The “law of merited impossibility” is a creation of The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher, who uses the phrase to describe reassurances from progressives to conservatives that something the latter group fears “will never happen, and when it does, you bigots will deserve it.” So, for example, “churches will never lose their tax exemptions for refusing to perform gay weddings, and when they do, they had it coming for being homophobic.”

As the impeachment proceedings against President Trump move forward, I’m seeing echoes of Dreher’s contradictory construction in a very different context. Many of the president’s defenders follow a pattern I’ll call the “law of Trump’s unnecessary innocence,” which says Trump is innocent of whatever he’s accused of doing, and when he did it, it was actually wise and positive for himself and/or the country. He didn’t do the alleged bad thing, but he did it because it was a good thing to do. How dare you accuse him of this?! He doesn’t have to deny it because it was totally the right call.

The most glaring example of this law at work is undoubtedly the rickety defenses raised by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. The official Trump administration position has been that there was “no quid pro quo” in Trump’s decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine. The delay in sending the funds was about corruption in Kyiv and European aid allotment, the Trump camp has insisted, and not an attempt to coerce the Ukrainian government into conducting an investigation (into Hunter Biden and/or a hacked DNC email server) on the president’s behalf.