Special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 individuals and a trio of Russian companies for “interference operations targeting the United States,” which was handed down Friday afternoon, does not allege that the Trump campaign knowingly colluded with Russian agents during the 2016 presidential election — but in a news conference on Friday, deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein did not rule out the possibility that such allegations could be made in the future.
Alluding to the latest indictment’s allegation that some of the defendants were in communication with Trump campaign officials, a reporter asked Rosenstein, “Were campaign officials cooperative, or were they duped?”
Rosenstein’s response to the question included an important caveat.
“There is no allegation in this indictment that any American had any knowledge, and the nature of the scheme was the defendants took extraordinary steps to make it appears that they were ordinary American political activists, even going so far as to base their activities on a virtual private network here in the United States so if anybody traced it back to the first jump they would appear to be Americans,” he said.
That was the second time during the news conference that Rosenstein emphasized there is no allegation of collusion “in this indictment” — leaving open the possibility that allegations of collusion against Trump campaign officials could be made in future indictments.
While already know that the Trump campaign was willing to collude with Russian agents. Last summer, Donald Trump Jr. released emails indicating that in June 2016, Trump campaign officers were eager to meet with a Kremlin-connected lawyer who promised them political dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Three months later, Trump Jr. exchanged direct messages with WikiLeaks — the organization that published stolen Clinton campaign emails in the weeks leading up to the election.
While Rosenstein left open the possibility that collusion allegations could be made in the future, Trump supporters quickly seized upon the fact that no such allegations are included in Mueller’s latest indictment — along with the fact that it claims Russians were pushing pro-Bernie Sanders messages — to argue that it actually exonerates the president.