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Robert Mueller testifies to Congress in 2011. Photo: Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images

Forget the memo. Fundamentally, President Trump and big chunks of conservative media are arguing that the Russia investigation is unwarranted, tainted and malicious — that the special counsel shouldn't exist.

Why it matters: Take the known knowns — 10 undisputed facts — and the smoke clears considerably.

  1. At the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, the Trump campaign, chaired by Paul Manafort (since indicted), worked behind the scenes to weaken the party platform's anti-Russia stance on Ukraine.
  2. "Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting."
  3. Top Trump campaign officials met at Trump Tower with sketchy Russians who had offered dirt on Hillary Clinton.
  4. On Air Force One, Trump helped his son, Don Jr., prepare a misleading statement about the meeting.
  5. Trump, contradicting what his staff had said earlier, told NBC he fired FBI Director James Comey because of "this Russia thing."
  6. Michael Flynn, later Trump's first national security adviser, talked privately about sanctions with the Russian ambassador during the transition, then denied it to Vice President Pence.
  7. Flynn (who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI) failed to disclose payments from Russia-linked entities. Trump has repeatedly defended Flynn.
  8. During the transition, Jared Kushner spoke with the Russian ambassador "about establishing a secret communications channel between the Trump transition team and Moscow."
  9. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, then a U.S. senator, spoke twice to the Russian ambassador, then didn't disclose the contacts during his confirmation hearing.
  10. When Bob Mueller was named special counsel, Republicans widely praised him.

Be smart: No sane person looking at those known knowns would say this is a crazy investigation.

The big picture: Yes, FBI agents have probably said things in texts they shouldn't have. Yes, former FBI Director James Comey was clumsy in his comments about Hillary Clinton. But none of that changes what this investigation is really about.

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Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

6 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.