Russian collusion of hoax?

The indictments announced this week by the FBI special investigation into Russian interference into US elections have shown that probably some Russians did try to interfere in to 2016 election. This would hardly be a surprise, both the US and Russia have long records of interfering in the democracies of other countries.

So the ‘hoax’ claims, made by President trump and others, seems to have been a hoax themselves.

But what these indictments didn’t do was claim any collusion between trump;s campaign and Russians. Trump has claimed this exonerates him, but it doesn’t. This was just another step along the way in the investigation.

The Hill: Mueller indictments still miss the mark on Trump-Russia collusion

The Russian defendants “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign.”

Despite a 37-page indictment with a long narrative on a coordinated Russian campaign of interference, the most newsworthy fact comes from the carefully placed adjective “unwitting.” It confirms that the special counsel has found no knowing coordination or collusion between these hackers and Trump officials.

The key words there are “between these hackers and Trump officials”. That does not rule out some collusion. And it doesn’t “miss the mark” necessarily. It depends on what mark the investigators were trying to make.

While the indictment is historic, it is hardly a surprise. Few people were questioning the Russian interference with and hacking of the election. Both Democratic and Republican leaders were in agreement on this fact, as were all of the administration’s top intelligence figures. The one hold-out seemed to be the president himself. He routinely referred to the “fake news” of the Russian investigation.

The New Yorker: Mueller’s Indictment Ends Trump’s Myth of the Russia “Hoax”

For well over a year, Donald Trump has dodged the subject of Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential charges of collusion and obstruction of justice. It’s all “phony,” a “hoax,” “fake news,” a “witch hunt.” Last year, during a multilateral summit in Vietnam, Trump met briefly with Vladimir Putin and then told reporters that he had asked the Russian President about election meddling. Not to worry, he told reporters: “Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it.”

Trump cannot really accept what his own intelligence leaders tell him about the election; he even directed his C.I.A. director to meet with a former operative turned conspiracy theorist who thought that the hack of the Democratic National Committee was an “inside job.” Only rarely, and begrudgingly, has Trump acknowledged Russian hacking, and, when he does, he hastens to emphasize its triviality, its meaninglessness.

The special counsel, Robert Mueller, has now charged thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian organizations with meddling in the election.

These are serious charges (denied by Russia) that should be of serious concern about the integrity of US democracy.

These indictments could, at least for the moment, allow Trump to believe that Mueller will not discover any knowing collusion in the President’s campaign. Nor do they demonstrate that Putin himself directed the operation.

And yet the indictments are unlikely to ease Trump’s sense of political embattlement even inside his own Administration. Earlier this week, a group of intelligence chiefs, including the director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats; the F.B.I. director, Christopher Wray; and the C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo—all Trump Administration appointees—told a Senate panel that they were in accord with the findings of January, 2017, when the intelligence community asserted that Russia had meddled in the 2016 elections and did so to the detriment of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

As Coats told the senators, “There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.”

Mueller’s indictment is in synch with the findings of the intelligence community—a collection of immense bureaucracies that Trump and his supporters have routinely denounced as a conspiratorial and establishmentarian “deep state” intent on undermining his Presidency. Trump has repeatedly expressed his fury with leaders of the C.I.A., the F.B.I., and the Justice Department, a toxic dynamic that seems, by now, more a constant state of affairs than a matter of fleeting temper.

This investigation isn’t over yet, not by a long way.

It is not at all likely that these indictments will put an end to Mueller’s investigation. Nor do they nail down a case for either collusion by members of Trump’s circle or obstruction of justice by the President. Rather, they seem another step in an extended process.

“I read it as a tactical move on his part saying, ‘This was not a witch hunt. This was real,’ and to create the conditions to move into the next phase,” Sullivan told me, referring to Mueller. “It sets up an inquiry into what, if any, Americans were involved. Maybe the Russians just had ‘useful’ tools, and any Americans were unwitting. But I believe that Mueller will keep pursuing this line of inquiry. He’s not done. They are going to dig into these entities and individuals, and see how many more they can identify, and explore their methods and finances and communications to see if this connects to anyone in the United States.”

