Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.
The special prosecutor in charge of the investigation into the alleged Russian interference in the last US presidential election, Robert Mueller, dropped a bomb on Friday with his accusation against three organizations and 13 Russian citizens.
It is the first time that Mueller’s team pulls the trigger in what has to do with the central mandate of his investigation, leaving aside what he says is a multimillion-dollar operation to sow discord in US politics that goes back to 2014 .
Below are some of the key passages of the 37-page indictment, as well as an analysis of what they mean for the case.
1. No knowledge, no collusion
” Some defendants, posing as US citizens without revealing their ties with Russia, communicated with individuals linked to the campaign of Trump and other politicians to try to coordinate political activities activists” .
This is the key fragment for the White House’s efforts to minimize the threat posed by the accusation for Donald Trump and his presidency.
In announcing the indictment, Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein added that “in this indictment there are no allegations that any US citizen had knowledge (of Russian activities).”
But Trump’s critics will highlight the specific statement “in this accusation,” because although Mueller’s documents state that none of the people linked to the president knew they were dealing with Russians, the investigation has not yet concluded.
Through Twitter and a statement from the White House, Trump has insisted that this proves that there was no collusion. But the correct thing would be to say that no collusion is alleged in this accusation.
The document certainly gives strength to the White House’s main argument , but it does not protect it from possible new accusations.
And what the evidence presented by Mueller does – if it ends up proving itself – is to overturn Trump’s old insistence that accusations of Russian interference were part of a hoax.
2. Beyond Donald and Hillary
“They participated in operations mainly aimed at spreading negative information about Hillary Clinton, insulting other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and supporting Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.”
The accusation portrays an effort of many years and on many fronts to “sow discord” in the US political process since at least 2014, when Trump had not yet announced his candidacy for the presidency.
According to Mueller’s team, the Russians first became familiar with the American political process and then acted to support – or weaken – several candidates.
They are accused of having attacked several of Trump’s rivals in the Republican Party primaries and of supporting Bernie Sanders in his battle with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.
It is also claimed that they used social networks to mobilize support for Green Party candidate Jill Stein during the election, including an Instagram account that invited black liberal activists to “choose peace and vote for Jill Stein” and insisted that a vote for her was not “a wasted vote”.
In several key states of the Midwest, the votes in favor of Stein exceeded Trump’s margin of victory over Clinton.
3. Echoes of the Cold War
” Krylova and Bogacheva, together with other defendants and co- conspirators, planned travel itineraries, purchased equipment (such as cameras, SIM cards and disposable phones) and discussed security measures (including” evacuation scenarios “) for defendants who traveled to the US .UU. “
One of the most shocking revelations of the accusation is that the Russian efforts to influence the presidential elections went far beyond their “virtual” efforts through social networks.
According to the document, these also included arrival in the United States. under false pretenses of several Russian citizens who posed as US citizens to carry out clandestine actions.
This type of espionage work refers to the Cold War and is an indicator of the seriousness and sophistication of Russian efforts.
4. Crimes were committed
” The accused, along with other known and unknown grand jury, conspired knowingly and intentionally with the goal of defrauding the United States damaging, obstructing and perverting the legal functions of the Federal Electoral Commission, the Department of Justice and the Department of State in the administration of the federal requirements of disclosure of foreign participation in certain domestic activities. “
One of the arguments of some of the supporters of Donald Trump is that even if a Russian interference in the election campaign is proved, this would not constitute a crime , so a connection between Russia and the Trump campaign, if any, would not represent a fatal blow for the president.
The indictment, however, identifies several crimes potentially attributable to the Russians, including electronic fraud, identity theft and violations of the electoral law.
And although it seems very unlikely that any of the accused will end up appearing before a US court. -the Russian government has already qualified the allegations as “absurd” – that does not seem to be the point: the matter matters because it means that any American who has known about Russian activity participated in a criminal activity and therefore can also be accused.
At the moment no American citizen has been appointed. But the investigation has not yet concluded.
5. A directed effort
” The defendants and their co-conspirators, posing as US citizens, communicated with a true US citizen affiliated with a Texas base organization.” Accused and conspirators learned that person had to focus their activities on “states purple like Colorado, Virginia and Florida. “
This revelation accounts for the extremes to which the Russians came to obtain information about the US electoral system and strategies as part of their alleged attempts to influence the presidential election.
They contacted local experts, who helped them identify several key states as targets, including Virginia, Colorado and Florida.
The accusation shows that the Russians paid special attention to Florida, where Trump eventually won with a difference of 1.2%. Hillary Clinton won in the other two mentioned states.
6. Real people, truth demonstrations
” The defendants and their co-conspirators maintained an updated list of more than 100 US citizens contacted through false accounts of US citizens controlled by the organization, monitoring their recruitment efforts and other requests.”
Until today, most of the attention had been focused on the Russian efforts to interfere in the election through social networks, via fake Twitter and Facebook accounts, advertisements and things like that. But the prosecution offers details about other activities.
According to the indictment, hundreds of Americans were contacted and recruited to support activities in favor of Trump.
Investigators say that some individuals were paid to attend campaign events, including one who was several of them dressed as Hillary Clinton in a striped suit, and who even financed the construction of a fake cage.
The Russians would also have organized and promoted several events, as well as providing money to a grassroots organization in Florida to purchase materials for an activity in Miami. That is, traditional campaign activities would have been directly involved and financed .
Trump has always said that “the results of the election were not affected.”
But while it is impossible to determine whether the millions of dollars that Russia supposedly invested ended up tilting the balance in favor of the Republican candidate, it is much harder to deny some kind of impact.
7. The voting day did not end
” Following the election of Donald Trump in November 2016, defenders and conspirators created false profiles of US citizens to organize and coordinate political rallies to support President-elect Trump, while at the same time, with other user profiles, they called other protests to oppose the re-election of the new president-elect . “
If the real purpose of the alleged Russian meddling was to “sow discord” in the United States political system, those efforts did not end with the election of Trump, according to the indictment.
Days after the elections, the Russians played both sides , calling protests in favor and against Trump.
The supporters of the president use this as evidence to say that the Russians did not support Trump, but both wanted to sink his name as to help him.
But the communications Muller cites in the indictment claim that the operators of these profiles said that the organization supported Trump and Sanders.
In addition, the postelectoral meetings show that the Russian efforts have not ended.
Some US intelligence officials who had to go through the US Congress earlier this week said practically the same thing: that the Russians, unperturbed, will try to continue to foment chaos in the coming days , even during the legislative elections to be held later this year.
The question, then, is what the United States does or does not do to prepare and respond.