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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Climategate. Russiagate. Ukrainegate. Now it's Denialgate.

President Donald Trump speaks Tuesday at an Operation

President Donald Trump speaks Tuesday at an Operation Warp Speed "vaccine summit" at the White House. Credit: AP/Evan Vucci

Day after day, this scandal has dripped out. On Wednesday, a Pennsylvania appellate court denied the latest bid by loyalists of President Donald Trump to decertify President-elect Joe Biden's win in the state.

Commonwealth Court President Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt said GOP plaintiffs "are unable to demonstrate a clear right to relief or likelihood of prevailing on the merits because their underlying action … is really an improper and untimely election contest."

Of course it is. Dozens of other court decisions from judges of both major parties found the Trump camp's conspiracy and fraud claims to be vapor. Assertions were shown to be not mistaken but bogus. Nasty, illegitimate claims were filed against people outside Trump's orbit, and everyone knew it. It was all intended to deny the obvious ballot results for as long as possible.

The scandal lies in the deceptive denial of an American election's legitimacy. For Trump, the goal of the grift may be simply to perpetuate the myth that he really won so that some citizens will repeat it. Trump screamed "voter fraud" even after he won in 2016. As president, he appointed a hapless commission on the topic, and it discovered nothing. He must have seen a purpose because he's going down the same road again.

The former director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, now suing Trump's campaign, characterizes the president's fake claims as goal-oriented, not just dishonest or petulant. That's a key point. The ex-director, Chris Krebs, was the latest in a line of federal officials fired by the president for doing his job. In a defamation suit, Krebs' lawyer Jim Walden sketches what plausibly sounds like a conspiracy generated by Trump.

Call it a counter-conspiracy theory.

Walden said the conspiracy to discredit the president's critics predates the election when his campaign realized it couldn’t win the mail-in votes, The Washington Post reported. Walden said that scheme includes the campaign’s shoddy election challenges in court.

"Part of the conspiracy alleged [in Krebs' lawsuit] is trying to hawk false evidence to courts, and part of it is to fraudulently raise money," Walden said.

Clearly fundraising has been energized by urgent appeals for donations in the name of the Trump-Pence campaign since Nov. 3. Hyping a possible 2024 comeback — as Trump has — would contradict the notion that he has any reason to believe he'd be declared the 2020 winner. But that doesn't matter, as long as Trump doesn't concede defeat. What would be the yield from even small, ideological donors if Trump admits he may soon be irrelevant?

He has his customers, after all. And he will give them a show based, if necessary, on the denial of reality.

Beginning with Watergate, nearly a half-century worth of U.S. public scandals have earned the "-gate" suffix. The Denialgate term was first bandied about eight years ago when leaked documents revealed plans by a conservative think tank to "debunk" the reality of climate change and pay "experts" to help the effort. This was also called Climategate. The intent was to deny valid scientific findings.

The current events now best described as Trump's Denialgate follow the pattern of his other "gates." In Russiagate, the scandal involved his campaign's attempts to downplay or deny the Russian government's obvious efforts to damage Democrat Hillary Clinton. Ukrainegate was exacerbated by Trump's multiple denials of obvious facts, mainly funding-based pressure on a foreign government to legitimize conspiracy stories about U.S. Democrats.

Trump's repeated denials of the true threats of the coronavirus are now legion, too. The president may be a terrible liar, but even now he keeps on practicing. Surely he finds value in it.

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