Politico: Bob Mueller Is Not Playing Around

The intelligence community has spoken with one voice for more than a year about its unanimous findings that Russia interfered with the 2016 United States election. Nonetheless, President Donald Trump, fearful that acknowledging Russian interference would cast doubt on the legitimacy of his win, has vacillated between tepid acknowledgement and skepticism that anything of the kind ever happened. Polls have shown that most of his supporters, following his lead, don’t believe Russia interfered.

Friday’s indictment of three Russian organizations and 13 Russian individuals for their roles in interfering with the election should finally put any such skepticism to rest.

The scheme he has uncovered threatened the very fabric of our democracy—and intelligence officials warned this week that Russia will do it again. If Russia repeatedly gets away with this kind of interference in U.S. elections, it will erode public confidence in our electoral system.

By publicly spelling out the tactics used and acting swiftly and decisively to bring consequences, Mueller is making it easier for state and federal authorities to spot this conduct in the future and is providing a strong deterrent against Russian agents engaging in this kind of treachery.

But the special counsel cannot do it alone. Only with a serious commitment from the federal government, starting with a public declaration by the president and including a real allocation of resources by Congress to protect against future attacks and track down those implicated, can we truly hope to be effective in rooting out this problem.

But Trump seems unwilling to make any serious commitment to anything but discrediting and undermining the investigation.

This indictment also makes it still harder for the president to fire Mueller. The special counsel now has outstanding charges, either through pleas or indictments, against 17 people and three organizations ranging from lying to investigators to a complex scheme to undermine the integrity of a U.S. presidential election.

It can hardly be said that he has been ineffective, and it is difficult to imagine that a decision to fire him at this point could be seen as anything other than an effort to interfere with an investigation of the greatest national significance.

There may be another shoe to drop shortly. CNN reported on Thursdaythat Rick Gates, a former senior Trump campaign aide already indicted by Mueller, is close to completing talks to plead guilty, cooperate with the investigation and testify against others. That will get Mueller’s team one step closer to understanding exactly what happened within the Trump campaign.

Adding all of this together, one thing is clear about this week’s developments: They leave the president in substantially more peril. His longstanding efforts to cast doubt on the idea that Russia interfered in the election are in tatters. His campaign now appears to have at least unwittingly furthered the efforts of Russian saboteurs to wreak havoc in our election.

And this latest indictment, together with a likely Gates plea, very much leaves the door open to future findings of Trump campaign cooperation with Russian election interference. We all should hope that Mueller is successful in getting to the bottom of this debacle; his track record so far suggests he will.

Whatever the investigation finds it is imperative for the integrity of US democracy that it does get to the bottom of things. If Trump doesn’t like the outcome then too bad, it is far more important than his ego.

 

 

59 Comments

  1. Joe Bloggs

     /  February 18, 2018

    And another charge has been laid against Manafort – relating to a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracy.

  2. Joe Bloggs

     /  February 18, 2018

    Congress voted 517-5 to impose sanctions on Russia.

    trump decided to ignore that law. There’s your threat to the integrity of US democracy in a nutshell, PG.

    he’s turned the office of POTUS into a constitutional crisis.

  3. Gezza

     /  February 18, 2018

    From what Al Jazeera commentary I have seen what these Russians seem to have done is set out to provoke both Democrat & Republicans to try & foment or exacerbate internal discord among the US population generally, rather than to promote Trump.

    Focussing Trump’s early statements denying belief in Russian interference is getting silly. The Aljaz reporter did the same thing. Trump’s always really meant by that that there was no collusion by him or his team with Russian government promotion of him as the candidate.

    • David

       /  February 18, 2018

      Well put Gezza. I think the articles PG has referred to miss out the bit where the the Russians promoted Bernie and organised anti Trump demonstrations, Russians like to disturb and disrupt and have been doing it for sport since forever.

      • I missed out a lot of bits. There’s a lot to the story, far more than will reasonably fit into a post. I gave several links that covered more details.

