Robert Mueller Issues Indictments Of 13 Russian Officials For Election Meddling
A significant and important development in the Russia investigation that shows that President Trump's claim that the stories of Russian interference in the 2016 election were "Fake News" is completely untrue.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has made public an indictment of thirteen Russian individuals, along with a business organization tied to the Russian government, in connection with a campaign to interfere in the 2016 Presidential election:
The Justice Department’s special counsel announced the indictment Friday of a notorious Russian troll farm — charging 13 individuals who allegedly were involved in a scheme to criminally interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The Internet Research Agency, which is based in St. Petersburg, Russia, was named in the indictment.
“From in or around 2014 to the present, defendants knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other (and with persons known and unknown to the grand jury) to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016,” the indictment states.
The indictment charges that some of the Russian suspects traveled to the United States to gather information to help in the scheme, and that they also impersonated Americans online in order to try to sway voters’ opinions. None of those charged are in custody, according to Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel’s office.
The grand jury charges that some of those suspects interacted with Americans associated with the Trump campaign, but those Trump associates did not realize they were being manipulated.
Some of the Russians posed as U.S. persons and, without revealing their Russian identities, “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities,” the indictment said.
By February 2016, the suspects had decided whom they were supporting in the 2016 race. According to the indictment, Internet Research Agency specialists were instructed to “use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump — we support them.)”
Prosecutors say some Russian employees of the troll farm were chastised in September 2016 when they had a “low number of posts dedicated to criticizing Hillary Clinton” and were told it was “imperative to intensify criticizing” the Democratic nominee in future posts.
The charges include conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
One of those indicted is Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, who has long been identified in the Russian media as the financial backer of the Internet Research Agency. He is a caterer who has been nicknamed “Putin’s chef” because of his close ties to the Russian president. Concord Consulting and Concord Catering, two Russian businesses also charged by Mueller’s team Friday, have previously been identified as Prigozhin vehicles.
The Internet Research Agency was at the center of Silicon Valley’s investigation into Russian meddling during the 2016 presidential election. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google all found evidence that the private firm used social media to divide American voters across a range of polarizing issues, including race, religion, gun rights and immigration.
Tweets and Facebook posts that have been made public as part of these investigations make clear that the Russian disinformation effort broadly sought to favor Republican Donald Trump and undermine the support for Democrat Hillary Clinton. This conclusion has been backed by the work of several independent researchers.
Typically called a “troll farm,” the Internet Research Agency is regarded as the most prominent part of the Russian disinformation campaign, though congressional investigators pushed for evidence of other operations, including from countries other than Russia, that shared the same purpose.
The New York Times has more:
The special counsel investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations on Friday with illegally using social media platforms to sow political discord, including actions that supported the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump and disparaged his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
The indictment represents the first charges by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, for meddling in the 2016 presidential election — the fundamental crime that he was assigned to investigate.
In a 37-page indictment filed in United States District Court, Mr. Mueller said that the 13 individuals have conspired since 2014 to violate laws that prohibit foreigners from spending money to influence federal elections in the United States.
The indictment charges that the foreigners falsely posed as American citizens, stole identities and otherwise engaged in fraud and deceit in an effort to influence the U.S. political process, including the 2016 presidential race.
Though the Russians are unlikely to be immediately arrested, they are now wanted by the United States government, which will make it hard for them to travel or do business internationally.
All were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Three defendants were also charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five defendants with aggravated identity theft.
The Internet Research Agency, operating out of St. Petersburg, was described in the indictment as a hub for a sophisticated operation designed to reach millions of Americans to disrupt the political process in the United States. Its annual budget was millions of dollars; its stated goal was to “spread distrust toward the candidates and the political system in general.”
While this indictment does not directly implicate Donald Trump, the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with that campaign in any kind of conspiracy, it does specifically state that officials close to the campaign were at the very least used “unwittingly” to help spread false information about the Democratic National Committee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Senator Bernie Sanders in an effort to influence the outcome of the Presidential election. In so doing, the indictment confirms something that we’ve known for at least a year and a half now, and which has been repeatedly confirmed by the heads of America’s intelligence agencies, namely the fact that Russia was indeed interfering in the 2016 election and that, from at least the middle of 2016 forward, they were doing so to benefit the campaign of Donald Trump and harm the campaign of former Secretary of State Clinton. As such, it stands as what seems to be a complete refutation of the President’s claim that the entire story of Russian interference is untrue and what he has repeatedly called “Fake News” and which he has consistently attempted to undermine over the course of the past year.
