Friday’s news that special counsel Robert Mueller had announced indictments against 13 Russians for their alleged roles in a massive – and complex – attempt to influence the outcome of the 2016 election is a major moment in the investigation.
It marks the point at which no sane person can dispute this basic fact: Russia actively sought to interfere in our election in support of Donald Trump.
Most people have long believed that as fact – largely because the US intelligence community has unanimously agreed on that fact for much of the last year.
Donald Trump is not most people. He has repeatedly left open the possibility that Russia wasn’t responsible for the election interference, suggesting China or even a “guy sitting on his bed who weighs 400 pounds” might be behind it.
For Trump, acknowledging Russia tried to meddle in the 2016 election to help him is tantamount to acknowledging that he didn’t win fair and square. Of course, it isn’t.
So, let’s just go through some of the facts:
- Russia engaged in a deep and broad attempt to influence the 2016 election.
- That plan included social media ads, rally organizing and in-person conversations.
- “Unwitting” people with ties to Trump’s campaign were communicated with in the course of this attempted meddling.
- There is no known evidence that Russia’s interference operation was successful or changed the election outcome in any way.
- There is no known evidence that members of Trump’s campaign colluded with any known Russian actors.
- Two members of Trump’s campaign – national security adviser Mike Flynn and foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos – have pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and are cooperating with the Mueller probe.
- Two other members of the Trump campaign – chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates – have been charged with a variety of financial crimes by Mueller. (Gates, according to CNN reporting, is nearing a plea deal with Mueller.)
- Russia views its attempted meddling in the 2016 election as a massive success and will almost certainly try to meddle in the 2018 midterm elections and the 2020 presidential election.
The Point: The Mueller investigation is no “hoax” and no political “witch hunt.” Unfortunately, those are the words that President Trump has continually chosen to describe Mueller’s probe.
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