        And often my posts are designed to encourage further input and information and links to other details. As this one was. Each post is not intended to be comprehensive coverage of the issue raised, and couldn’t be.

    • NOEL

       /  February 18, 2018

      History has show that meddling in elections by outsiders is designed to produce a candidate that has policies that favour the meddler.
      The question then becomes did the successful candidate have positions that would favour the Russians when elected?

      • Gezza

         /  February 18, 2018

        That’s certainly been the case with every instance of US interference in other countries’ elections, especially in South America. But in this case they seem to have set out to promote general discord.

        They may have calculated that Trump would get on better with Putin & believed his statements that the US should be more isolationist & get out of spending any more time & money on foreign conflicts, other countries’ affairs, & “nation building” (beyond defeating ISIS and rolling back China’s economic impact on the US economy). But if so they clearly didn’t reckon on how erratic he is & that he’d actually carry on with US sanctions & global involvement in military & diplomatic interventions.

        And what’s coming out also just suggests they didn’t care – that just fomenting increased protests, political fights, disharmony, riots, & general volatility in America generally they may have figured have the same effect – whoever won the Presidency.

        • David

           /  February 18, 2018

          ” But if so they clearly didn’t reckon on how erratic he is & that he’d actually carry on with US sanctions & global involvement in military & diplomatic interventions.”

          How did they miss this? Trump isn’t exactly an unknown.

          “And what’s coming out also just suggests they didn’t care – that just fomenting increased protests, political fights, disharmony, riots, & general volatility in America generally they may have figured have the same effect – whoever won the Presidency.”

          Correct. Russia doing what Russia does, and no collusion necessary.

          • Gezza

             /  February 18, 2018

            NOEL that stuff’s all known to Mueller but both candidates and their backers ruthlessly sought out & used any damaging information, allegations or rumours on their opponents from ANY source & used them. None of these indictments have established Trump collusion with the Russian government. My point here though is that his opponents including in the media are now trying to argue that he deliberately lied when he said early on that there was no Russian interference in the elections, that it was fake news. That’s stretching things beyond what is reasonable. We know what he meant.

            • NOEL

               /  February 18, 2018

              Collusion isn’t the issue.
              I don’t buy the ” Russia’s only aim was to cause disruption in the election”

    • MaureenW

       /  February 18, 2018

      Yes, I noticed that too. It’s the same way the terminology to describe climate change has morphed over 20 years to where the early labels have now softened into everyday terminology, not denied by anyone.

      Trump has stated for a long time that he thought claims of Russian interference were true, but has always denied claims that he or his team collided with Russians to sway the election in his favour.

    • David

       /  February 18, 2018

      “Focussing Trump’s early statements denying belief in Russian interference is getting silly. ”

      It’s not silly. This is all they have, they have to pivot to make it the issue. It is the same with all the charges against various Trump team members, they will all be process related charges like mail fraud that are the catch all, last resort, to make something stick. They will simply pile them as high as they can and claim this is evidence of something it simply isn’t.

      If there had been any collusion, those charges would already be laid.

      The fact they have now resorted to charging individuals that are never going to be actually apprehended is just some smoke and mirrors to keep the noise going.

      • Gezza

         /  February 18, 2018

        I mean it’s silly to start banging this red herring drum that he denied Russian interference at all, way beyond the point where people now know full well what he meant, because he successfully keeps telling everyone what he meant. No collusion.

        I don’t like the man. But even I can see that trying to exploit some of his famously inarticulate early gruntings on this issue, out of obvious context, is a waste of time & is damaging to the credibility of those doing it, not his.

        • David

           /  February 18, 2018

          When a red herring is all you have, banging on about it is the only choice….

          This investigation is nothing more than some kabuki theatre for those who are still in denial about Trump being president.

      • Joe Bloggs

         /  February 18, 2018

        “If there had been any collusion, those charges would already be laid.”

        That’s a little disingenuous David. When you play Bridge you play one hand at a time. Mueller’s a great bridge player.

        It’s too early to rule out anything, but what Mueller has done is to establish a critical first element of a charge of collusion: he’s demonstrated Russian interference. So now the GOP denial playbook has had a key page torn out. No longer can anyone claim the Russians didn’t interfere.