Instead of being “Fake News,” we can see from the indictment that this was a well-organized campaign that began as far back as 2014 and involved on the ground research and the use of social media accounts to spread false news, with a particular concentration on states and areas where it would potentially make a difference. This included efforts to suppress the vote in certain parts of the country and to increase the vote in others, all with the goal of stirring chaos and, eventually, the seemingly conscious effort to assist the campaign of President Trump. The indictment also shows that the Russian agents involved were in contact with grassroots organizations and even campaign officials of the Trump campaign who they were attempting to use to spread disinformation about the Clinton campaign and Hillary Clinton herself. Much of this was apparently accomplished via the use of social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook, including accounts that were specifically supportive of Trump and the Trump campaign specifically and the Republican Party specifically. It’s important to note that this indictment does not name any members of the Trump campaign, nor does it specifically state that any named or unnamed Trump campaign officials were involved in any collusion effort. Nonetheless, the fact that the indictment at the very least hints at that possibility and leaves open the possibility of future indictments that could establish just that possibility.
Here’s the video of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announcing the indictment:
Perhaps the most significant fact about today’s development is the fact that the formal indictment was announced in a brief statement made by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has been the lead supervisor of the Russia investigation since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself. It’s also important to note that Rosenstein did not say that there is no evidence of collusion, he merely stated that there was no allegation of collusion in this indictment. That does not preclude the possibility of future indictments related to collusion and/or obstruction of justice. It was Rosenstein, of course, who appointed Robert Mueller as special counsel and who has been a rumored target of Trump’s for firing as part of his apparent effort to undermine the investigation. This is a strong indication of the fact that, while the indictment is signed by Mueller, Rosenstein has signed off on that indictment and is willing to stand up for it going forward. Politically at least, this is going to make it harder for Trump to make an effort to fire either Rosenstein or Mueller without subjecting himself to even further charges that he is seeking to obstruct the administration of justice.
Realistically, of course, there is no chance that the named individuals, all of whom are now apparently in Russia itself, will ever actually see the inside of an American courtroom. Notwithstanding that fact, though, this indictment is a strong signal of the progress that Mueller’s investigation has made over the course of the past year, and an indication of the fact that the investigation itself is far from over. Indeed, it’s likely just beginning.
Here’s the indictment itself:
United States v. Internet Research Agency LLC Et Al by Doug Mataconis on Scribd
Can’t wait for the sycophants to claim this is no big deal; nothing to see here, keep moving…
So much for the Russia story being “Fake News”.
The noose gets tighter…
Notably, Rosenstein also said that no US citizens willingly participated, which seems to take collusion off the table. Somehow the idea that Trump and his team were just dupes (people are already finding retweets by Donald Jr and Kellyanne Conway of now indicted Russians) isn’t very reassuring, but I suppose it’s something.
@Just Another Ex-Republican: I don’t have it in front of me but I believe Rosenstein said this indictment doesn’t say US citizens willingly cooperated.
@Just Another Ex-Republican:
That’s not what he said; he said that this indictment does not say that any US citizens wittingly participated.
Hypothetically though…are you comfortable with an administration that unwittingly participated? That was duped by foreign agents? Frankly, I think that’s worse than actually colluding.
So much for no interference. I don’t know how far the investigation and indictments will go, but we can expect the next Republican goal post move will be no collusion, then no knowing collusion, then Kushner and Don Jr. didn’t knowingly collude, then it didn’t affect the result, then Trumpsky himself didn’t knowingly collude, and finally so what, the GOPs won’t impeach anyway. And maybe, if God loves us, Robert and Rebekah Mercer get dragged in.
@gVOR08: That’s a key point. The NYT article that Doug linked to said that some of those indicted traveled to eight key states and worked with an unidentified American, who advised them on where to focus efforts. That doesn’t sound like a very nice thing to do…
@Daryl’s other brother Darryl: Of course not. I’m not comfortable with the Trump administration even if they weren’t useful idiots for the Russians.
And a good point by you and gVOR08 that the willingly participated information was specific to this indictment.
I don’t think people are getting the potential unintended consequences of establishing a precedent that this is a crime. Wouldn’t, for example, Jose Antonio Vargas be guilty of this same “crime”?
