After some early missteps, the new defensive team of Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani is engaged in a bold and brash attempt to stand the Mueller investigation into Russian election meddling on its head.
Embellishing on President Trump's repeated allegations of a "witch hunt" and a "Democratic hoax," they have pivoted from the central question of possible collusion between the Trump 2016 presidential campaign and the Kremlin to a major accusation of an FBI plot to oust the elected president.
It is an outlandish exercise seeking to cast the nation's chief law-enforcement agency into a mafia-like hit operation straight out of a gangland movie, with Mr. Trump as the orchestrator and Mr. Giuliani as his legal fixer.
As Mr. Mueller takes his time building a possible case of obstruction of justice against the president, Messrs. Trump and Giuliani are constructing a diversionary smokescreen of an FBI gone rogue.
"Wow, word seems to be coming out that the Obama FBI spied on the Trump campaign with an embedded informant," Mr. Trump tweeted, mostly in capital letters. "If so, it's bigger than Watergate!"
Using the words "embedded" and "spied" suggested that the FBI had planted an agent in the Trump campaign, rather than the possibility that an informant simply came to the FBI on his or her own.
Mr. Giuliani fingers a handful of unidentified FBI operatives as bad apples in a once highly trusted bureau of federal crime busters now bent on driving Mr. Trump from the presidency, either by impeachment or criminal indictment and conviction.
"I don't know why," Mr. Giuliani said, "the current attorney general (Jeff Sessions) and the current director of the FBI (Christopher Wray) want to protect a bunch of renegades that may amount to 20 people at most within the FBI."
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes offered: "What we're trying to figure out is what methods the FBI and DOJ used to investigate and open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign." White House counsel Kellyanne Conway added on Fox News: "It looks like there was an informant there."
Mr. Wray defended the use of informants, saying, "The day we can't protect human sources is the day the American people start becoming less safe." He said they "put themselves at great risk to work with us, and with foreign partners (who) have to be able trust that we're going to protect their lives and the lives of their families."
Among Mr. Trump's unholy allies in trying to undercut the credibility of the FBI is Mr. Nunes, who earlier enlisted in the president's defense team. In March 2017, he made a midnight White House dash and returned with documents professing to show FBI bias against Mr. Trump.
Thereafter, Mr. Nunes rushed through release of an exonerating Intel Committee report by Republican members only, as the Democrats accused him of short-circuiting the list of intended witnesses they wanted called.
A parallel bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee goes forward with its investigation, challenging the Nunes dash to judgment, as the Mueller inquiry has been recast through the Trump-Giuliani assault as just another partisan political sideshow. Through it all, there has been no substantial administration response to the Russian assault on the American democratic process.
The man in the Oval Office may indeed be right in saying the current fiasco is worse than Watergate. In that deplorable escapade, Richard Nixon destroyed only himself with his confession on tape of attempted bribery of the burglars and calling off any FBI investigation.
The current scheme to protect Mr. Trump and his presidency is an intentional attempt to undermine the nation's prime bulwark against all manner of criminal activity. That includes the cherished American concept that no individual, not even the president, is above the law.
Jules Witcover is a syndicated columnist and former long-time writer for The Baltimore Sun. His latest book is "The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power" (Smithsonian Books). His email is email@example.com.