An indictment of 13 Russians in connection with 2016 election meddling and comments by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should put to rest once and for all the allegation that members of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with Russian government and business interests to defeat Hillary Clinton, a former federal prosecutor said Friday.
Joseph diGenova, who served as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia under President Ronald Reagan, told LifeZette that the indictment makes clear the election sabotage was a Russian effort that did not involve Trump or his campaign.
“This is over,” he said. “And the fact that no American wittingly cooperated ends this nonsense.”
At a news conference announcing the criminal charges, Rosenstein (shown in the photo above) stressed that the indictment does not implicate American citizens.
“Now there is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity,” he said. “There is no allegation that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.”
Trump tweeted that the indictment is a vindication: “The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong — no collusion!”
The White House press office also issued a statement saying Trump had been fully briefed on the indictment and that he “is glad to see the special counsel’s investigation further indicates — that there was NO COLLUSION between the Trump campaign and Russia and that the outcome of the election was not changed or affected.”
The statement continued, quoting the chief executive as saying, “It is more important than ever before to come together as Americans. We cannot allow those seeking to sow confusion, discord and rancor to be successful. It’s time we stop the outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories, which only serve to further the agendas of bad actors, like Russia, and do nothing to protect the principles of our institutions. We must unite as Americans to protect the integrity of our democracy and our elections.”
Rosenstein also undercut the notion that the Russians — at least at first — even had a favored candidate. He said the point of the operation was to sow discord in the American political system. He said Russian agents played both sides of the campaign.
Planning for the operation began in 2014, according to the indictment — long before anyone believed Trump even would be a candidate, let alone a serious contender. The indictment describes efforts to spread derogatory information about two Republican contenders, Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, along with Clinton.
The Russian disinformation campaign also sought to help Trump after he became a viable Republican aspirant — and to also help Vermont independent socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, who was opposing Clinton. Sanders was sabotaged by Clinton operatives at the Democratic National Committee (DNC), according to former DNC interim chair Donna Brazile.
Planning for the operation began in 2014, according to the indictment — long before anyone believed Trump even would be a candidate, let alone a serious contender.
The Russian interference continued even after the election, Rosenstein said.
“After the election, the defendants allegedly staged rallies to support the president-elect, while simultaneously staging rallies to protest his election,” he said. “For example, the defendants organized one rally to support the president-elect, and another rally to oppose him — both in New York on the same day.”
Rosenstein said the Russians recruited and paid American activists, but that the Americans did not know they were communicating with foreign agents.
The conclusion that Russia’s goal was to discredit America’s democracy should be obvious to anyone who has followed that country dating to its days as the Soviet Union, diGenova said. He noted that Russian agents promoted both Trump and Sanders — the two insurgent candidates in the 2016 race.
“Russians had all sorts of motives,” he said. “They wanted to help him [Trump]. They wanted to hurt him. They wanted to be disruptive.”
DiGenova said only political partisans like Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House intelligence panel, could continue to insinuate that Trump conspired with Moscow.
“The only thing that keeps this alive is the mendacity of Adam Schiff and his henchmen,” he said.
The prospect of gaining cooperation from Russian authorities to extradite the defendants is virtually nil, diGenova said. But he added that the charges are important because the defendants’ names will be in an Interpol database.
“They can’t travel anywhere in the world but Russia,” he said.