The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trump’s claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators took to bolster Trump, malign Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and sow discord and distrust in American society. This was an attack by a foreign power against America’s democratic process.
This investigation is about the sanctity of America’s democratic system and of federal laws that forbid foreign nationals from meddling in U.S. elections. The 37-page indictment doesn’t accuse Trump or his campaign of knowingly working with the Russian operatives. It paints a broader picture of a well-organized disinformation campaign led and managed by Russian trolls, who hid their identities as they exploited social divisions to make Trump more appealing.
Beginning as early as 2014 and assisted by social media, Russian operatives built a sophisticated network designed to "interfere with U.S. political and electoral processes, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election," the indictment reads. It accuses 13 Russians of organizing rallies, buying political ads and pushing out inflammatory messages with a strategic goal: "to sow discord in the U.S. political system," and by 2016, to undermine Clinton’s viability.
Any responsible president would have reacted strongly to an indictment alleging foreign interference in a U.S. election. Trump inaccurately portrayed it as personal vindication. The indictment did not connect any dots between the Trump campaign and Russia and it stopped short of suggesting the misinformation campaign tilted the election. But those are separate matters, and the investigation is ongoing.
Trump spent the weekend burning up his Twitter account with harsh denunciations of Clinton, former President Barack Obama, leading Democrats, his own national security adviser and Oprah Winfrey. He callously used the shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as political cover, blaming the FBI for missing leads on the alleged shooter because the agency was "spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign." Yet he failed to condemn Russia and didn’t say a thing about better protecting America’s electoral system. No wonder the Russians put their money behind him.