An indictment released by the Justice Department Friday appears to absolve the Trump campaign of having any knowledge of Russian election meddling.
Released by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office, the indictment nets 13 Russian people and three Russian entities for meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
“From in or around 2014 to the present, Defendents knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other (and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury) to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the US political and electoral process, including the presidential election of 2016.”
Subversive activities described include infiltrating social media groups, creating “thematic group pages on social media sites,” posing as political activists at events, wire and bank fraud and using stolen or fake US identities to maintain social media accounts and purchase ads.
The indictment also notes Russians communicated with “unwitting members” of the Trump campaign, meaning Trump, his associates and staffers would not have had knowledge of such a conspiracy.
“Some Defendants, posing as US persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities.” [Page 4]
“Defendants and their co-conspirators also used false US personas to communicate with unwitting members, volunteers, and supporters of the Trump campaign involved in local community outreach, as well as grassroots groups that supported then-candidate Trump.” [Page 17]
Questioned about the “unwitting individuals of the Trump campaign” mentioned in the indictment at a press conference Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made clear no one in the Trump campaign had any knowledge of Russian subversion.
“There is no allegation in this indictment that any American had any knowledge,” Rosenstein said.
“The nature of the scheme was the defendants took extraordinary steps to make it appear that they were ordinary American political activists, even so far as to base their activities on a virtual private network here in the United States. They appear to be Americans.”
"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."
How is the #Media taking that to mean Trump colluded?
— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) February 16, 2018
It remains to be seen whether the indictment sparks the end of the Russia probe once and for all.
Read the 37-page indictment below:
UPDATE: Following release of the indictment, President Trump took to Twitter asserting “The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”
Russia started their anti-US 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 16, 2018