill, and, sure enough, his lawyers scrambled to hose down the whole idea, insisting that Trump had spoken hurriedly and that no arrangements have been made. Their qualms are understandable, because they know darn well that Trump is a font of lies and thus risks exposure for perjury.

All the more reason to protect Trump by pumping up the propaganda. Hence this broadside, posted Wednesday: “From ‘secret societies’ to flawed FBI probes, the Russiagate narrative is imploding. The anti-Russia narrative is collapsing under the growing weight of evidence pointing to a concerted internal effort on the part of the U.S. establishment to sabotage the Trump presidency.”

Oh wait! That was posted by the Russians, on their RT network website.

Which prompts me to wonder: With Mueller’s sleuths closing in, are the Russians writing for the Republicans—or is it the other way around?

Dick Polman is the national political columnist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadelphia (newsworks.org/polman). Email him at dickpolman7@gmail.com.

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