Question: But it is the clearest evidence yet of ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials so --
Sanders: Again, there are no activities or official capacity in which the Trump campaign was engaged in any of these activities. Most of them took place well before the campaign ever even existed.
For the record, Papadopoulos' plea agreement lays out a timeline that was well into the campaign.
Here's another typical exchange from Monday's press briefing:
Question: What explains the campaign's later involvement with those associated with the Russian government -- or said they were -- to get dirt on Hillary Clinton later in the campaign? Are these things -- are they coincidental?
Sanders: We've addressed that. They took one meeting. Nothing came of it. No, I don't believe so.
Question: Does that indicate a pattern of trying to obtain that information from that government?
Sanders: A pattern of getting information about your opponent? No.
Question: From a hostile government?
Sanders: The big difference here is you have a meeting that took place versus millions of dollars being sent to create fake information to actually influence the election. You compare those two, those are apples and oranges.
Where Are We Now?
These exchanges between the press, which is trained to treat legal pleadings as statements of fact, and a White House and right-wing media that pretend those facts are fabricated and irrelevant, are very dangerous. The best reporters -- indeed, most conscientious citizens -- don't just look for gaps between theories or conspiracies and realities; they distinguish between what people claim to be and what they really are.
The assertions by Trump defenders like Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and the deflections by right-wing media focusing on other seemingly liberal scandals (such as Podesta's resignation, or sexual abuse in Hollywood) are intended to fortify the delusions of partisan believers. They're part of a pattern of presenting false equivalencies to undermine the distinctions between different serious issues. This is very dangerous because as Mueller's investigation goes on, you can be sure the attacks will increase.
Last weekend saw Murdoch outlets attack Mueller for being an overzealous prosecutor and for calling a "friend" -- former FBI Director James Comey -- as a prosecution witness. Never mind that it hasn't happened yet.
Mueller's opening indictments underscore that America is split between voters who are going to believe what's presented in court and those who will reject it as fantasy. On Monday, the Zogby Poll, by longtime pollster Jim Zogby, found Trump's national approval rating was at 44 percent -- a somewhat higher figure than other recent polls. Zogby reported that, "two in five voters are 'silent Trump supporters.'"
That means a lot of Americans don't believe Mueller or the facts, and do believe Huckabee Sanders and her right-wing echo chamber, and cannot break with the partisan herd to recognize its delusions. They think Trump is earning their allegiance, and do not distinguish between what he claims to be and what he really is. This is the very definition of dangerous times.
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