Less than two weeks after his election, Donald Trump announced to the world that he was considering a crazed animal for his first secretary of defense.

Nobody but Trump called the highly respected general Mad Dog. But that didn’t stop the maddest dog of them all. Jim Mattis, who told everyone he hated the nickname, eventually resigned because he wasn’t mad enough to follow the leader of this peculiar pack by trashing every US ally on the planet.

But that was so 2018.

If we’ve learned anything at all about the wackadoodle commander-in-chief by now, we know that the brazen bozo knows no bounds. We’ve also come to discover that everyone who works near him eventually starts howling like a mad dog, whether or not they were unhinged on the day they were hired.

This is not meant to impugn the good character of our crazy canine friends. But it’s hard to fathom the conduct of a grown man who behaves like Donald Trump. Much like a naked drunken streaker at a Stoke City game, his pleasure at flaunting his crime is in inverse proportion to our respect for his genius, courage and good looks.

Perhaps we’ve been overthinking this. Perhaps, instead of gaslighting us all with some grand deception, Trump has been gaslighting himself into thinking he was kind of good at this media thing he calls the presidency.

Either way, the big dog managed to drop a huge one on his impeachment defense on Thursday.

Sure, sure, the whistleblower report was hearsay. Sure, sure, the House Democrats were fabricating everything. Sure, sure, there was no attempt to get Ukraine to interfere with an American election. It was all so perfect. Just like the call between Trump and Zelensky.

Until Trump opened his big mouth. What exactly did he want Zelensky to do after their call, asked one cunning reporter on the White House south lawn on Thursday?

“Well, I would think that, if they were honest about it, they’d start a major investigation into the Bidens. It’s a very simple answer,” said the very simple president.

“They should investigate the Bidens, because how does a company that’s newly formed – and all these companies, if you look at. And by the way likewise China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with, with Ukraine.”

Admitting to your crimes in front of the TV cameras is a novel way to start your defense. Extending those crimes to yet another country – this time, China – is certainly original. Seeking that help from a country you’ve dragged into an epic trade war is venturing into creative territory.

(And yes, dear MAGA readers, it’s a crime.)

Did it ever cross our mad dog’s mind that maybe – just maybe – it wasn’t a great idea to smear the Bidens with the very same stuff that his own family produces every day of the week? Probably not. In Nixon’s day they used to call this “dirty tricks.” In Trump’s hands, it’s more like a dirty protest.

So we have the exquisite sight and sound of the saintly Mike Pence righteously condemning any family member trying to make a quick buck from someone close to the presidency.

“I think the American people have a right to know if the Vice President of the United States or his family profited from this position as Vice President during the last administration,” he incanted at the First Baptist Church in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Thursday.

Mr Vice President, it gives me great pleasure to introduce you to the Trump family. There may not be enough baptismal water to wash this one down.

How many souls will we lose to this cult of the mad dog?

There’s poor Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, trying and failing to defend Trump by wrongly disputing a word in a pseudo-transcript that he clearly never read.

There’s a cluster of Trump diplomats texting each other about Trump’s unlikely Ukraine adventure: “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” wrote Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Kiev. Crazy for normal people, but totally normal for a mad dog.

There’s a bunch of unnamed Trumpoodles pressuring the IRS to mess with the annual audit of Trump’s tax returns, as yet another whistleblower has reported.

And there’s Mike Pompeo, who thinks it’s normal to go on national TV and pretend like he knew nothing about the Ukraine call. Ten days later, the secretary of state admitted he took part in the very same call, but declared Congress should back off.

Ten days before that, pundits thought Pompeo could run for senate or even president.

For heaven’s sake, gentlemen! You’re sacrificing your reputations for a man who tweets the Nickleback meme, whose campaign mimics A-ha, and who can’t stop trashing Greta Thunberg. Were there no other mad dogs you could find in a dark DC alley?

Crazy things happen when crazy takes over the West Wing. Pretty soon, you end up with Fox News – Fox News! – firing a wingnut like Todd Starnes for saying that Democrats worship a pagan god who likes child sacrifice.

The impeachment saga that is only just starting will revolve around whether Donald Trump is unfit to hold the office of the president. But we already know the answer to that. The real question is whether Trump is fit to hold a pack of Tide pods.

A former police detective in Washington liked to tell the story of the dumbest criminal he ever met. This particular felon plotted an elaborate stick-up at a Home Depot, where he pretended to be interested in applying for a job. He duly filled out a job application form before pulling out his gun to demand all their cash. A few hours after the robbery, the police rolled up to his home to arrest him: he wrote his real address on the job form.

Donald Trump behaves like he’s pulling off the heist of the century. For all we know about his personal finances, he might just be. But thanks to multiple whistleblowers, and the words that tumble endlessly out of his mouth, we now have something else: the trail of evidence that leads right to the Oval Office.

  • Richard Wolffe is a Guardian US columnist