The US president is facing an impeachment inquiry directly related to his relentless pursuit of malicious untruths
Donald Trumps fondness for conspiracy theories stretches back years, to his claim to have seen thousands and thousands of Muslims cheering on 9/11, his denial of the climate crisis and many other falsehoods.
Indeed, you can date Trumps entry into presidential politics to his 2011 birther fixation, when he claimed Barack Obama was born outside the US. The 44th president was born in Hawaii and his birth certificate proves it.
Now, Trumps taste for scurrilous and malicious untruths has come back to bite him. The US president is facing an impeachment inquiry that could remove him from office, precisely because of his relentless pursuit of conspiracy theories.
Here are the five such theories that lie at the heart of the Ukraine scandal:
1. Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire its chief prosecutor, to shield his son Hunter
This goes right to the core of the impeachment inquiry, as it speaks to the urgent concern raised by a whistleblower in the intelligence services. According to the whistleblowers complaint, Trump repeatedly urged the Ukrainian government to investigate the former vice-president, in the hope of gathering dirt on someone who stands a good chance of contesting next years presidential election.
Trumps theory begins with a truth: in 2016 Biden withheld $1bn in loan guarantees from Ukraine in order to winkle out its then chief prosecutor, Viktor Shokin. The prosecutor, Trumps story goes on less accurately, was busily investigating Hunter Biden, the vice-presidents second son, who was a paid board member of a large Ukrainian gas company, Burisma.
Two and two makes five: Joe Biden, Trump concluded, was corruptly interfering in Ukraine in order to protect his son.
There are problems with this narrative. The Burisma investigation was dormant when Biden pushed for Shokin to be fired. And Biden was not alone in wanting Shokin out: several European governments and authorities including the IMF also pressed for his dismissal, because of his dire record on fighting corruption.
2. Hunter Biden was up to his neck in corruption
There is no doubt the younger Bidens appointment at Burisma in April 2014 was curious, to put it politely. He had no expertise in the gas industry and it is hard to avoid the thought his main attraction was his bloodline.
But the move was not illegal and his father has stated that the pair never discussed business. In May, the then prosecutor general of Ukraine told Bloomberg there was no evidence either Biden did anything wrong.
Then, as now, there was no law or regulation preventing children or other relatives of powerful public figures pursuing lucrative business opportunities.
Ask Billy Carter, brother of Jimmy Carter; Hillary Clintons brothers, Tony and Hugh Rodham; and George W Bushs brother Neil. As Vox has pointed out, all raised eyebrows by engaging in business dealings when their relative was in high office. To that list you might add three other presidential children: Donald Jr, Eric and Ivanka Trump.
3. The whistleblower is biased
Trump has repeatedly smeared the individual he calls the so-called whistleblower and #FakeWhistleblower, questioning his or her patriotism and motivations.
A whole new conspiracy theory has emerged. Trump has tweeted a link to an article by the rightwing website the Federalist that suggests foul play on the grounds that Andrew Bakaj, the whistleblowers attorney, interned for leading Democrats Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton.
Stephen Miller, Trumps senior adviser, told Fox News Sunday: I know the difference between a whistleblower and a deep state operative.
The truth is, very little is known about the whistleblowers political beliefs. The inspector general of the intelligence community, the first to receive the complaint, did find some indicia of an arguable political bias.
But he concluded that the allegations appeared credible. Furthermore, the general counsel in the office of the director of national intelligence stated: We have every reason to believe that [the whistleblower] has acted in good faith.
In a related theory, the Federalist also reported that shortly before the Ukraine complaint was filed, the US intelligence community secretly eliminated a requirement that whistleblowers provide direct, first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings. The report, embraced by conservative media figures Trump is known to follow, has been debunked.
This is the most bizarre of all Trumps Ukraine fantasies. To put it briefly: Crowdstrike, a cybersecurity company hired by the Democratic National Committee to look into a massive hack of emails during the 2016 election, was in cahoots with key Democrats and collectively framed Russia as the source of the theft.
In fact, the theory goes, the DNC server was not hacked by Russia but was hidden in Ukraine. The whole Russia line was a ruse to besmirch Trump and help Clinton.
There are so many fallacies in the theory it is hard to know where to begin. There is no one DNC server and it is not hidden in Ukraine. Russia was confirmed as the source of the hacked emails by US intelligence agencies, the justice department and the FBI.
On Sunday, Trumps first homeland security adviser, Thomas Bossert no deep state Democrat he told ABC the idea Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in 2016 was completely debunked and has no validity.
5. George Soros is behind it all
Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York who is now Trumps personal lawyer, has repeatedly touted the idea that the billionaire philanthropist was the financier and mastermind behind Democratic dirty dealings in Ukraine.
George Soros was behind it, George Soros company was funding it, Giuliani told ABC, referring to the related conspiracy theory that Ukraine colluded with Clinton.
Soros has been a favourite target of virulent rightwing conspiracy theories dating back to the early 1990s, many with antisemitic undertones.
The Soros-Ukraine narrative has been widely discredited. An investigation by the Daily Beast found it to be flimsy and based almost entirely on innuendos.