Over the past year, President Trump has repeatedly denied Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
He has ignored the joint assessment of his own intelligence community and instead took the word of Russian President Vladimir Putin that the U.S.’s Cold War rival did not interfere in the electoral process. His view reportedly remained undeterred even after CIA Director Mike Pompeo, FBI Director Chris Wray, and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats all testified that such meddling definitely occurred before a Senate panel on Tuesday.
But it’s going to be hard for Trump to continue denying Russian interference following the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s latest bombshell indictment on Friday — which completely undermines Trump’s favored narrative that election meddling is fake news.
The 37-page indictment accuses 13 individuals and three Russian companies of “interference operations targeting the United States” by pushing support for Donald Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton via social media, by coordinating with unsuspecting Trump campaign staffers, and posing as political and social activists.
According to the indictment, a Russian operation called Project Lakhta — which was led by the Internet Research Agency in coordination with several LLCs out of St. Petersburg — employed hundreds of employees who created fake personas, provided data analysis, and created graphics, attempting to influence the election via YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Russian operatives traveled the U.S. under the guise of Americans to collect intelligence or gain access to U.S. servers to mask their Russian location on social media posts and conspired to obstruct “the lawful functions of the United States government through fraud and deceit.” The operatives made election expenditures without registering as a foreign agent carrying out political activities within the U.S. and obtained visas through fraudulent statements.
White House statement on Mueller indictment pic.twitter.com/FJzYLmySuh
— Shannon Pettypiece (@spettypi) February 16, 2018
The White House has emphasized that Mueller’s indictment found no evidence of collusion — which is true, although the investigation into possible collusion remains ongoing — but has not addressed whether the president finally acknowledges he was wrong about the existence of election interference.