It's become clear that things in the nation's capital are boiling down to this:
Leaders in Congress, law enforcement, and intelligence are struggling to convince one man that an investigation he imagined never existed and that another probe that he refuses to acknowledge is real.
The surreal dynamic reached its zenith on Monday, as FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers confirmed there's no evidence to back up President Donald Trump'saccusation that President Barack Obama illegally ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower. "I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI," Comey said.
In a more explosive revelation, Comey also said the FBI was investigating potential links between the Trump campaign and Russian hacking in the 2016 election, an issue Trump tweeted just that morning was "made up" by Democrats to excuse their loss in November.
The twin disclosures leave Trump alone on an island of conspiracy theories.
That's a problem for the president, but it has the potential to create issues that go far beyond.
"The president's commentary about surveillance allegations and the Russian election meddling investigation is dangerous," Matthew Waxman, a Columbia law professor who held national security positions under President George W. Bush, told NBC News.
Waxman listed myriad potential consequences: Corroding the relationship between the White House and intelligence community; interfering with government agencies' usual work; exposing rifts with key lawmakers in Congress; and suggesting to allies that Russian aggression is not taken seriously.
But the biggest issue might be Trump's credibility.
For those keeping score on Trump's wiretap claim, Monday's hearing means it's now his word against the FBI, the NSA, the Department of Justice, the top Republican and Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, all of whom have said there's no evidence to support his attack.
"Our credibility is shredding in front of us," said retired Admirial James Stavridis, an NBC analyst, in an interview with "Power Lunch."
Expanding outside the United States, the list of those troubled by Trump's claims includes the British intelligence agency GCHQ, which White House press secretary Sean Spicer and Trump roped into the story by citing Fox News commentator Andrew Napolitano's suggestion that Obama ordered the agency to spy on his behalf.
On Monday, the NSA director joined GCHQ, which called the claim "utterly ridiculous" last week, in shooting down speculation about its involvement. Rogers said Trump's insinuation "clearly frustrates a key ally of ours."
The president has not provided any persuasive evidence since initially lashing out at Obama on March 4 in a series of early-morning tweets. In a Fox interview last week, he defended himself by citing news reports that did not support his claim while vaguely suggesting he might bring forth new evidence.
"I mean, let's see whether or not I prove it," he said at the time. "I just don't choose to do it right now."
The me-against-the-world fight seems to suit the president. Spicer told reporters Monday that Trump would not withdraw his wiretap accusations despite Comey's testimony and that it was only "one in a series of hearings."
The combination of a president with his own facts who also never backs down has created a feedback loop in which dubious statements raise new questions which then generate false responses which foster even more questions.