Mueller indicts Russians over election hacking
Special counsel Robert Mueller for the first time directly accused the Russian government of interfering in the 2016 presidential election, indicting 12 Russian military intelligence officers last week for hacking the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign. The 29-page indictment contains an extremely detailed account of how the hacking occurred, even describing the actions of individual Russian intelligence officers on particular dates. It reveals how hackers stole information by planting malware onto Democratic computers and then disseminating the pilfered emails and documents through the fake online personae DC Leaks and Guccifer 2.0, and passing it to individuals and organizations, including WikiLeaks. “The goal of the conspirators was to have an impact on the election,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said as he announced the charges. The indictment also notes that the Russians made their first attempt to hack Clinton’s personal office servers on July 26, 2016, the same day Donald Trump made a public appeal for help locating emails deleted from a private account used by Clinton while secretary of state. “Russia, if you’re listening,” Trump said, “I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
President Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani hailed the indictment as “good news” because it contained no evidence that anyone in the Trump campaign knowingly colluded with the Russians. But the indictment does describe an online conversation about the stolen documents between Guccifer 2.0 and a person “in regular contact” with senior Trump campaign members. Two government officials told The New York Times that this person was longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone; there’s no indication Stone knew he was communicating with Russians.
What the editorials said
Trump can bellow “witch hunt” to his heart’s content, said The Washington Post, but Mueller “continues to uncover serious misdeeds.” And his investigation must continue, because this indictment leaves a lot of questions unanswered. It mentions that the hackers were in contact with a U.S. congressional candidate. Who? It says the Russians hacked a state election board and stole details on 500,000 voters. So what did they want with that information?
These indictments are more “for show than for any practical benefit to the investigation,” said the Washington Examiner. Russia will never hand these intelligence officers over, and they will never face trial in the U.S. Still, the Left will inevitably “add them to the tally” that supposedly proves Mueller’s investigation a resounding success, even though the Resistance’s “holy grail of collusion” has not been proven by “a single indictment, confession, or shred of evidence.”
What the columnists said
“Make no mistake: This is nakedly politicized law enforcement,” said Andrew McCarthy in NationalReview.com. Russia routinely interferes in U.S. elections, but Trump is the only “perceived beneficiary” of such interference to have a criminal investigation launched against him. Lacking evidence of anyone in the Trump campaign having any involvement in the hacking, this indictment is “a strictly political document” that Mueller is using to “justify the existence of his superfluous investigation.”
Don’t be so sure of that, said Garrett Graff in Wired.com. When Rosenstein announced the charges, he stressed that there is no allegation in the indictment that any American had committed a crime. He carefully chose his words so as not to inflame Trump, “while preserving the possibility that future indictments will very much target Americans.” Having endured “the abuse, vitriol, and daily haranguing from the president’s Twitter account,” Rosenstein is playing the long game, because he is regularly briefed by Mueller and knows what he’s got. If there’s one thing Mueller’s probe has repeatedly shown, it’s that “his investigators know far, far, far more than anyone in the public expected.”
Let’s stop calling what Russia did “meddling,” said Brian Klass in The Washington Post. It was “information warfare.” Putin understands he can’t beat us on the battlefield, but he can “weaken the U.S. by dividing Americans against themselves.” Trump understood how damaging the hacked documents could be to Clinton, which is why he deployed them as a weapon, mentioning “WikiLeaks 164 times during the final month of the campaign.” Yet the president continues to provide “key political cover for Putin” by suggesting Russia isn’t behind these attacks, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. “In doing so, he is facilitating the Kremlin’s ongoing information war against the United States.” ■