Fox News’ attack on Sen. Mark Warner was so pathetic that even Sen. Marco Rubio spoke up against it.

With the Russia investigation moving full steam ahead and the Nunes memo crashing and burning, Donald Trump’s allies at Fox News are desperate to do anything they can to delegitimize people looking into the matter.

Their latest target: ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner. But their attempt to attack him was so ridiculous that even Sen. Marco Rubio, as partisan a Republican as they come, leapt to his defense.

On Thursday, Fox News broke a story about how Warner supposedly “secretly” exchanged text messages with a lobbyist representing a Russian oligarch, for info about British intelligence veteran and Trump dossier author Christopher Steele. “Throughout the text exchanges, Warner seemed particularly intent on connecting directly with Steele without anyone else on the Senate Intelligence Committee being in the loop — at least initially,” the story claimed.

But immediately after it was released, Rubio debunked its central claim on Twitter:

It appears that Warner has been in the crosshairs of the Russia probe’s opponents for some time. In late January, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange messaged Sean Hannity promising a scoop on Warner — or at least, a person he thought was Sean Hannity.

Warner has been fighting tooth and nail to keep the Russia probe going in the Intelligence Committee, one of the few committees where Senate Republicans have not managed to blow up the investigation.

If Trump’s friends at Fox News thought they were taking down Warner, they were dead wrong. It is plain to everyone working with him, Democratic and Republican alike, that the Fox story is a desperate ploy to twist the facts.

UPDATE: Turns out the facts weren’t plain to everyone. Donald Trump repeated the false smear two hours after Rubio debunked it: