Important Points Regarding Yesterday's Russian Hacking Indictments
Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election and their assistance to the Trump campaign led to the indictment of 12 Russian intelligence agents yesterday. The indictments describe a wide-ranging and sophisticated hacking operation created to assist Donald Trump in his campaign to defeat Hillary Clinton. The Russian intelligence agents were charged with a variety of crimes including identity theft and money laundering. What we have learned from these indictments so far:
1. The details in the indictment should finally put to rest any argument that Vladimir Putin didn't use his intelligence services in an attempt to assist Donald Trump. We may never know whether Russia's interference tipped the scales in Trump's favor, but that isn't the point. Every American, Republican or Democrat, should be just a bit upset that an unfriendly foreign power attempted to affect the outcome of our Presidential election in order to assist a candidate that they viewed as friendly to their national interests.
2. In an interesting coincidence, the indictments allege that the intelligence operation against Clinton began immediately after Trump made his famous request at a Florida news conference on July 27, 2016 for Russia to "find the 30,000 emails that are missing," The line was shocking at the time in that Trump was encouraging Russia to hack the Clinton campaign and disseminate her emails.
From the Mueller indictments and the BBC: "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," the court filing reads. "At or around the same time, they also targeted seventy-six email addresses at the domain for the Clinton campaign.
"While this isn't the first time Russians allegedly targeted the Clinton team, after Mr Trump's remarks the hackers escalated their efforts.
"It seems clear that the indictment is trying to make the connection with language like 'after hours' and 'first time'," tweeted conservative commentator - and Trump critic - Ben Shapiro. "But even Trump publicly saying he wants the Russians to do something and them doing it isn't collusion in any real sense.
"It is, however, an uncanny coincidence.
3. President Trump's response to the new indictments was, as usual, to blame President Obama for not stopping the Russians from helping his campaign. It's a bizarre defense; one that only a true Trump acolyte would ever believe. As Bill Kristol points out on twitter: "The Obama Administration did do something (though perhaps they could have done more). They launched a counter-intelligence investigation, headed by James Comey. You denounced the investigation and fired him."
Moreover, Trump has claimed that the FBI's investigation into Russia's covert operation amounted to spying on his campaign.
It will be interesting to see how Trump's meeting with Putin plays out on Monday. Any other President would insist that Putin turn over these intelligence agents for trial in the US. That would usually be the first issue on their summit agenda. I suspect, however, that Trump will not see it that way.
Photo credit: www.kremlin.ru