Cue Hannity and the other treasonous b*stards saying “this shows Mueller only has low level people with.” But this is pretty significant. A special prosecutor appointed to investigate the Traitorous Trump Brigades collusion with Russian agents in order to win the election has just indicted over a dozen Russian people and entities for attempting to throw the election to Trump. Given the previous revelations about DJTJ, Kushner, Eric, Manafort, Gates, Flynn, and well, many others illicitly contacting the Russians and then lying about it, only a psychophantic buffoon can still believe that “there is not there there”. [Cue the OTB irregulars]
And this is a sideshow. It’s the financial side, money laundering and tax fraud that’s going to take Trumpsky down.
@Stormy Dragon: But what about her emails? LOCK HER UP! LOCK HER UP! LOCK HER UP!!!!
@Daryl’s other brother Darryl:
It will be interesting to know how the polls moved in relation to the activities mentioned in the indictment. Both when posts were published and afterwards.
Also this should light a fire under the Orange Clown to implement the sanctions on Russia Congress mandated.But then it’s trump we’re talking about, so anything goes. Me, I’d couple sanction relief with extradition of the persons named.
Lastly, while the indictment doesn’t implicate any US citizens or people in the Trump campaign, it’s possible some of them knew about it. say when orange Clown Jr. had his meeting, maybe they showed him samples of their little campaign as proof of what they had to offer. It’s also possible they may have helped, too. I guess we’ll see.
Oh wow! Robert Mueller just indicted some dudes who “traveled to the United States to gather information to help in the scheme, and that they also impersonated Americans online in order to try to sway voters’ opinions.”
So it took 12 months and God knows how many million dollars for Mueller to produce one episode of MTV’s show Catfish? This is really sad.
@Daryl’s other brother Darryl:
The only way the Branch Trumpidians will accept Russian interference in the election, is if they can blame Hillary Clinton for it.
People saying this is nothing, or that it somehow proves there was no collusion are. . . well, to put it charitably, not paying attention.
As the Russian effort to elect Trump was ramping up, Trump was at rallies publicly asking the Russians to commit crimes in support of his campaign. His son was in meetings encouraging Russians to provide dirt on Hillary. Jared Kushner, supposedly managing Trump’s digital campaign was trying to open a secret back channel to the Russians.
Meanwhile, Gates is rolling over, which means Manafort is done for, and Manafort is the key to the underlying crime – money-laundering by Trump and Kushner of Russian mob money. At a guess I’d say Kushner is indicted within two months, and possibly Ivanka, and Don. Jr.
Really???? Apparently there are naive people here that are shocked that gambling takes place in Casinos– or that foreign governments seek to overtly and clandestinely influence politics in countries of interest. Frankly, the US is the Gold Standard in executing influence operations. We got our nose bloodied a bit in 2016. It can happen anytime you step in the ring no matter how good you are. In other news–water is wet.
The only good thing this does is expose the Russian operation which, like most influence operations, relies on unwitting surrogates and covered persona. They’ll have to start from ground zero again with increased scrutiny so they would be able to pull all the moving parts together fast enough. As far as any outcomes from this indictment the liberal commentariat here want—no going to happen. This is like the conservaDunce fascination of Fast and Furious with Obama
Question: Trump said there was no meddling. Did you believe him? Do you still?
The indictment makes it clear that the Russians spent years and millions of dollars to. . . do what, edmondo? Hmm? To do what? Have you read the indictment? Because the meddling your stable genius denied again and again and again ever happened, quite clearly happened, and it had a central goal: to elect Trump president.
Why? Why does Putin want Trump in the WH? Because Putin loves America and wants us to do well?
@Jim Brown 32:
Oh, puddin’, you’re in for some real surprises.
Since you seem to have missed this part…
While this indictment does not directly implicate Donald Trump, the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with that campaign in any kind of conspiracy
Now, who knows what’s going to happen in the future. Perhaps an indictment is coming that will warm the cockles of your little heart, but right now you and a whole bunch of other people look like utter fools who desperately grabbed onto a loony conspiracy theory rather than admit how wrong you were about the 2016 campaign.
I have updated this post to include the video of Deputy AG Rosenstein announcing this indictment as well as a sentence pointing out that he specifically does not rule out the possibility of future indictments on collusion and/or obstruction.
One take away is that the Russians had a better understanding of the swing states than the Clinton campaign. Just sayin’.
