“There is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”
With those words, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein electrified social media supporters of Donald Trump as he announced the indictment of 13 Russians for crimes related to election interference.
According to the charges, Project Lakhta was an operation by the infamous Russian troll farm. The so-called Internet Research Agency used virtual private networks and “stolen or fictitious American identities, fraudulent bank accounts, and false identification documents” to pose as “grassroots activists” in support of specific candidates, Rosenstein said.
Working both sides of any issue, promoting simultaneous demonstrations for and against president-elect Donald Trump, their objective was “to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy. We must not allow them to succeed.”
While the operation “recruited and paid real Americans,” Rosenstein explained, those individuals were unaware they were being used to attack the election.
Trump supporters quickly hailed the press conference as a vindication for the Trump campaign. They could not be more wrong.
I hate to say we’re right, but
Rod Rosenstein clarified that no Americans colluded with the 13 Russians being indicted.
— #ThePersistence (@ScottPresler) February 16, 2018
BAMM! GAME OVER! There’s no allegation that any American was knowingly involved in the conspiracy, Rosenstein said. Nor was there an allegation that the efforts of the defendants affected the outcome of the election. https://t.co/bVXPzSLQs7
— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) February 16, 2018
The Left Right Now: Bu Bu Bu But collusion because um there has to be. Its not fair. Its not over. No.
Rod Rosenstein: No Collusion.
— Carmine Sabia (@CarmineSabia) February 16, 2018
Rod Rosenstein: “13 Russians are being indicted for fraud & meddling in the election.”
Media: “So, this is proof of Russian collusion?”
Rod Rosenstein: “No Americans colluded with the Russians.”
— #ThePersistence (@ScottPresler) February 16, 2018
They focused on the lack of clear connections between the Trump campaign campaign and Richard Piniedo, an American indicted for selling bank account numbers to the Russian fake personas.
Mueller obtained another guilty plea — this one from a guy named Richard Pinedo, who operates a company that helps skirt security requirements on online payment systems. Doesn’t seem to be connected to Trump campaign. https://t.co/DOtab1a1ne
— Chuck Ross (@ChuckRossDC) February 16, 2018
Even though the indictment says that the operation supported Trump and opposed Hillary Clinton from both sides, somehow they came to the conclusion that the real victim here is…Trump!
DOJ just revealed that the Russians indicted were organizing AGAINST Trump
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) February 16, 2018
They acted like this was the end of the matter.
Did we think Russians weren’t trolling us on Twitter?
Did it really require a special counsel to uncover that?
If that’s the case, the DOJ, FBI, and IC are bigger messes than we thought.
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) February 16, 2018
They complained that Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation is a waste of time.
And in the blink of an eye, CNN dropped their coverage of the tragedy in Florida to get back to their regularly scheduled programming….Trump/Russia conspiracy theories. Maybe the FBI could have prevented it if they too weren’t bogged down with this obsession about the Russians
— Mark Dice (@MarkDice) February 16, 2018
Chances are, all of these people will ultimately regret their tweets today. These indictments are only one outcome of a multi-pronged investigation — the counterintelligence probe into Kremlin information warfare against the 2016 election. None of these indictments are related to the hacking of the DNC, for example, or the distribution of John Podesta’s emails. Former campaign deputy Rick Gates is reportedly ready to become Mueller’s witness.
There will be a lot more to come.
It is also beyond question that the Trump campaign invited Russian interference. Donald Trump, Jr. told Rob Goldstone “I love it” and arranged a meeting in Trump Tower; his father openly “joked” that Russia should release Clinton’s “missing” emails. Even without collusion, the elder Trump has clearly obstructed justice to halt the FBI counterintelligence investigation of Michael Flynn. And so on.
However, the reaction of Trump supporters is probably a preview of Trump’s own reaction, offering a clue to what the embattled Mr. Rosenstein was doing today.
“There is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity,” Rosenstein said. Whatever comes next, those careful words are likely to forestall a Saturday night massacre — a constitutional crisis that could destroy the Department of Justice.
That is exactly the sort of democracy-destroying result that Vladimir Putin set out to create, and Rosenstein does not want him to succeed.
Instead, Trump will probably be happy “there is no allegation…that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.” Rosenstein did not actually say that Russian activity did not affect the outcome; the Department of Justice is not equipped to make that determination anyway, nor is it necessary for them to prove it as an element of the alleged crime.
There have been questions all along about Rod Rosenstein’s intentions. Looking back, today may very well be seen as a critical moment when he definitely put on a white hat and protected our way of life as a nation.
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