The indictments of the 12 Russian military officers who engaged in a coordinated attack on the United States to try to make their preferred candidate our president are a vital reminder that the Mueller investigation cannot and must not be seen as a political issue.
The fact that Friday we also heard from our Director of National Intelligence, a conservative GOP former senator from Indiana, that the cyber offensive of which the GRU, Russian military intelligence, attacks were part is ongoing and that “we are at a critical point” in which “the warning signs are there” is also salient.
It is not an accident that both these strong statements were made as the U.S. president prepared for his ill-considered and unnecessary private meeting with Vladimir Putin — the man who certainly approved, oversaw and continues to oversee these attacks.
It is clear that the intelligence and law enforcement communities of the United States — adhering to the principles of patriotism enumerated by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein yesterday — felt that a message needed to be sent to the Russians that we were on to them.
Typically, such a message would be delivered by the president in such a meeting but this president has proven to be the staunchest defender of Putin and the most active advocate of covering up or denying these attacks. He did it again this week even while knowing of the indictments.
Do the indictments and the Coats statement (again, both delivered by Republicans) also send a message that they do not fully trust the president to deliver that message or to press the Russians on it? I believe they do.
Further, the White House response to the indictments — which again does not deal with the ongoing threat to our democracy posed by the Russians but instead (wrongly) seeks to exonerate the president from his involvement in this affair — confirms the wisdom of their actions.
This is an extraordinary moment. It is without equal not only in American history but in modern history. A hostile foreign power intervened in our election to help elect a man president who has since actively served their interests and has defended them at every turn.
Trump may deny collusion. But given that this the attack continues, denying it is collusion, distracting from it is collusion, obstructing the investigation of it is collusion — because all these things enable it to go on. [Continue reading…]
The timing of the indictment given the upcoming Helsinki summit is a powerful show of strength by federal law enforcement. Let’s presume that Mueller did not time this indictment to precede the summit by way of embarrassing Trump on the international stage. It is enough to note that he also did not hold off on the indictment for a few days by way of sparing Trump embarrassment—and that Rosenstein did not force him to. Indeed, Rosenstein said at his press conference that it is “important for the president to know what information was uncovered because he has to make very important decisions for the country” and therefore “he needs to know what evidence there is of foreign election interference.” But of course Rosenstein and Mueller did not just let Trump know. They also let the world know, which has the effect—intended or not—of boxing in the president as he meets with an adversary national leader.
Put less delicately: Rosenstein has informed the president, and the world, before Trump talks to Putin one-on-one that his own Justice Department is prepared to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, in public, using admissible evidence, that the president of the Russian Federation has been lying to Trump about Russian non-involvement in the 2016 election hacking. [Continue reading…]
This past week provided a spectacle of crossed signals on Russia. In Europe, Mr. Trump disparaged the investigation of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, while in Washington, the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, somberly announced the latest round of indictments in the case.
“I call it the rigged witch hunt,” Mr. Trump said, as Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain looked on. “I think that really hurts our country and it really hurts our relationship with Russia.”
A few hours later, Mr. Trump’s director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, compared the danger of Russian cyberattacks to the stream of terrorist threats against the United States before Sept. 11, 2001. He said Mr. Putin should be held responsible for them.