The Trump administration is in the throes of one of the greatest self-inflicted distractions of the modern presidency.
The latest chapter comes from James Comey in his highly anticipated congressional testimony. The FBI director said he has no information to support President Donald Trump's infamous weekend tweets alleging he was wiretapped by President Barack Obama during the campaign.
This was treated as a bombshell, although what would have been truly surprising is if he said Trump's allegations had a sound factual basis.
Every administration gets knocked off its game early on by something. What makes the furor over Trump's wiretapping claims so remarkable is how unnecessary it is. The flap didn't arise from events outside of the administration's control, nor was it a clever trap sprung by its adversaries.
The president went out of his way to initiate it. He picked up his phone and tweeted allegations that he had no idea were true, either to distract from what he thought was a bad news cycle or to vent, or both.
The fallout has proved there is no such thing as "just a tweet" from the most powerful man on the planet. Trump's aides have scrambled to find some justification for the statements after the fact and offended an age-old foreign ally in the process.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested it was British intelligence that might have been monitoring Trump.
Congressional leaders have become consumed with the matter, and it has dominated news coverage for weeks. Such is the power of a couple of blasts of 140 characters or less from the president of the United States.
The flap has probably undermined Trump's political standing and at the very least has diverted him and his team from much more important work on Capitol Hill.
In an alternative and more conventional universe, the White House would be crowing over Judge Neil Gorsuch's testimony before Congress. Instead, it is jousting with the FBI director over wayward tweets.
Spicer was reduced to arguing Comey's categorical rejection of the wiretapping claim was only provisional. Let's not jump to conclusions, etc., etc.
Such is the life of a press secretary when his boss has the power to make him defend the indefensible during a few thoughtless moments alone with his phone. Since the wiretapping allegations, Spicer's days have been spent in the semantics and air quotes necessary to support Trump's claims.
Only Trump can make it stop. He has shown, despite his unwillingness ever to admit error, an ability over the past year to simply drop and move on from counterproductive controversies. He should do the same with his wiretapping tweets.
Comey's second bombshell was the more consequential one. He confirmed there is an ongoing FBI investigation of Russia's role in the election and possible ties to the Trump campaign.
It may eventually emerge that some of Trump's conversations were picked up when people in his orbit were being surveilled in this probe.
It's hard to see why the Russians would have involved Trump associates in what should have been a simple two-step process: 1) hack Democratic accounts; 2) give the resulting information to WikiLeaks.
But Comey's acknowledgement of the investigation will stoke the darkest suspicions of the left.
All the more reason for Trump to avoid doubling down on unforced errors.
There are plenty of people who want to distract and damage his administration. The president of the United States shouldn't be one of them.