At the risk of wandering too far into the weeds, I want to try and define what is meant by “deep state,” a term of art used to describe much of the government Trump Inc. now presides over.

To begin with, when Steve Bannon, White House strategist and Trump whisperer, uses the term deep state, his definition is fundamentally conspiratorial. But more about that later.

First, deep state, as I understand it, refers to those institutions that are run by career people who remain in place though administrations change. Examples would be the EPA, the Justice and State departments, Homeland Security, our three-letter intelligence agencies and, of course, the media.

Our government could not function without those who regard what they do not only as a career but as part of public service.

The deep state is not a shadow government comprising employees whose intention is to shape and influence policy while ignoring the will of the people.

What the deep state amounts to, in the aggregate, is thousands of people working each day to carry out policy as dictated by the three branches of government and in so doing move the nation forward.

But we should know that there are those among us who believe that the deep state, often referred to as that anonymous “they,” is constantly colluding in order to achieve its own agenda.

The internet is awash with such conspiracists who peddle some of the most outrageous information and scenarios, the irony being that what they are selling is, in its purist form, fake news that defies credulity.

One outrageous example would be the claim that the shootings at the elementary school at Sandy Hook, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six adults was a hoax, carried out by actors, the government’s purpose being to pass gun control legislation. The other theory that has gained much online cred over the years insists that the collapse of the Twin Towers on 9/11 was an “inside job” involving strategically placed explosives.

Today conspiracists insist that the deep state is interfering with the agenda of this president and his administration. Some Trump allies and right-wing media outlets have gone so far as to claim, without evidence, that former president Obama is coordinating a deep state resistance to the Trump administration, an example being that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower, an allegation that requires suspension of disbelief. As well, the “Resist” movement supposedly has grown out of the deep state.

These beliefs form a chilling narrative and represent deep convictions held by many who are now part of the executive branch, including the president himself.

During Trump’s presidential campaign (and now into his presidency), it was not uncommon for him to attack our institutions (he referred to the intelligence community as “Nazis”). He has continued to target the press, insisting that reporters are purveyors of fraudulent news and use illegal leaks to undermine his administration.

Trump has failed to fill hundreds of positions in government and has hollowed out the State Department as well as the Justice Department. He has denigrated the judiciary over his travel ban, challenging its legitimacy and arguing that the judges have been politicized (especially the 9th Circuit).

His suspicious and at times blatantly negative reaction to our government has only made manifest his abiding paranoia. When the Washington Post reported that Mueller’s investigation of the Russian connection was expanding to include a criminal case into whether the president had obstructed justice, he tweeted, “They made up a phony collusion with Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice.”

Another tweet soon followed: “You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history, led by some very bad and conflicted people.”

It has also been reported that investigators are looking into possible financial crimes by Trump associates, to include money laundering.

This widening investigation will only intensify and exacerbate the belief in the corrosive existence of the deep state by Trump and the conspiracy cohort.

We are now well into the weeds. We’ll be here for a while.

— Chris Honoré of Ashland is a Daily Tidings columnist.