WASHINGTON -- It began, as these things generally do, with Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-Benghazi.
The voluble congressman, who speaks as if he is arguing the trial of the century even if he is ordering breakfast, went on Fox News on Tuesday to divulge a secret.
"There's a text exchange between these two FBI agents" -- Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, who had originally been on Robert Mueller's Russia probe -- "saying that perhaps this is the first meeting of the 'secret society,'" Gowdy announced. "I'm going to want to know what secret society are you talking about."
A secret society! The Illuminati? The Carbonari? Or perhaps the dreaded Rigatoni? Or, um, maybe, given that Strzok and Page were lovers, their text was actually a joke or a flirtation.
Gowdy's sidekick, Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, allowed that "there may have been a secret society," but "I'm not saying that actually happened."
He did not need to. Sen. Ron Johnson did. "I have heard from somebody who has talked to our committee that there is a group of individuals in the FBI who were holding secret, off-site meetings," the Wisconsin Republican told Fox News on Wednesday. (Maybe that person was Gowdy?)
Fox had a news alert: "Texts Indicate Secret Society to Resist Trump." Sean Hannity tweeted: "FBI CONSPIRACY? Text Messages Show Anti-Trump 'SECRET SOCIETY' at DOJ."
Rush Limbaugh said he was "not surprised there's a secret society" going after President Trump, and he alleged that a secret society also cooked up fake intelligence to goad George W. Bush into a dumb war. "What if the intel on the war in Iraq was another disinformation campaign to damage another Republican president?" Limbaugh asked.
Exactly! And what if Ted Cruz's dad, after killing President Kennedy, forged Barack Obama's birth certificate?
But we do not have to speculate about this secret society, for I have obtained, at great personal risk, the following leaked minutes from the society's meeting on Inauguration Day last year:
20th January, anno Domini 2017
Society for Harassing and Impeaching Trump with Hearsay, Outrageous Lies and Extralegal Schemes
Recording Secretary: Maddow, R.
The meeting was called to order at noon. Society officers greeted each other with the secret fist bump, recited the secret Pledge of Allegiance to Saul Alinsky, and then knelt for the national anthem, sung by an illegal immigrant.
In attendance: Podesta, J., worshipful master; Comey, J., senior warden; Mueller, R., junior warden; Rosenstein, R., inner guard; McCabe, A., pursuivant; Strzok, P., steward; Page, L., almoner; Clapper, J., grand sword-bearer; Yates, S., grand registrar; Soros, G., treasurer. Absent: Clinton, H., grand standard-bearer.
Members voted to accept as submitted the minutes of the November 2016 meeting, titled "How Our Gal Lost," and of the December 2016 meeting, titled "Witch Hunt: Is Our Phony Dossier Working?"
The steering committee presented its Inauguration Day recommendations in a report titled "Underhanded and Conspiratorial Things We Can Do to Make Trump Look Bad."
The society would use its contacts to convince Trump that he was the victim of massive voter fraud and that Obama personally ran a wiretap on him. This would make Trump sound paranoid.
The society would use its influence to convince Trump that Frederick Douglass is still alive and that Andrew Jackson was involved in the Civil War. This would make Trump sound dumb.
The society would hack Trump's Twitter account so that it appeared he was calling the North Korean leader "fat" and a "Rocket Man" with a small "button." This would make Trump sound dangerous.
The society would secretly edit video footage and transcripts to show Trump shoving a world leader and insulting leaders of friendly countries such as Australia, Britain and Sweden. This would make Trump sound like a bully.
The society would infiltrate White House policy so Trump would add trillions of dollars to the deficit to give billionaires a huge tax break. This would make Trump sound like a liar.
The society would convince Trump to say kind things about white supremacists, and to use a filthy word to describe African countries. This would make Trump sound like a racist.
The society, finally, would convince Trump to fire an FBI director, hire a guy named "Mooch" and declare himself a "stable genius." This would make it clear he was neither.
Worshipful Master Podesta called for discussion.
Senior Warden Comey said the proposals sounded "too far-fetched." Grand sword-bearer Clapper said it would be "impossible" to get Trump to say and do such things. Pursuivant McCabe said people would never believe such "outlandish" things, anyway.
The recommendations were defeated en bloc. The society adjourned.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.
(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group