Rosenstein: In the future, let's discuss the Mueller probe "patriotically as Americans"

Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein offered this worthy and impassioned plea as part of the pronouncement of the new grand-jury indictment agains 12 Russians in the special-counsel probe of the 2016 election. It’s not likely to have a great deal of impact, but it’s not just whistling in the wind, either. The indictment today shows that Robert Mueller has made a significant case that Russia conducted an extensive intelligence operation to impact the election through hacking and information disruption, a circumstance that Rosenstein argues should call us to hearken to our better angels:

In my remarks, I have not identified the victims. When we confront foreign interference in American elections, it is important for us to avoid thinking politically as Republicans or Democrats and instead to think patriotically as Americans. Our response must not depend on who was victimized.

The Internet allows foreign adversaries to attack America in new and unexpected ways. Free and fair elections are hard-fought and contentious. There will always be adversaries who work to exacerbate domestic differences and try to confuse, divide, and conquer us. So long as we are united in our commitment to the values enshrined in the Constitution, they will not succeed.

The partisan warfare fueled by modern technology does not fairly reflect the grace and dignity of the American people.

The blame for election interference belongs to the criminals who committed election interference. We need to work together to hold the perpetrators accountable, and keep moving forward to preserve our values, protect against future interference, and defend America.

That would certainly be a nice change of pace across the entire political spectrum, from those who insist that the entire issue of Russian interference is a witch hunt to those who think Donald Trump personally gamed it out with Vladimir Putin. It also applies to the news media, which has at times hyped mostly substance-free developments as major changes in the case, published “facts” from dubious sources without any verification, and at other times simply flat-out amplified false information. With many now heavily invested in these hyperbolic debates and positions, Rosenstein’s plea will mainly fall on deaf ears, but that doesn’t make it without value.

With that standard in mind, though, let’s parse through the information provided today. The indictment does a lot more than just charge people who will never show up in court, although that’s pretty obviously the case. It lays out an extensive and detailed look at the mechanisms behind the thefts of data that later were published by Wikileaks and laundered through front identities like DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0. It makes a very strong case that Russia did indeed conduct a major operation against America’s elections, and succeeded in penetrating some institutions. That should put an end to denials over the nature of the Russian regime and the need to harden our electoral and political infrastructure against further attacks.

However, Rosenstein also took care to note that even while they believe they have seen the breadth and depth of this operation, it did not impact the results of the vote:

In a second, related conspiracy, Russian GRU officers hacked the website of a state election board and stole information about 500,000 voters. They also hacked into computers of a company that supplied software used to verify voter registration information; targeted state and local offices responsible for administering the elections; and sent spearphishing emails to people involved in administering elections, with malware attached. …

There is no allegation in this indictment that any American citizen committed a crime. There is no allegation that the conspiracy altered the vote count or changed any election result.

With the Russian hacking operations exposed in these indictments, that appears to be an overall conclusion from the special counsel. The fact that Mueller is now transferring the indictment back to the Department of Justice for prosecution further and more strongly suggests that there isn’t anything else left to dig up. It indicates that they have found no reason to believe that the DoJ and its current leadership are in any way conflicted and unable to pursue effective prosecution of this case. If they’re still expecting further developments to tie this back to Trump, his family, or the campaign, Mueller would almost certainly prosecute this case himself.

The indictment itself supports that conclusion in another way. The lack of allegations against any US persons in the indictment for the Russian intelligence operations suggests that the original theory of collusion has been discarded. The original theory was that the Trump campaign or members thereof coordinated with Russian intelligence on the dissemination of stolen e-mails in an attempt to throw the election. Rosenstein’s statement declares that they found no allegation of a crime by an American “in this indictment,” but since the indictment speaks to what appears to be the entire Russian interference operation, it’s tough to see how that collusion theory survives.

In fact, the indictment lays out a detailed explanation of how the information got distributed, both through the “DCLeaks” website they created and through “Organization 1,” clearly a reference to Wikileaks. The only reference to a Trump campaign connection comes in paragraph 44, with a rather nondescript response from an indirect connection, likely Roger Stone as Allahpundit wrote earlier:

That’s not coordination, let alone collusion; it’s barely a response at all. (It is, however, another lesson in not feeding the trolls.) That’s not to say that the Russians didn’t succeed in getting any political campaign interested. The indictment does disclose a very interesting connection to a congressional candidate:

With that inclusion, we can see that Mueller’s team had no problem including this kind of direct contact with candidates or campaigns in their indictment. Even in this case, the Mueller team apparently considered the congressional candidate who made direct contact with Russian intel a victim of the conspiracy, not a participant, as Rosenstein emphasized:

In my remarks, I have not identified the victims. When we confront foreign interference in American elections, it is important for us to avoid thinking politically as Republicans or Democrats and instead to think patriotically as Americans. Our response must not depend on who was victimized.

Given that, the lack of any such contacts listed in this indictment certainly leads one to believe that there were no such contacts between the actual Trump campaign and Russian intelligence officers running the hacking-influencing campaign in 2016. The indictment would be even stronger if they could cite that kind of penetration, and could have used generic identifiers to detail those allegations. With this fairly complete look at the Russian operation and its efforts, and with the transfer of this prosecution back to the DoJ proper, there simply isn’t anything here to support the collusion theory.

That might change, of course, and there may be other crimes that Mueller uncovers. But this indictment vindicates the results of the election and certainly seems to close off the idea of collusion.