My take away is that you are perfectly fine with Russians attacking the USA, you treasonous fvck.
Why did you and Vladimir Putin both vote for Trump?
Did you read this part?
(except Sanders and Trump — we support them.)
Or how about the part where it says the effort started in 2014 but they didn’t decide until February 2016 to make it all about trashing Hillary and supporting whomever was opposing her?
If there’s a Russian election scandal it would seem to involve the failure of Barack Obama’s FBI to detect or do anything about this campaign.
Mike: WHY DID PUTIN SUPPORT TRUMP?
First its definitely worth noting that part of this plan was an organized effort to sway minority voters away from voting for Clinton. It’s a reminder about how important a component minority voters are to the overall democratic base. And the reality is that the overall percentage of turnout was down for them in a number of key battleground states.
Second, its going to be interesting to see if this changes Trump’s position around sanctioning Russia. Or his “skeptical position” about hacking.
Of course, if he actually held a press conference, then those questions might get asked. Remember when he thought it was bad form that Hillary hadn’t held a press conference? Trump just passed 356 days without an open press conference.
@Joe: Because, as noted in the NYT piece, they had help. From an American. Who…I guess didn’t know they were Russian? Is that what we’re going with here?
The political people I’ve worked with are paranoid AF. There’s little to no chance that a political operative with a solid understanding of targeting in multiple battleground states wouldn’t have investigated who they were turning this information over to. Practically none.
Well…except that the so-called theory looks more and more likely every single day.
And we don’t know a fraction of what Mueller knows.
Imagine if you had even a single e-mail connection to one of these people (not unbelieveable since Trump himself was re-tweeting these people) You would be defecating bricks right now, and begging for a plea deal. Indeed, that may be the very point of offering up indictments of foreign people who are never going to court in the US; to scare other people.
Your trying to bail a sinking ship, Bunge…and your bucket has holes.
It looks like the person in question struck a deal with Mueller’s committee. We’ll see where that leads:
And nothing screams COLLUSION like this:
57. After the election of Donald Trump in or around November 2016, Defendants and their coconspirators used false U.S. personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies in support of then president-elect Trump, while simultaneously using other false U.S. personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies protesting the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. For example, in or around November 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators organized a rally in New York through one ORGANIZATION-controlled group designed to “show your support for President-Elect Donald Trump” held on or about November 12, 2016. At the same time, Defendants and their co-conspirators, through another ORGANIZATION-controlled group, organized a rally in New York called “Trump is NOT my President” held on or about November 12, 2016. Similarly, Defendants and their co-conspirators organized a rally entitled “Charlotte Against Trump” in Charlotte, North Carolina, held on or about November 19, 2016.
Man, that’s some 4th dimensional chess right there.
@Doug Mataconis: I mean this seriously: Thank you for making clear what should have been obvious to anyone reading the indictment and listening to Rosenstein’s statement. This is not the end of the Mueller investigation on Russian interference OR conspiracy with Russians to effect the election OR money laundering OR violation of laws regarding registration as a foreign agent.
He didn’t support Trump. He opposed Hillary or more accurately, just wanted to stir up crap surrounding the 2016 election. If Cruz or Rubio or Kasich had gotten the nomination, there’s every indication the Russians would have done the exact same thing.
Dude, you used to be smarter than this. I’ve thought it was just butt hurt but when this is your reaction to an indictment that specifically says it found no evidence of the collusion you and other fools have been raving about for over a year, I’m starting to wonder if it’s an medical problem.
Have you seen a doctor recently? Gotten a brain scan or a garden variety competency test? You might want to look into it before things get even worse.
I note your refusal to answer the question. Cherry picking won’t save you. Let me tell you how this will play out, and please, hold me to it.
Kushner will be indicted for money-laundering and obstruction. Tax evasion, and lying on his security clearance as possibles.
Manafort will. . . Oh, sorry, he already has been indicted. Money-laundering and tax evasion, IIRC. He will be convicted if he doesn’t cop a plea beforehand. You know, just like I told you he would be.
Mike Flynn. . . well, no need to gloat over just how many times I’ve already been right about this story.
Flynn Jr.: ditto
Gates: ditto. OK, so a little gloating. You won’t get upset if I keep pointing out how many times I’ve been right and you’ve been wrong, will you?
Ivanka I rate as a maybe, same charges as her husband. I don’t have a solid sense of what she knows.
