The Kremlin has yet to respond to the conclusions from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, but the gloating has already begun in Moscow.
Attorney General William Barr said Sunday the special counsel’s investigation did not find President Donald Trump’s campaign or associates conspired with Russia.
“In short, Russia did not elect Trump,” said Evgeny Popov, the co-host of a pro-Kremlin political talk show, on Twitter. “Mueller did not find evidence of collusion between Trump’s team with Russia. The US Attorney General submitted a 4-page report on the special prosecutor’s investigation report to Congress. D is for Disappointment.”
Added Popov: “And what about sanctions for ‘election interference?’ Hello, Mueller!”
Alexey Pushkov, a prominent Russian senator, also did not mince words.
“Mueller did not find evidence of Trump’s collusion with Moscow,” Pushkov said. “But the Democrats will still shout that there was a conspiracy. Conspiracy theory maniacs don’t need facts – they need to whip up passion and earn points on it. They are already saying that Trump has in some way influenced Mueller. A circus.”
To be clear, the Mueller investigation did not let Russia off the hook. Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election led to a raft of indictments against Russian individuals and Russian entities, and the Mueller probe identified “two main Russian efforts” to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.
As Barr’s summary notes, the special counsel brought criminal charges against the Internet Research Agency, the so-called “troll farm” that was sowing disinformation and propaganda during the election campaign. And the special counsel also brought charges against Russian military officers in connection with the hacking of the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations.
The Russian government always consistently denied having anything to do with either the troll farm or the election hacking, although Russian President Vladimir Putin conceded that “patriotic” hackers acting without state backing may have meddled in the US election.
“(Artists) may act on behalf of their country, they wake up in good mood and paint things. Same with hackers, they woke up today, read something about the state-to-state relations,” he said in 2017 comments at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. “If they are patriotic, they contribute in a way they think is right, to fight against those who say bad things about Russia.”
And the Kremlin has also moved to dismiss additional investigations into links between Trump and Russia. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov recently dismissed a sweeping new investigation by House Democrats into Trump, telling CNN: “We do not have the capacity nor the desire to comment on every single new investigation launched by one or the other group of US lawmakers. There are so many of these investigations that their value has definitely diminished.”
Relations between the United States and Russia are likely to remain abysmal. Congress in 2017 overwhelmingly passed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, meant in part to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 US election. Moscow and Washington remain at odds over everything from Syria policy and arms control to the fallout from last year’s nerve-agent attack in Salisbury, England.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a statement welcoming Barr’s summary, said: “Russia’s ongoing efforts to interfere with our democracy are dangerous and disturbing, and I welcome the special counsel’s contributions to our efforts to understand better Russia’s activities in this regard.”
A bipartisan consensus in Washington that sees Russia as a bad actor still remains, it seems.
CNN’s Anna-Maja Rappard and Mary Ilyushina contributed to this report.