Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russians, accusing them of hacking key individuals and institutions and even, stealing the information of some 500,000 voters.
However, a former federal prosecutor says while it’s vital to know how Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 campaign, there’s still no connection to the Trump campaign and still no basis for why a special counsel is on this case.
Andrew C. McCarthy served as a prosecutor in the Southern District of New York and led the successful prosecution of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and others for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and plots against other New York-area landmarks.
He says the biggest question in his mind following the announcement of the indictments was whether Trump knew this announcement was coming.
Knowing now that Trump was aware, McCarthy finds it very interesting that Trump gave the green light for the news to go public just before his Monday meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland.
“It seems to me, since he was given a heads-up that this was happening, he had an opportunity to direct that the indictment not be unsealed. He didn’t do that, which suggests to me that he and his advisers actually think that having this will strengthen their hand when they meet with Putin,” said McCarthy.
On Friday, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the indictments against a dozen figures connected to the Russian intelligence and military communities.
The Trump administration quickly released a statement pointing out that no Americans, much less any Trump campaign figures, had any connection to Russia’s alleged meddling.
“Today’s charges include no allegations of knowing involvement by anyone on the campaign and no allegations that the alleged hacking affected the election result,” said White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters in a statement.
“This is consistent with what we have been saying all along,” she added.
McCarthy says Trump’s argument that no campaign official has been charged when anything related to a Russian conspiracy clearly holds true.
“It’s perfectly natural and appropriate for them to say yet again that there are no indications in this indictment of any conspiratorial relationship between the Russians and the Trump campaign,” said McCarthy.
Just as when Mueller issued indictments against 13 Russian entities in February, known as the troll farm indictments, McCarthy says no evidence has turned up yet to justify the existence of a special counsel on this matter.
“When I see this indictment, I thought what I thought when I saw the troll farm indictment, which is why do we need a special counsel for this? It doesn’t seem to me that there’s any reason that we needed a special counsel.
“The Justice Department, which was investigating Russian interference in the election – with the FBI – before Mueller was appointed, certainly could have handled these cases,” said McCarthy.
But McCarthy is also clear that he believes an investigation into Russian activity during the 2016 cycle is highly warranted.
“I don’t think anyone sensible has ever questioned the legitimacy of the investigation as it pertains to Russian interference in the 2016 election. That ought to be something that everybody agrees needs to be done and needs to be run down,” said McCarthy.
He’s also chiding the president for regularly tweeting condemnations of the Mueller team. While McCarthy believes Trump sees the investigation is a ‘witch hunt’ specifically as it relates to his campaign and not to possible Russian involvement, he says the persistent denunciation of Mueller is a bad move.
“I think we all know when he says that what he’s talking about is the allegation that his campaign colluded with the Russians, of which there remains no evidence, much less charges.
“But I don’t think it’s helpful that if he knows you’re about to release a set of charges that confirm what all of us have suspected for some time, which is that the Russians did conduct this operation against our election, I don’t know that that’s the best time to be taking shots at the prosecutor,” said McCarthy.
But do these indictments advance the plot much into the Russian meddling? McCarthy doesn’t think so.
“Other than putting some names and some interesting specifics like the Bitcoin aspect of it and the fact that they made that into a money laundering conspiracy, I don’t think that we’ve learned a lot that we didn’t know already on the basis of what we’ve been told by the intelligence community regarding its investigation,” said McCarthy.
But while we may not have learned much today, McCarthy says Mueller clearly has learned some new tactics. After the troll farm indictments, the special counsel got a bit of a surprise that he made sure didn’t happen again this time.
“The problem that Mueller ran into in the troll farm case is that he indicted three of these companies that really turned out to be Kremlin fronts. Much, I think, to his surprise and chagrin, one of them retained counsel in Virginia and showed up and demanded to get the discovery and get ready to go to trial,” said McCarthy.
McCarthy says it’s highly unlikely that any of the 12 Russians indicted on Friday will ever face prosecution.
So why go through the indictments?
“I think the point is to try to file a conclusive U.S. government investigative document that puts to rest any claim that Russia is not responsible for any of this,” said McCarthy.