The Dummies: Indictments for obstruction, possibly whatever the term of art is for aiding a conspiracy.
Donald Trump: un-indicted co-conspirator in all of the above. Pence will pardon him for Jesus. New York state will go after him and he’ll hire enough lawyers to stall until he dies of a stroke. (OK, that stroke thing is just embellishment.) The Trump brand and business will be hugely diminished.
Some fun possibilities: Sessions for conspiracy, lying to the FBI, and obstruction. Pence for knowing all along about the Russia thing and aiding the cover-up. Devin Nunes for obstruction.
@michael reynolds: The only thing that would surprise me is if the influence operations of various corporate syndicates that control Congress get exposed. Entry price for these ops is extremely low and pay off enormously high. You think, say, Big Pharma, the Gun, and the Financial industries don’t have similar turds in the punch bowl? Of course they do. The Reds pulled this off for less than a Mil…a rounding error to multinational corps.
The only reason Russians are in the cross hairs as opposed to Saudis….is because the customary re-election coffers were bypassed for a direct marketing campaign. Had they grease the rid palms and kissed the right rings…all this would still be underground.
@Matt Bernius: I’m not sure that’s the same person. A 28 year old selling online services to subvert security features of online payment systems isn’t the sort of profile of someone who would have the depth of election experience to advise on political targeting in multiple swing states.
So maybe, maybe not.
Ha, no. There’s no way that guy is the same one who was advising on targeting strategy.
He has an associate’s degree in computer science and used to work at LA Fitness. I’ll be very surprised if there wasn’t someone else doing the political strategy advising.
I’m gonna steal that.
More the treasonous actions of Mitch Fwcking McConnell in blocking a bipartisan response to it.
I am not using “treasonous” lightly.
@gVOR08: Go right ahead. I stole it from Doug Mataconis.
Funny how Bungle all but disappears for several weeks, only surfacing here and there for the occasional drive-by comment, until this story breaks.
Then he’s suddenly in this thread with multiple comments and replies, in full gyrations of deflection and hand-waving.
Infer from this what you will.
From the Russian Instagram account “Woke Blacks”:
“[A] particular hype and hatred for Trump is misleading the people and forcing Blacks to vote Killary. We cannot resort to the lesser of two devils. Then we’d surely be better off without voting AT ALL.”
Days before Election day, on Nov. 3, 2016, the Internet Research Agency bought an Instagram ad for its “Blacktivist” account that said, “Choose peace and vote for Jill Stein. Trust me, it’s not a wasted vote.”
I’ve never before seen this level of interference in another country’s election.
This is certain to bring down Trump. #ItsOver
@Daryl’s other brother Darryl:
You need to calm the fwck down. I don’t approve of this either. But I do recall a post-election criticism of the Clinton campaign’s failure to recognize their weakness in Wisconsin/Michigan/Pennsylvania with Wisconsin being at the top of that list. Perhaps you are beyond seeing the irony that the Russians were targeting those states. But if you would rather shoot allies, have at, you humorless f… nevermind.
I agree with you about the real disturbing and dangerous issue here American complicity, apparently Republican, perhaps a certain campaign. I appreciate your thoughtful criticism. Thoughtful criticism can be refreshing at times.
What a day!
The first big news is indictments on Russian interference.
The second big news of Trumps affair with a gal from Playboy, 2 years into his marriage with Melania.
Both dropped on a Friday, before a three day holiday for most.
It’s as if the “liberal media” doesn’t want anyone to know.
They will have to come up with a name for whatever coats Trump. Teflon just isn’t slippery enough.
You poor, poor fools.
@MBunge: ” an indictment that specifically says it found no evidence of the collusion”
It doesn’t say that. It says that includes no such evidence. You may not have noticed that the investigation is not over yet, and that there are several people who are singing like canaries…
Let’s try to simplify this for you:
This investigation could conclude that there isn’t a single shred of evidence that implicates ANYBODY in the current administration with respect to collusion. Nobody, zero, not a soul.
And it would still continue down other roads – its primary roads of inquiry – unless and until Trump shuts Mueller down.
Collusion opened the door. It is NOT the single, sole matter that Mueller is empowered to investigate. It’s not even among the most important. It was a justification for appointing a special counsel, not a finite mission statement.
You do get that, correct?
