A major indictment released Friday by the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller accused 13 individuals and three Russian companies of “interference operations targeting the United States.”
The White House was quick to claim that the indictment exonerates President Donald Trump of any suspected collusion with Russia during the 2016 United States election — even though that isn’t what the indictment actually says.
In a statement released shortly after the indictment was announced, the White House said in a statement that the action further indicates that there was “NO COLLUSION between the Trump campaign and Russia and that the outcome of the election was not changed or affected.”
In the statement, Trump says it is now “time we stop the outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories.”
White House statement on Mueller indictment pic.twitter.com/FJzYLmySuh
— Shannon Pettypiece (@spettypi) February 16, 2018
Additionally the president took to Twitter to reaffirm his campaign’s innocence, again claiming “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
Unfortunately for Trump and his administration, however, repeating “no collusion!” over and over doesn’t make it true.
In fact, Special Counsel Robert Mueller is still investigating potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, Bloomberg reported Friday afternoon. A source close to the special counsel’s probe told the news outlet that the Friday indictments should be seen as an effort by Mueller to raise awareness about what Russia is capable of doing as the 2018 midterms draw nearer. The source additionally told Bloomberg that it is still possible Mueller will indict Americans for knowingly helping Russia.
During a Friday press conference announcing the indictments, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said, “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.”
The caveat of “in this indictment” is key — officials are not ruling out the possibility of allegations of collusion against the Trump campaign in future indictments.
Friday’s indictment focused on efforts by the Internet Research Agency, the Russian organization responsible for spearheading Moscow’s social media interference operations during the 2016 election, ThinkProgress’ Casey Michel reported. The indictment didn’t reveal any new fake Russian Facebook or Twitter bots that hadn’t already been reported on, but it did detail the efforts of groups already identified, including “Secured Borders,” “United Muslims of America,” “Blacktivist,” and “Heart of Texas,” confirming that the size of many of the pages “had grown to hundreds of thousands of online followers.”
In the fall of 2017, The Daily Beast published a bombshell report revealing that Kremlin propagandists had impersonated American advocacy groups by digitally executing real-world rallies in support of Donald Trump on American soil during the 2016 election.