The Russia conspiracy was one of the worst shaggy dog stories in American history, up there with the JFK-CIA-Castro-aliens theories of Jim Garrison or Saddam Hussein’s supposed nuclear weapons. The difference is that I don’t think anyone has ever really believed it. The first time I heard such a theory proposed was during the week of the Democratic convention, when Trump responded to news about WikiLeaks by joking that maybe the Russians could help locate all of Clinton’s missing emails. The New York Times and other allegedly serious news organizations reported that Trump had “invited the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton.” Yes, this is how conspiracies are born — on live television, before an audience of millions.

Since then the bad-faith insinuations have been given a quasi-official vehicle by Mueller and received the uncritical support of a Washington establishment that resents Trump’s victory. It has allowed them to spend two years not coming to terms with the fact that he beat Hillary Clinton because some voters liked him more and agreed with his policies and because he made a point of actually campaigning in the states that he needed to win. It has forced the Democratic Party to turn on a dime from Barack Obama’s jokes about the ’80s wanting their foreign policy back to calls for a new Cold War. It has effectively hamstrung Trump’s ability to execute the office of the presidency. It has also led to the indictment of a number of individuals for crimes ranging from tax fraud to lying to federal officials. All of these offenses were committed either before or after the 2016 election, with the exception of Michael Cohen’s violation of federal campaign finance law. So far as I am aware no one has ever proposed that the Stormy Daniels affair had Putin’s fingerprints all over it.