I’ll go one further for you: I’ll stipulate that I suspect that Mueller never expected to find any substantive evidence of collusion. The focus almost from day one has been other things. One of the first people he brought onto the team is one of the top, if not the top criminal fraud operators in the business. He was followed very quickly by a list of forensic accounting gurus who specialize in money laundering.
Subpoenas are flying into Deutsche at a rate that has motivated them to seek external representation in the matter. Not representation by defense specialists. Representation by compliance specialists. They’re busily handing over everything they’ve been asked for and then some.
So, let’s recap: an investigatory team staffed from the outset by specialists in criminal frauds and money laundering. Trump’s primary (read: only) current lender handing over a deluge of paper. Underlings being indicted for money laundering or trampling one another in the rush to flip. Cooperative investigations being conducted by the NY AG into the specifics of Trump business deals, notably (but not remotely exclusively) Trump Soho (so rife with Russian mafia money that New Yorkers laughingly refer to it as Moscow on the Hudson).
Do you need any help connecting those dots? Do you see where this is going?
It’s a bit of a fascinating science project watching the Trumpoids here dealing with a scandal involving one of their own. Remember, these are the guys who spent weeks, months, years building up story after story on the intertubes about Benghazi, the Emails, the Clinton Charities. No clue was too trivial, regardless of whether or not it had any basis in fact. I remember stumbling across some damning indictment proving that Hillary had deliberately sabotaged the rescue attempt of the embassy guards in Libya based on her sleep patterns (she had claimed to be asleep but they knew she was really awake), which of course they knew to a “T”. Everything just proved the greater conspiracy! And of course, no need to question motive! Hillary is evil personified! [Dramatic lightening illuminates a cackling maniacal Clinton, hands curled in cruel claws].
And how do they react when one of their own is shown to be committing treason, colluding with enemies literally seeking to destroy our country? Well, no fact is big enough. Trump’s campaign manager and his sons in a meeting with Russian spies after sending out an email stoking up how the Russians wanted to help the campaign by providing dirt on Clinton? Pah! Nothing! Everyone does this! My mother does this! Trump’s son-in-law, desperate for money to bail out his enormous debt seeks to set up a back door channel to the Russians explicitly so the US government would not know what is going on? Again, a nothing! Virtually every commenter on this blog has set up a dozen communications back channels with various countries! Sophisticated people know this! Trump himself kowtows to Putin and repeatedly and desperately tries to prevent or remove sanctions on Russia? Hillary! Hillary! What about her emails!
By the way, Josh Marshall has an interesting analysis where he speculates the reason Rosenstein made this announcement rather than Mueller is to make it harder for Trump to go after either him or Mueller. It may be reading the tea leaves too fine, but it is food for thought.
It was a strategic, very carefully constructed shot across the bow played at a specific time for a specific reason, intended to box Trump in and limit his options. These indictments are, truthfully speaking, minor events in the bigger picture, but they serve to officially establish the existence of Russian interference in US elections.
However minor, it now officially exists in a way that it didn’t before. If Trump takes action to dismiss Rosenstein or Mueller now, it leaves him exposed to allegations (indeed, the presumption) that he has something to hide in that regard. The narrative shifts from “there was no interference” to “there was organized interference, most probably funded by the Russian government, and Trump is trying to shut down investigations because he has something to hide”.
Will anything ever come of the collusion aspects? I have my doubts, simply because it’s nebulous legal ground to begin with and it’s difficult to prove. It’s not much of a legal tool. That having been said, it’s an exceptionally powerful political tool which can be (and is being) utilized to insulate the primary investigation – the statutory violations which are far easier to establish and which have punitive teeth far more damaging to Trump and his interests – from interference. Mueller & Friends have played this one exceptionally well from the outset. If Trump intended to shut it down, he should have done so long before now, while it would still have been survivable. That ship has now long sailed, and he missed the boat.
He reportedly tried last summer, but failed. Presumably because McGahn didn’t want to risk an obstruction charge.
Trump, in as long as I have dealt with him, has never actually fired someone face to face. He always gets an underling to deliver the news.
What I read was classic Trump – he wanted Mueller shutdown, but he didn’t want to have to deal with the consequences of doing so. He wanted someone else to take the heat for it.
The idea was so resoundingly bad that, in even a White House full of second tier stooges, nobody would execute it for him. Because he can’t / wouldn’t do it for himself, it never happened.
And now it’s far too late.
