The emperor has no clothes. Most Americans knew this, but Monday’s indictments and guilty plea as a result of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, start to lay bare the rest of President TrumpDonald TrumpCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Netanyahu suggests Biden fell asleep in meeting with Israeli PM Aides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims MORE’s associates’ nakedness — and guilt — on the issue of collusion.
To be clear, Monday’s indictments of Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Richard Gates, Manafort's former business associate, and George Papadopoulos, Donald Trump’s former foreign policy adviser, do not automatically prove collusion between Trump himself and the Russians to meddle in the elections.
But they do inextricably link Trump’s associates to attempts to acquire “dirt” on Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonClinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty Attorney indicted on charge of lying to FBI as part of Durham investigation MORE and to work with Russian agents to obtain that kind of incriminating and damaging information that they could then use against her.
In rare but not unexpected form, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tried to convince the press corps that none of the three people named Monday had anything to do with Trump or his campaign activities. But not even she could hide from the truth.
The reality is that all three individuals named Monday had pivotal roles in the Trump campaign and to spin that into something else takes one to new levels of alternative facts.
Paul Manafort had an established career working for pro-Russian Ukrainian interests. He made millions off of his lobbying work that may well have put him in contact with the highest officials in the Russian government, possibly including Vladimir Putin himself.
Gates was Manafort’s deputy, who joined him in 2006.
George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI regarding connections and conversations he had with high-level Russian agents, trying to put together meetings between the Trump campaign, Donald Trump himself and the Russian government.
Additionally, there is some evidence that Papadopoulos discussed with the FBI about having knowledge of the DNC’s and the Hillary Clinton campaign’s hacked emails back in March of 2016 before any of the news of hacking had been made public.
So the question becomes, when did the Trump campaign know about the hacking, did they have a hand in the hacking, did they aid and abet in the hacking and did they help plan how the hacked emails would be weaponized?
Don’t get me wrong. This is not a gleeful day for the Democrats. Nobody should be happy about this. This is a very sad day for our country and our democracy.
But in true Trump fashion, instead of acting like a commander-in-chief who wants to protect law and order, he is acting like a child who just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar — and he may have.
While the Trump campaign is twisting itself into knots, distorting damning evidence of the closeness of Trump campaign operatives and Russian government agents, the American public is closer to the reality of who their commander-in-chief really is and how he got elected.
The public, the Trump administration and Trump himself should also understand that this is likely only the beginning of what will probably be a protracted investigation to get to the bottom of what exactly happened and who was involved.
Coincidentally, we also saw today that Donald Trump fell to a record-low level of approval in the daily Gallup tracking poll, showing a 33-percent approval rating, meaning 67 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing.
But is it a coincidence? The Gallup poll comes on the heels on a Fox News poll that had Trump at a record-low level in that poll of 38 percent, and importantly, showing a damaging erosion in support from white men, a very key voter block that highly supported Donald Trump and helped get him elected.
As many predicted, Donald Trump’s response to this ground-breaking, axis-shifting news, was also to dodge, deny and deflect by tweeting that there was “NO COLLUSION!” and urging that the investigation instead focus on “Crooked Hillary.”
The simple but sad reality is that if Donald Trump truly had nothing to hide, he would accept Mueller’s investigation, embrace it fully, offer to cooperate and at least pretend that he cared about restoring our democratic sovereignty.
He would draw an indisputable line in the sand for our adversaries — especially Russia — to demonstrate that no nation will influence the outcome of any U.S. election.
If he did this, it could possibly serve to give Americans some comfort that maybe the emperor could put his clothes back on.
But until that happens, in a credible way — and we know that it never will — more and more Americans will start to realize the emperor has no clothes.
Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.