But Trump refused to see it that way. Sequestered in the White House and brooding out of public view after his election defeat, rageful and at times delirious in a torrent of private conversations, Trump was, in the telling of one close adviser, like “Mad King George, muttering, ‘I won. I won. I won.’”…

The Venezuelan tale was too fantastical even for Trump, a man predisposed to conspiracy theories who for years has feverishly spread fiction. Advisers described the president as unsure about the latest gambit — made worse by the fact that what looked like black hair dye mixed with sweat had formed a trail dripping down both sides of Giuliani’s face during the news conference. Trump thought the presentation made him “look like a joke,” according to one campaign official who discussed it with him.

“I, like everyone else, have yet to see any evidence of it, but it’s a thriller — you’ve got Chávez, seven years after his death, orchestrating this international conspiracy that politicians in both parties are funding,” a Republican official said facetiously. “It’s an insane story.”

Aides said the president was especially disappointed in Powell when Tucker Carlson, host of Fox News’s most-watched program, assailed her credibility on the air after she declined to provide any evidence to support her fraud claims.