Serious question. We are beginning to get a sense of the extent that Russia was paying people to go online and be pro-Trump, pro-Bernie and anti-Hillary. Any chance OTB was big enough to garner a hired troll? If so, any guesses?
I’ve wondered the same. The persistent, deliberate cluelessness of someone like @MBunge, an acquired dullness of perception, leaves me wondering whether a person who used to be semi-rational can be regularly humiliating themselves for free. It’s hard to tell the difference between a cultist and an idiot and a robot.
@michael reynolds: Or space alien, as in Tyrell’s case.
Trump is a weak man. Weak and needy and now, terrified. I spent 22 years fleeing ‘the man’, but in fairness, my ‘man’ was just some local detective, it was definitely not Robert Freaking Mueller. That gentleman is as serious as a heart attack, and the entire apparatus of intelligence in the western world is acting as Mueller’s investigators. If I had Mueller after me I wouldn’t need to hire hookers to wet my bed for me.
This indictment wasn’t just a shot across Trump’s bow, but across the GOP’s and the Russians’. The FSB is busy today having ‘conversations’ with anyone associated with this operation, because somebody flipped, and apparently a number of people – including Dutch intelligence (!) – had eyes on them. There will be firing squads.
Time for Republicans to come to Jesus, because the facts are out there. The entire damn world knows Russia interfered, and they all know why Putin would want Trump to win and Hillary to lose. Money, money, money, money.
@michael reynolds: Me three, given the timing and the deeply embedded talking points that even Fox News doesn’t promulgate.
@michael reynolds: ” I spent 22 years fleeing ‘the man’, but in fairness, my ‘man’ was just some local detective, ”
From now on, can I just call you 24601?
I am not a number, I am a free man!
@Jim Brown 32:
I think you’ve missed the point.These are indictments for criminal offenses. Not lobbying, criminal offenses. That’s what makes this so devastating to Trump and his bootlicks. Crimes have been charged, which means anyone who knowingly aided, or knowingly profited from, the conspiracy, can be charged with those same or additional crimes.
In fact I’m starting to see respectable folks make a case that Trump can be charged with treason. Actual treason, as in a capital crime. That’s where we are now.
To recap the Trump position:
OK, absolutely meddling, not a hoax, not fake news, but it’s OK because no collusion.
Now we move on to Trumpaloons claiming that even collusion isn’t wrong, followed by so what if there was treason? That’s where this goes in the end. Republicans will have to argue that treason is not a problem. @MBunge and the others will be there in a few months if not sooner. I told him he’d come to that. Here is what we’ll be hearing from the Bung at some not-too-distant point: “A president can’t commit treason because he has the power to decide what is and is not treason!” In other words, full-on, no bullsh!t banana republic fascism.
The name that leaped to my mind was Bannon. He views a Trump-led U.S.A. and Russia as allies.
@CSK: Possibly. The only way that wouldn’t be collusion is if he really and truly had no idea that they were Russian nationals, since Bannon worked directly with and for the campaign. That seems to strain credulity as I noted above–he’s been an operative long enough to know to be careful with who he talks to. It’s certainly possible though.
I was thinking it was probably someone who is familiar enough with strategy that they could provide advice, but an arms-length away from the campaign, but then again they weren’t the most careful types.
Mueller is rigidly, I’d go so far as so say even stridently ethical. The notion of a true believer crusading for law and order seems quaint in this day and age, but he’s it.
I was a prosecutor, so much of what’s playing out here is sort of “seen that before” / not cause for raised eyebrows on my part. What has, however, stuck out about this investigation from its outset has been the extraordinary degree of strategic planning and coordination with their state level peers in NY.
NY State has a unique perception of what constitutes double jeopardy from the dual sovereign perspective, which can complicate taking that second state level bite at the apple if the prosecution doesn’t sweat the details. Given how much of Trump’s shenanigans took place in NYC, and the always looming possibility that the federal investigation was at risk of being shutdown, coordination with Schneiderman’s office as well as those of the borough DA’s was paramount. Mueller selected his team based on their legal expertise, but he also selected them based on their history of successfully navigating the peculiarities of dual sovereign prosecutions in NYS.
The short version of that is: Mueller & Friends have coordinated from day one with the NY AG and the borough DA’s to construct a strategy for investigation and prosecution which preserves the ability for NY to effectively step in and pick up where the federal process ended (were it to be prematurely ended) and allocates the prosecution of certain aspects of the cases down to NY instead of holding them at the federal level (due to the different treatment of those issues under federal and NY State law). Primary along those has been to preserve the avenue of seizure at the state level
These people are deadly serious, and they’re determined to nail Trump. I don’t consider it a question of if. I consider it one of when.