        There’s plenty more to come, mark my words.

        • PDB

           /  February 18, 2018

          “When you play Bridge you play one hand at a time. Mueller’s a great bridge player.”

          Some old ladies playing bridge probably did more to affect the election result than the 13 people/3 businesses named did…

        • David

           /  February 18, 2018

          Joe you have been saying the same thing since forever and still nothing, there will be no Trump/Russia collusion charges. All you have is Manafort being carefree with the paperwork and a couple of lying to the FBI nonsense charges and now some Russians doing something dodgy which they have been doing since 1917…and most of the stuff was done after the election and they backed Bernie who one would think is not in cahoots with Trump.

        • David

           /  February 18, 2018

          “There’s plenty more to come, mark my words.”

          I’m sure there is more to come. I’m also sure it will all be process related stuff that will never make the accusation of collusion stick except for those who so desperately already believe it.

    • Joe Bloggs

       /  February 18, 2018

    • Mefrostate

       /  February 18, 2018

      The Russians goal is certainly to people discord, but it’s absolutely true that their main method of doing so was by heavily favouring Trump’s campaign. It’s worth discussing the implications of that.

      I also don’t understand why Trump still refuses to condemn the Russians for this tampering, and to put in place the sanctions that Congress legally required of him.

      Doesn’t that look suspicious to you?

      • Gezza

         /  February 18, 2018

        Not especially Mefro. I can’t remember what Trump’s given as his reason.

        But I think he admires Putin – or at least respects him – for being wealthy & a winner by any means, like himself – & that he can’t see the point (yet) of any further sanctions. May even see them as counter-productive.

        Trump’s well aware America interferes overseas & that both countries habitually spy on each other. He doesn’t trust the spies.

        He’s quite happy to substitute his own different opinions for those of qualified advisors. He genuinely seems to harbour thoughts he & Putin & any other leader can do deals & that’s all that’s needed. Putin & he talk. He seems to believe Putin admires him. Putin’s smarter than Trump. He’s happy to push the envelope & massage his ego at the same time.

        • Gezza

           /  February 18, 2018

          PS: Is it possible Trump believes the Russian interference helped his campaign & that he is therefore inclined to go easy on Putin as well? Sure. But if so, that’ll only work until Putin mishandles Trump, makes him look weak or a fool, in an area where Trump’s personally committed to ensuring American dominance or some other outcome that Putin frustrates. Trump’s loyal to no one.

        • Mefrostate

           /  February 18, 2018

          Well okay, let’s entertain that possibility, acknowledging that it’s basically the most rosy version of events.

          Even in the above scenario, Trump still deserves massive criticism. For cosying up to an authoritarian enemy while disparaging enemies. For doing nothing to punish this enemy for interfering in US democracy. For doing nothing to prevent further meddling.

          So even if you assume no collision, and a genuine desire to warm relations with the US, Trump is still selling out Western liberal democratic values, and acting clearly against the US interest.

          And that’s without talking about all the circumstantial ties his family & campaign have to Russia.

          • Gezza

             /  February 18, 2018

            Yeah, I should qualify that remark about loyalty, too. He’s clearly sometimes loyal to anyone who’s unquestionningly loyal to him, whatever they’ve done. But he’ll chuck them out the minute he perceives they’re a liability or less than completely loyal.

            I’m not defending him: I can’t stand the guy. But he doesn’t give a shit about pushing Western democratic values in other countries. He only gives a shit sbout America & American interests – as HE sees them.

            Otherwise everything’s just “business” & personal competition.

            • Mefrostate

               /  February 18, 2018

              “I can’t stand the guy. But he doesn’t give a shit about pushing Western democratic values in other countries. He only gives a shit sbout America & American interests – as HE sees them.”

              Basically my perspective too, although I think he cares about his own interests above all else. But yeah, your perspective is why it’s so frustrating to see people who happen to agree with his policy platform being so willing to defend his trampling on institutions & Western values.

