When word spread after the recent arrest of Rudy Giuliani's business associates that prosecutors are eyeing the ex-mayor himself, President Donald Trump tweeted that an unidentified "they" were "after … a great guy and wonderful lawyer."
"Such a one-sided Witch Hunt going on in USA. Deep State. Shameful!," he declared.
There is one big problem with Trump's reflexive "deep state" defense: He appointed Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman and his boss, Attorney General William Barr, in whose domain the cases fall.
A similar credibility problem arises for Trump in the impeachment inquiry.
This week the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, William Taylor, testified that U.S. military aid to that country was explicitly linked to its government's willingness to carry out a probe into U.S. Democrats.
Taylor is a seasoned foreign-service professional who received a Bronze Star for heroism in Vietnam and served in every administration since 1985. In May it was Mike Pompeo, who is Trump's secretary of state, who asked Taylor to become acting ambassador to Ukraine.
And still, when word spread of the blockbuster testimony, the president tried to discredit Taylor by calling him a "Never Trumper."
For her part, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham blamed "radical unelected bureaucrats" for her boss' troubles.
"Deep state" has long been a pejorative term for the hundreds of bureaucracies that comprise the U.S. government. The basic idea is that those who run the intelligence community and other functions pursue agendas separate from those of elected officials. Sometimes in the past, suspicions have proved valid.
From FBI Director James Comey to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Trump has hired — and then fired and disparaged — top-flight bureaucrats who clearly knew their jobs well. But they seem to have stood in the way of Trump's most controversial whims.
Trump's "deep state" allegations have proved so empty and selfish that they could collectively give honest paranoid conspiracy theorists across the land a bad name.
We now see serviceable bureaucrats become heroes of the oversight process just by blandly describing their strait-laced objections to Trump's capers.
Nowhere does there come a sign that the president is focused on improving or reforming agencies. He draws attention when he tries to turn foreign officials against his domestic rivals, or warn authorities off probing his former national security adviser, or crush a probe of his campaign.
Law enforcement and foreign service aren't the only areas where Trump demeaned or embarrassed civil servants. Last month, the president told his staff that the National Weather Service needed to walk back its message correcting him when he wrongly claimed Hurricane Dorian threatened Alabama, insiders reported.
Trump, meanwhile, refrains from attacking off-payroll supporters such as businessmen Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, the Soviet-born Giuliani friends who are also said to be helping to pursue Joe Biden over his son Hunter Biden's past business dealings in Ukraine.
They pleaded not guilty this week to funneling money through straw donors to U.S. election candidates to win influence. Prosecutors also said they pushed to have the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, removed from her post.
As it turned out, Trump administration officials pushed out Yovanovitch. Ironically, they turned to the seasoned Taylor to succeed her.
It makes you wonder if anyone but a close Trump friend or relative could have satisfied Trump's special qualifications for this government job.