But for his fans, it was all just further proof of the media’s obsession with Trump and its unyielding attempts to overturn the result of the 2016 election. The upside of convincing your supporters that the media will say anything to take you down is total inoculation against just about any allegation imaginable. And the president’s apparent anti-fragility means that each successive episode digs his boosters in further, validating the “fake news” narrative and eroding whatever remaining standing legacy institutions may still have. In fact, in the more imaginative quarters of the online right, this was just an attempt to distract from the “real story,” Seth Rich and WikiLeaks.

You might argue that since Trump’s core supporters make up a mere third of the country that they are receiving undue attention. But this electoral rump is distributed overwhelmingly among the states and districts that send Republicans to Congress. For the vast majority of these members, the GOP primary is tantamount to the general election; the rest are tied to the broader ebb of the midterm tide in either direction. Which means, for better or worse, that the permission structure to break from Trump in any meaningful way is tied to his standing in the polls.