No wonder President Trump and his media allies in the Murdoch empire (not only Fox News but also the Wall Street Journal editorial pages) have been hysterically trying to impugn special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s integrity and demand Hillary Clinton, not the president, be investigated. (Reminder: She was investigated; she is not president.) Some unhinged Trumpists have even egged Trump on to pardon all those involved, a fateful step that would trigger widespread demands for impeachment.

The sober, detailed facts laid out in two indictments covering 12 counts each against former campaign chairman Paul Manafort (the first campaign chief since Watergate to be indicted) and Rick Gates, as well as the plea from former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos detailing contacts with Russian officials while Papadopoulos was with the campaign (and about which he advised at least three campaign officials) have a way of breaking through the noise and nonsense Trump, his aides and his media enablers whip up. The extended description of Papadopoulos’s conniving to find “dirt” Russians allegedly had on Hillary Clinton shredded the notion that no one colluded with the Russians. The Post reports:

Court documents described extensive efforts Papadopoulos made to try to broker connections with Russian officials and arrange a meeting between them and the Trump campaign, though some emails show his offers were rebuffed. … Papadopoulos ultimately admitted to lying to the FBI about his interactions with people he thought had connections with the Russian government. He has been cooperating with investigators for three months — having been first arrested and charged in July after landing at Dulles International Airport on a flight from Germany — and has met with the government on “numerous occasions to provide information and answer questions,” according to a court filing.

The facts laid out in the indictments and the plea did not stop White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders from continuing to mislead:

“We’ve been saying from day one there’s no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion, and nothing in the indictment changes that at all,” she said.
Sanders sought to minimize the case involving Papadopoulos — which appears directly related to the investigation of possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia — asserting he had an “extremely limited,” volunteer role in the campaign. She said that “no activity was ever done in an official capacity on behalf of the campaign in that regard.”

Papadopoulos was, according to the plea, in continual contact with no less than three campaign officials. Her defense that his collusion does not count defies credulity.

Falsely insisting that Manafort and Gates’s alleged wrongdoing happened long before their association with Trump, Sanders tried to ignore the plain language of the indictments. The alleged failure to register as foreign agents happened “between at least 2005 and 2015”  and the alleged money laundering occurred “from approximately 2006 through at least 2016.” Manafort was campaign chairman between March 29, 2016, and Aug. 19, 2016; Gates continued on with the inaugural committee even after the election and with a pro-Trump lobbying group.

The compulsion to mislead and misrepresent while an investigation is ongoing is not only reckless for Sanders personally and for those directly here, but it is also revealing of the lack of credible defense for Trump’s involvement with Manafort and Gates (whose business with unsavory foreign leaders, including Russia-backed former Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych, was well-known at the time Manafort was hired on). Manafort had reportedly been under investigation by the FBI since 2014. Insisting there was no collusion on the campaign because Papadopoulos was a volunteer is just, well, ludicrous.

As infuriating as White House dissembling and Fox News propaganda might be, one can take solace in the reassurance is that none of that matters. What matters are the facts that Mueller meticulously compiles.

The White House has every reason to be in high panic. As CNN reports:

‘The criminal justice interest being vindicated here is there’s a large-scale ongoing investigation of which this case is a small part,” Aaron Zelinsky of the special counsel’s office said during Papadopoulos’ October 5 plea agreement hearing, records of which were unsealed Monday. … Although the government is moving expeditiously to interview individuals of immediate interest to the investigation, news that the defendant has been charged with and pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents may make those individuals reluctant to speak with investigators,” the special counsel’s office wrote on October 3.

In short, this is only the tip of the iceberg.