Mueller Sends Report on Russia Investigation
Here are the threads Mueller has begun to publicly unravel—and the lingering mysteries that might fall to Congress to solve.
To date, Mueller has leveled the conspiracy charges most relevant to the core of his probe—Russia’s election interference—at Russian nationals. In February 2018, his office indicted 13 Russians connected to Russia’s Internet Research Agency, a troll farm based in St. Petersburg that flooded the internet with propaganda and divisive political content leading up to the election. Beginning in 2014, Mueller wrote, the defendants “knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other … to defraud the United States” by influencing U.S. political processes in an operation they dubbed “Project Lakhta.” Two of the defendants, Aleksandra Krylova and Anna Bogacheva, actually traveled to the United States in the summer of 2014 to “gather intelligence” for the project, according to the indictment. The indictment did not make a judgment as to whether the results of the election were impacted, or whether collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia occurred.
Months later, and just days before Trump’s bilateral summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, Mueller pounced again: He indicted 12 Russian military-intelligence officers, alleging that they had hacked the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and top staffers for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. (The entire contents of the Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email inbox, stolen by Russia in March 2016, were dumped by WikiLeaks just minutes after the Access Hollywood tape damaging to Trump was released by The Washington Post.)
Again, though, Mueller stopped short of alleging any kind of coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. The closest he came was this sentence: “On or about July 27, 2016, the Conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office” (emphasis mine). By using the words for the first time, Mueller appeared to be emphasizing the fact that the hackers’ activity that day was unique—a significant detail, given another major event that took place on July 27, 2016: Trump’s “Russia, if you’re listening,” speech, in which he implored Moscow to find Clinton’s emails.
The closest Mueller has publicly come so far to establishing a link between Trump’s campaign and the Russian hackers is through Roger Stone, a longtime Trump confidant whom Mueller charged in January with obstruction of justice, making false statements to Congress, and witness tampering. In a court filing last month, Mueller linked Stone directly to one of the Russian military-intelligence (GRU) officers, writing that the search warrants his team conducted against the GRU revealed that Guccifer 2.0, a fictitious online persona created by the Russians, “interacted directly with Stone concerning other stolen materials posted separately online.” Stone has said he had “a short and innocuous Direct Message Exchange with Guccifer 2.0” in August 2016, in which Guccifer offered to “help” him. The January indictment of Stone also offered the clearest link yet between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, and suggested that the campaign might have known about additional stolen emails before they were released.