            • Gezza

               /  February 18, 2018

              Peas in a pod, as my mum used to say. The worst of them are similar in views & beliefs.

      • David

         /  February 18, 2018

        “Doesn’t that look suspicious to you?”

        About as suspicious as the 300 odd dead and injured Russian soldiers killed by US forces in Syria.

  4. David

     /  February 18, 2018

    Here is video evidence of a US President colluding with nasty Ruskies…..

  5. PDB

     /  February 18, 2018

    Like others I’ve followed this story from the start though like others I’m in no particular camp as American politics is full of corruption on both sides of the political divide (the FBI would have to be one of the most corrupt US institutions after the CIA so people defending their ‘honour’ are on another planet – Hoover anyone?) and each is no better than the other BUT the whole Trump/Russia collusion story is thus far one big dud.

    To date;

    *When people were initially told the Russians interfered in the US election they probably imagined something pretty substantial that drove millions of voters to Trump – not a few individuals writing on social media, having the odd rally, mucking around with Wikipedia or setting up a few #hashtags.
    *The activity of the 13 individuals/ 3 businesses started well before Trump decided to run for president and appears (if true) to be a broad disruption offensive against organisations across the political spectrum of a fairly minor nature.
    *The ’13’ won’t ever face any charges so the FBI are safe to pin what they like on them knowing it will never go to trial.
    *The only real ‘Russian collusion’ thus far proven 100% is the Clinton/Democrat paid for dossier using a British agent dealing with Russian govt insiders to get unverified information on Trump during an election campaign.

    • David

       /  February 18, 2018

      Indeed, so my question is simple, why has Christopher Steele not been charged? There is more than enough evidence in the public realm to charge him the same as the Russians who have just been charged.

  6. Joe Bloggs

     /  February 18, 2018

    What you would expect an American president to say:

    “This is unacceptable. The Russians will not interfere in our elections on my watch. Today I am announcing a task force to investigate what happened in 2016 and to prevent anything like that from happening again in 2018 or 2020. The Russians will pay a heavy price for interfering with our democracy.”

  7. Alan Wilkinson

     /  February 18, 2018

    A point that seems to be missed is that little of this is new or unknown. Months ago it was reported that Russians had spent approx $100K on Facebook advts election campaigning.

    Mueller just seems to have fished out intelligence assignations for those responsible and laid political charges on foreigners, many unknown, mostly outside US jurisdiction. How likely is any of that to go to court or is it just political posturing?

    • Mefrostate

       /  February 18, 2018

      It fits entirely within the mandate of Mueller’s investigation, and is also likely to strategic groundwork as part of further charges to be laid later in the investigation.

      It’s always helpful to have more proof of Russian interference in the public sphere, with the advantage that these charges have passed a Grand Jury.

      So now we must ask: why does Trump refuse to publicly condemn the Russians for interfering, and why is he doing nothing to prevent further interference?

      • David

         /  February 18, 2018

        A grand jury would indict a ham sandwich, they only ever hear the prosecutions argument so I wouldnt get too excited.

        • Mefrostate

           /  February 18, 2018

          Sorry, so are you arguing that the Internet Research Agency didn’t commit conspiracy to defraud the US, wire fraud, and identity theft?

    • David

       /  February 18, 2018

      What isnt reported widely is the bulk of the spending by the Russians happened AFTER the 2016 election as per Mueller and now confirmed by Trump hating Facebook.

  8. Alan Wilkinson

     /  February 18, 2018

    Anyone care to guess how much Israel interferes in US elections?
    https://consortiumnews.com/2017/04/20/why-not-a-probe-of-israel-gate/

    or how much the US interferes in Israeli elections?
    https://www.timesofisrael.com/right-wing-lawmakers-pan-us-intervention-in-israeli-elections/

    Farcical.

  9. David

     /  February 18, 2018

    There are 320 million people in America and the Trump haters would have us believe 13 Russians swung the election.
    Hilary spent around a billion dollars and had pretty much wall to wall favourable coverage and the 13 Russians spent approximately 100k on Facebook and had a few twitter bots and swung the election.
    However the unfavourable ratings of Washington and the polls that had the US thinking their country was heading in the wrong direction had no influence on “establishment Hilary” not winning.

