Indicting Russians for 2016 Election Interference
I am not a lawyer — I don’t even play one on TV — but I just did a layman’s read of the 37-page indictment against Russians released Friday, reviewed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s comments, and have some commonsense reactions.
To begin with, I’m not a techie either, but the sheer volume of detailed evidence against the Russians, which involved tracking computer use, social media, travel, money movements and more, is stunning. The investigation struck me as thorough, professional and irrefutable. The Russians tried to meddle in our political process. This is not news, however. As far back as a year ago, Barack Obama noted that Russia was meddling but downplayed it as no big deal until Hillary Clinton lost. Then all of a sudden the Russians played a major role because they wanted Donald Trump in office. Obama even got his intelligence agencies to opine along the same lines.
But the indictment cites that the goal of the Russian meddlers was to engage in “information warfare” to “spread distrust toward candidates and the political system in general.” It goes on to say that another goal was “primarily to communicate derogatory information about Hillary,” “denigrate Hillary and other candidates, and support Bernie Sanders and Trump.” In other words, the effort seemed more geared toward bashing Hillary than getting Trump elected. That makes sense because at the time of the meddling, Hillary was up double digits, and every pundit in captivity was predicting a Hillary landslide victory. It’s only logical that the very smart Russians would aim more at disrupting the eventual Hillary administration than throw a Hail Mary pass at a guy who arguably would have been worse for Russian interests. Regardless, it also made sense for Russia to try to throw sand in the gears of our political process. Pushing doubt about our institutions was also in its national interests, and it would surprise no one if some CIA black ops files were made public showing that we have done the same thing.
But meddling doesn’t equal collusion between the Russians and Trump. In fact, Rosenstein went out of his way to note that no American was a “witting” or “knowing” participant in any of the illegal Russian activity and that there was no impact on the outcome of the election. Given the scope of the investigation that resulted in such detailed evidence and charges, it would seem reasonable to conclude that if there were any collusion, it would have been picked up. Webster’s has “collusion” as being secret and illegal “cooperation.” Maybe it’s just me, but it seems a bit of a non sequitur to have unwitting or unknowing “cooperation.” Sure, the indictment refers to “others, known and unknown to the Grand Jury” as possibly being involved, so the Robert Mueller probe is not over. But this is about as close as you can get to clearing Trump and his campaign folks of “collusion” in the election.
There are other interesting revelations. The Russians seemed to be equal-opportunity campaigners. Prior to the election, they bashed Hillary, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and supported Trump, Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. They also focused on planting the seeds of Democrat voter fraud to further undermine the legitimacy of Clinton’s expected administration. The plot went back to 2014, before any of these folks announced their candidacies. There was zero mention of what supposedly was the smoking gun of Trump/Russia collusion, the infamous Trump Tower meeting. After the election, when the “Big Oops” settled in, the Russians turned their fire against Trump, even sponsoring anti-Trump and anti-Hillary rallies on the same day. It all contributes to the conclusion that it was the system itself that was most under attack, and interfering with an expected Hillary presidency was more important than trying to get Trump in the White House.
It is the height of irony that Democrats and the media (and even Obama and his intel crowd) have been pushing the narrative that the Russians meddled to get Trump elected, when the investigation shows that the election per se was not impacted. If that were the Russians’ goal, they failed miserably to move the dial. If the goal were to disrupt the incoming Hillary administration, it was a ton of wasted effort. But as to the goal of creating distrust and chaos in our political system, thanks to Democrat and media cooperation (dare we say “collusion”), they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
Because of the lack of evidence on Trump/Russian collusion despite a year or more of intense digging (as now represented by the indictment), and the growing evidence that the real collusion involves senior Democrat, FBI and Justice Department officials, which all lead back to Obama, I have believed for a while now that Mueller was going to claim a few lower-level scalps, declare victory and close up shop. No one wants to go there if all trails lead back to Obama. I thought he would also use the Inspector General report as cover. But it never occurred to me that his scalps would be the Russians, particularly Russians who will never be extradited. Evidence and charges will remain out there, but no legal action can be taken without the accused being here. It might even give Trump some additional leverage with Vladimir Putin, but that’s as far as it will go. It’s a clever out, and I hope all will take advantage, wrap this up and move on.