The charges Mueller could have brought against the Russians but didn’t

For example, count one alleges a conspiracy to defraud the U.S., or a “Klein” conspiracy. This statute outlaws conspiracies to violate federal law, defraud the government of property or obstruct the performance of its agencies. Any scheme designed to thwart the statutory duties of the Federal Election Commission alone, plus an overt act, can be prosecuted as a conspiracy to defraud. Even though the overall theme of the indictment involves federal election law, violation of that law was not charged.

The important advantage of the conspiracy to defraud statute is that it does not require any charge of, or even reference to, violating a separate substantive statute, such as FECA. In fact, the conspiracy count technically alleges concealing the Russian involvement from the government — not the involvement itself. Perhaps the simplest explanation for why Mueller didn’t include a separate count for election law violations is: He didn’t need to.

The second inference: If the Mueller team could have secured an indictment for a violation of federal election law but did not, then this was a deliberate choice. We may not understand the reason behind this strategy until much later.

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