@Jen: May I remind you that the Republican Party that you worked for was an organization of character, principle, and love for country. In other words, not like the one we have now at all.
@Daryl’s other brother Darryl: We can’t actually know that MBunge isn’t a relatively high ranking GOP operative. Look at the evidence:
1. He can write in complete sentences and yet is also fluent in gibberish.
2. He seems to believe the nonsense that he’s offering up as defense.
3. He firmly defends Trump and the administration with zeal matching that of…what’s her name…you know, the blonde girl who goes on CNN and Fox News to give interviews…
4. Does all of that with a seemingly straight face (we can’t actually SEE him on the interwebs, but you know what I mean).
5. Appears to be devoid of character and honesty.
Admit it, it’s possible.
@HarvardLaw92: IANAL and only know about a lot of stuff from reading history and political science related stuff, but isn’t collusion difficult to prove to a level that will create a conviction even with relatively tangible evidence?
You’re right, of course. Collusion only opened the door to a much more, if you will, “target rich” environment.
Likely true. I would clarify, though, that it’s not any personal or political vendetta. Mueller didn’t start with a blank sheet. He started with a counterintelligence investigation. He’s not trying to find out what Trump did. He knows what Trump did. His burden is to build a legal case without compromising sources and methods.
Agreed, and I should have worded that one better. Mea culpa.
Suffice to say that they’re determined at this point to nail Trump & Friends because they have a reasonable basis for believing that criminality (on a colossal scale, no less) occurred, and that criminality deeply offends them. When I called Mueller a crusader for law and order above, it was an apt description. The Robert Mueller I know won’t care what political persuasion the subject(s) of his investigation adhere to, nor will he be concerned about protecting one political party’s interests.
The guy really, truly is a Boy Scout where the law is concerned. I couldn’t hold him in any higher esteem than I already do.
@Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:
The problem is that “collusion” isn’t a specific federal crime outside of the narrow arena of antitrust law. People have come to utilize the term as shorthand for criminality, and that’s not really accurate.
That doesn’t imply that there are no statutory provisions which are applicable here.
For example, federal law (52 U.S.C. § 30121) prohibits any foreign national from contributing or attempting to contribute any “thing of value” to an electoral campaign. What constitutes a “thing of value” is wide open from the perspective of judicial precedent, but at a minimum, the information that Trump Jr. was arguably promised would fit the description for purposes of establishing that the statute was violated. It’s equally illegal for a US national to solicit, accept or receive such an illegal “thing of value”. That leaves us with “either Trump Jr. (and everybody else who participated in those meetings) didn’t receive the information, but are arguably guilty of conspiracy to violate 30121, or they did receive it, and they directly violated 30121”. If anybody in the campaign knowingly aided, abetted or advised the Russian hackers – for example guidance about what type of information would be most useful to steal or how best to enhance the impact of releasing that stolen data – or knowingly conspired to assist other member(s) of the campaign in doing so, those persons arguably violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. § 1030). If these people subsequently made false statements within the context of their government role about these illegal activities, they’ve violated 18 U.S.C. § 1001. If they utilized the mail to further them, then they’ve violated 18 U.S.C. § 1341. If they utilized electronic communications to do so? 18 U.S.C. § 1343. If any of them knew about these activities and failed to report them to the proper authorities? 18 U.S.C. § 4, misprision of felony.
This is why I alluded to Rosenstein’s announcement of the indictments having been very carefully worded. It took care to use the term “collusion”, and only that term, because from a legal perspective the term only applies to antitrust law to begin with. It’s inapplicable in this context. Rosenstein essentially said “we have no evidence of people in the White House knowingly violating this statute which doesn’t apply to this scenario to begin with” and left it at that. Everything else which is applicable remained unsaid, and on the table. You’ll note that I limited my statement above to M-rod in the same way. I expect no convictions for collusion. Know you know why.
As for convictions for violating / conspiring to violate federal election law, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, uttering false statements, committing / conspiring to commit mail fraud and committing / conspiring to commit wire fraud, committing / conspiring to commit money laundering, et al? Those beauties are still in play.
@Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: Point taken. 😉
@michael reynolds: Don’t need the link — know this entire series by heart!