Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced on Friday the indictment of 12 Russians for meddling in the 2016 United States election. Mueller made the announcement at the end of the workweek, just days before the Helsinki meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to the indictment, 12 agents of the Main Intelligence Directorate (abbreviated GRU from the Russian name Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravlenie) of the Russian intelligence agency “knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other, and with persons known and unknown” in order to hack the Clinton campaign, among other servers. The indictment says in June 2016, the hackers began releasing their hacked material via “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0.”
The indictment continues: “The Conspirators also used the Guccifer 2.0 persona to release additional stolen documents through a website maintained by an organization that had previously posted documents stolen from U.S. persons, entities, and the U.S. government.”
While it may have been Mueller’s intention to keep Russian meddling in the headlines as Trump meets with Putin, the news of the indictment might give Trump a better hand to work with in Finland.
Prior to the indictment news, Trump has repeatedly said he would bring up election meddling in his meeting with Putin, but predicted that the Russian president could very well deny the allegation:
“Look, he may. What am I going to do? He may deny it,” Trump said during a surprise news conference at NATO headquarters. “All I can do is say, ‘Did you?’ And, ‘Don’t do it again.’ But he may deny it. You’ll be the first to know.”
But now with the Russians indicted, Trump could tell Putin to extradite the defendants to face trial in the United States.
It is important to understand that the indictment still does not allege any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. In order for collusion to take place, there must be a plan between the two parties and a quid pro quo agreement. None of that has been discovered.
The only possible link between Trump and the Russians who were indicted that was made public is the possible coincidental timing of when Trump said the following at his campaign rally on July 27, 2016: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
According to the indictment, “On or about July 27, 2016, the Conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office. At or around the same time, they also targeted seventy-six email addresses at the domain for the Clinton Campaign.” Despite this coincidence, it is well known that the hackers were already targeting the Clinton campaign for months prior.
United States Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein said, “There is no allegation in this indictment that any American citizen committed a crime. There is no allegation that the conspiracy altered the vote count or changed any election result. When we confront foreign interference in American elections, it’s important for us to avoid thinking politically, as Republicans or Democrats, and instead to think patriotically as Americans.”
That’s some wishful thinking.