    • Mefrostate

       /  February 18, 2018

      It’s not 13 Russians, it’s ““hundreds of individuals for its online operation” per the indictment, with a cm onthouden budget of US$1.25m which obviously goes further in Russia.

      I don’t know why you’re downplaying the fact that a hostile foreign power interfered with the US’s democratic process, and the president who benefited from that interference, with countless ties to that foreign power, isn’t doing anything to punish them, nor protect further meddling in the future.

      Even if you love all of Trump’s policy platform and think he’s a really wonderful person, you should still be willing to criticise this massive failing.

      • PDB

         /  February 18, 2018

        “I don’t know why you’re downplaying the fact that a hostile foreign power interfered with the US’s democratic process”

        Why are you deliberately ignoring the fact the Democrats/Clintons hired a foreign agent to talk with Russian govt officials in order to create a dossier they hoped would swing an election? That is 100% proven and far larger a Russian conspiracy than anything else we have been presented with thus far.

        They can say what they like about the ’13 Russians’ and their support staff in the safe knowledge it won’t actually go to court and be challenged by those accused.

        • Mefrostate

           /  February 18, 2018

          I’ll happily talk about the Steele dossier, but it has to be done on a separate thread. This thread is about Trump & Russia, and I’m sick and tired of the deflection tactics used by people who like Trump to avoid talking about important issues.

          I like that you say “so far” does that mean you’ll support Mueller’s continuing investigation? Since we know the Russians’ goal is discord & division, I think it’s important that everyone unite to support Mueller and ensure that any possible wrongdoing is unearthed.

          Since your final paragraph seems suspicious of the allegations against the the Russians, let’s be clear: are you arguing that these allegations are false? Do you think the Internet Research Agency did not commit conspiracy to defraud the United States, wire fraud, and identity theft?

          • David

             /  February 18, 2018

            The last time I checked, the Steele dossier is all about Trump & Russia and is the starting point for the entire investigation.

            I’m quite happy for Mueller to carry on his investigation. At the current rate, its going to make Trump a sure bet for 2020.

            • Mefrostate

               /  February 18, 2018

              Factually incorrect, the investigation precedes the Steele dossier.

              Glad to hear you support the continued Mueller investigation. Maybe stop trying to downplay its findings.

          • PDB

             /  February 18, 2018

            To start with I don’t like Trump but this thread is about Russian interference in an election (and goes back before Trump announced he was running), the dossier is a big part of that and eclipses anything else that has come to light.

            As it stands right now I think the Russian conspiracy with Trump (to change an election) is not there, the Democrats/Clinton have more to worry about in terms of the dossier, and thus far the Russians appear to be doing what they have perhaps done every US election (certainly the US does the same in other countries) – fairly minor disruption and shit stirring – not enough to rig an election either way.

            The investigation should continue.

            • Mefrostate

               /  February 18, 2018

              Good. I’m probably much more hawkish on the likelihood of charges against Trump, but at least we agree that Mueller’s investigation is important – even if it is just to clear Trump’s name.

              Heck, while I’m not convinced there was legally wrongdoing behind the Steele dossier, I’d still support an investigation into it Any illegal activity should be unearthed.

            • Mefrostate

               /  February 18, 2018

              Oh by the way, while the IRA activities predate Trump’s public candidacy, he did tell Agalarov in November 2013 that he would be running in 2016.

            • PDB

               /  February 18, 2018

              I’m sure Trump told different people all sorts of different things…

            • Mefrostate

               /  February 18, 2018

              Sure, and his defense that the Russians started before his campaign started is a meaningless defense. So you should stop echoing it.

    • Griff

       /  February 18, 2018

      The problem is trumpies spread the russians twit face spin far and wide
      They know the deplorables belive any old rubbish.
      After all look at the nonsense they beĺive about Clinton, climate change, guns, god, and Govertment. Believe conservatively right wing USA republicans propaganda?
      YOU HAVE BEEN HAD.