Six Thoughts on the Russia Indictments

As I tweeted yesterday:

“Only on a day when the morning story was about a playboy playmate of the year would Donald Trump be happy to see an afternoon report of 13 Russians being indicted for election meddling”

It was that kind of day.

By now, you know that 13 Russian nationals were indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for U.S. election meddling, all spelled out in a 37-page indictment. The president responded by tweeting:

“Russia started their anti-U.S. campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for president. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”

Okay. Permit me six observations:

First, to the president’s point, there was no allegation by Mueller of the Trump campaign knowingly cooperating with the Russian nationals, nor that the meddling tipped the balance of the election. Or as the president likes to say, there was no evidence of collusion – but the president can no longer say with a straight face that reports of Russia’s meddling are ‘a hoax.’ And the president should now be held accountable for his refusal to support congress’ bid to sanction the Russians for the interference.

Second, this indictment does not concern the Russian hack of the DNC server. If this group of Russian nationals had been involved in that crime, that information would likely be a part of this indictment. That means we’ve yet to see whatever Mueller has found about that. Whether there was collusion in that regard remains the big unknown.

Third, the goal of the operation was partly to support the campaign of Donald Trump, but mostly to screw with the American political process. Their aim was to undermine all of us, more than to elect any one of us – to spread distrust toward candidates and our political system in general.

Fourth, this was a sophisticated effort complete with a hierarchy and budget. I read the indictment about the so-called internet research agency picturing a mafia-like front organization run like an American business.

I’d not have been surprised to learn they had paid maternity leave, holidays, and a company training video for sexual harassment.

Fifth, notice that Robert Mueller himself did not make the announcement. No doubt he learned from Jim Comey how *not* to handle such an important announcement, choosing instead to remain in the shadows despite himself having signed the indictment. And by leaving the press briefing to deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein, Mueller probably insulated himself from being fired by Trump.

Sixth, and finally for now, something to be appreciated about the #mueller indictments today – the ability to keep it all a secret until last minute. Before Rosenstein’s announcement, the media was speculating it could be about the Florida shooting.

We have no idea what Mueller knows.