Last week in brief: bad for Trump; worse for Kushner; busy for the Trump-Russia Timeline.
At the end of the week, special counsel Robert Mueller’s grand jury charged 3 entities and 13 Russian nationals with orchestrating an attack on American democracy. The resulting media coverage eclipsed more important news from a few days earlier: US intelligence chiefs warned Congress and the nation that Putin is still at it — trying to undermine the 2018 midterm elections.
But the really big news is Trump’s continuing indifference to it all, coupled with his endless efforts to distort the truth into something more pleasant for him.
Does It Really Matter?
In a Feb. 14, 2018 appearance, Vice President Mike Pence had a simple message for the audience: US intelligence agencies had found that none of Russia’s efforts had any impact on the 2016 election. For emphasis, he repeated the lie.
The truth: In their Jan. 6, 2017 report on Putin’s widespread influence campaign, the heads of America’s intelligence apparatus said that their agencies did not make any assessment of the impact that Russia’s activities had on the election outcome.
Then on Feb. 16, 2018, special counsel Mueller eliminated any doubt about the seriousness, sophistication, and success of Russia’s efforts to help Trump win. Mueller’s grand jury indicted a Russian-government linked troll farm, two of its funding entities, and 13 Russian nationals for conspiring against the United States “for the purpose of interfering with the US political and electoral system, including the presidential election of 2016.” Social media became Russia’s weapons of choice in the battle against democracy.
Referring to the indictment, Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster said, “[T]he evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain.” The last line of defense for Trump’s claim of presidential legitimacy — that he won the election “fair and square” — now lies in the dustbin of history.
“No Collusion — No Impact”? No Way
Responding to the indictment, Trump lied again. He said that it somehow proved “no collusion” between Russia and the Trump campaign, as well as “no impact” on the election outcome. Neither claim withstands even minimal scrutiny. Lawyers choose their words carefully, and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein is no exception.
“There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity,” Rosenstein said. “There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.” (emphasis supplied) Identifying allegations that aren’t in an indictment is a far cry from vindicating the Trump-Pence claims.
No collusion? The Russia indictment focuses only on Russia’s side of the election-interference transaction. Future indictments will reveal the complete roster of players on the US side. More importantly, they won’t use the red-herring word “collusion.” As Mueller well knows, the relevant legal concepts are conspiring, aiding, abetting, and obstructing.
Impact on the outcome? Functionally, the Russians became Trump’s biggest SuperPac. Putin’s favored candidate lost the US popular vote by almost 3 million ballots and prevailed in the electoral college only because he won three key states by fewer than 80,000 votes out of more than 136 million cast. Bottom line: His presidential victory carries a permanent asterisk. Trump will never be able to prove that he could have won without unlawful help from a foreign adversary.
Someday, Trump’s tweets about the Russia indictment — like so many others — will come back to haunt him and those mounting vigorous defenses based on his false claims.
And Then There’s Kushner…
The indictment, together with news that Mueller’s team had interviewed Steve Bannon for more than 20 hours, could mean special trouble for Jared Kushner. Bannon hates Kushner. The Russia indictment focuses on the defendants’ successful social media efforts. That puts a new spotlight on Trump’s son-in-law, who ran the digital campaign.
For those following the Trump-Russia Timeline, that spotlight was always there. Go to the Timeline and click on Jared Kushner’s name. Or, if you prefer, take a look at the stand-alone Kushner Timeline — made especially for him. He earned it.
Here’s the complete list of this week’s new/revised entries:
NEW: MAY 27, 2013: Trump Contemplating Presidential Bid in 2016
JULY 2013: Internet Research Agency Formed in Russia
APRIL 2014: The “Translator Project” Begins
JUNE 4-26, 2014: Russians Visit US
APRIL TO JUNE 2016: Russians Buy Pro-Trump Ads
JUNE 2016: Russians Get Voter Targeting Info
JUNE TO NOVEMBER 2016: “Translator Project” in Full Swing
NOV. 12, 2016: Russian Interference Campaign Continues
APRIL 2017: Trump Tells McGahn to Get Comey’s Help on Russia
MAY 9, 2017: Internal Trump Team Clash After Comey Firing
MAY 17, 2017: Rosenstein Names Former FBI Director Robert Mueller Special Counsel (revision of previous entry)
JULY 25, 2017: Trump Continues Attacking Sessions on Twitter; Wants Sessions’ Resignation (revision of previous entry)
SEPT. 13, 2017: Russians Realize They Have Been Busted; Destroy Evidence
NEW: DEC. 19, 2017: Prigozhin Added to Sanctions List
FEB. 13, 2018: US Intelligence Chiefs Warn About Russian Interference in 2018
FEB. 13, 2018: Sekulow Using His Radio Show To Defend Trump
FEB. 13, 2018: Mueller Has More For Manafort
FEB. 14, 2018: Pence Lies About US Intelligence Findings
FEB. 15, 2018: Bannon and Trump Frame Permissible Questions for Congress
FEB. 16, 2018: Grand Jury Indicts Internet Research Agency and Russian Nationals
FEB. 16, 2018: Trump Claims Indictment Exonerates Him
NEW: FEB. 17, 2018: Trump Tweets About Indictment
NEW: FEB. 17, 2018: Trump Tweets About Indictment
NEW: FEB. 17, 2018: Trump Retweets Facebook’s Defense
NEW: FEB. 17, 2018: Florida Suffers Tragedy; Trump Tweets
NEW: FEB. 17, 2018: McMaster Speaks; Trump Tweets
NEW: FEB. 18, 2018: Trump Tweets Russians Are “Laughing Their Asses Off”
NEW: FEB. 18, 2018: LA Times: Gates Agrees to Plea Deal