The Big Collusion Nothingburger, or 10 takeaways from the Russian indictment

1.Thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian organisations have been indicted as part of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. You can read the whole indictment here.

2. According to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the Russians “allegedly conducted what they called ‘information warfare’ against the United States,” with the goal of “spreading distrust against candidates and the political system in general.”

3. However, also according to Rosenstein, “There is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity… [and] there is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”

4. The Russian operations commenced in 2014, and so predate any particular candidate indicating interest in running for the presidency. This fits in with the general objective of attacking the system rather than a candidate.

5. The operation cost around $1.5 million over several years and involved the Russians, posing in the anonymity of the internet as American nationals, and engaging in social media campaigns, mainly on Facebook and Twitter, buying ads on social media, and organising political rallies and events.

6. While Trump seems to have been the biggest beneficiary of the operation, directly and indirectly, the Russians impersonated all sides of politics (pro-Trump, pro-Hillary, pro-Bernie Sanders (who declined to directly respond to the indictment), Black Lives Matter, pro-Muslim, anti-immigration, and others) and in turn attacked all sides of politics. Similarly, the Russians simultaneously organised rallies supporting and opposing the result of the presidential election (for example, the November 12 “Trump is NOT my President” rally in New York).

7. As has been clear to any non-excitable observer for a long time, the Russians did not “hack” the election, but meddled in the social media sphere with the objective of stirring shit (this, I believe, is a correct legal term), exacerbating tensions and distrust, and delegitimising the election itself as well as the broader electoral system (see my earlier takes on this here and here and here).

8. That objective was undoubtedly achieved (all for a relatively tiny investment of $1.5 million), largely thanks to the amplifying effect of the scandal-hungry and partisan media running for over a year with the Democratic Party talking points about hacking, collusion and conspiracy, for which there is still no evidence (though it might yet emerge, hopefully sooner rather than later, for everyone’s sake).

9. The Russian interference, however minor in the greater scheme of things, is an important matter that needs to be pursued and prosecuted to the fullest possible extent. Again, it has been clear for a very long time to any non-excitable observer that Russia (as well as China) if not exactly enemies certainly are not friends, and are acting as strategic competitors to the United States, thus presenting the biggest future threat to American interests worldwide. This is the view that was held by Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential campaign, and for which he got laughed at mercilessly by everyone in the Democratic Party from Obama down. It’s nice to see that the left has finally woken up to the threat and the challenge posed by Putin and his neo-tsarist regime.

10. Contrary to some extravagant claims made by Trump and others, it’s unlikely that millions of illegal immigrants voted in the election. But large numbers, possibly in the hundreds of thousands, did. This illegal foreign interference with the electoral process does not worry the Democrats because virtually all the illegal migrants who vote vote Democrat. It is wrong that foreigners who are not citizens and therefore not entitled to exercise their democratic rights nevertheless participate in and try to influence the outcome of the elections. And it is equally wrong whether they are Mexican or Russian. The Democrats are the grossest hypocrites here, particularly since the electoral benefit they derive from illegal electoral activity is far greater than whatever Trump might have received thanks to the Russian trolls.