An indictment handed down Friday charging 13 Russians — but no Americans — with interfering in the 2016 presidential campaign does not quite vindicate President Donald Trump, but it comes close, a Republican congressman said.
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) said during “The Ingraham Angle,” on Fox News, that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation began last year with the accusations that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian agents.
“This indictment doesn’t even come close to doing that,” he said on Friday night. “And in fact … it just shows you that they have been promising [and] promoting this narrative for over a year now — really a year-and-a-half — and at this stage, I don’t see why you need a special counsel for any of these indictments.”
DeSantis said the only piece of evidence in the public record suggesting any wrongdoing by Trump is the dossier prepared by former British spy Christopher Steele, working on behalf of an opposition research firm hired by Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee — a dossier that has been discredited.
Solomon Wisenberg, an attorney who worked on the independent counsel investigation of then-President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, cautioned that the charges unveiled Friday are a “narrow indictment” and do not conclusively clear Trump or his associates of wrongdoing. But he added that Trump is justified in feeling good about the developments.
“It is a good day for President Trump,” he told Ingraham. “It is significant the investigation has gone on this long and you don’t have the collusion case.”
Wisenberg said the court documents in the federal case against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn also should be encouraging to the president’s legal team. Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the transition period after the 2016 election.
“What evidence is there of collusion other than the Steele dossier, which has been discredited?”
But Flynn’s underlying conduct appears to have been legal, Wisenberg said.
“It looks like there is going to be no collusion case, certainly no collusion that Flynn would have known about,” he said. “So all signs do point to the fact that there will be no … criminal conspiracy.”
Democratic lawyer Scott Bolden argued on the show that the indictment Friday is just a small piece of a larger investigation that may yet implicate Trump or his close advisers.
“I don’t really know what the Republicans are celebrating,” he said. “This is one bucket. This is one indictment of cyberspace. This investigation continues.”
But DeSantis dismissed such expressions as “wishful thinking” by the media and Democrats.
“What evidence is there of collusion other than the Steele dossier, which has been discredited?” he asked.
In a separate segment of “The Ingraham Angle,” former CIA Director James Woolsey said the conduct described in the indictment is not surprising to anyone familiar with Russia’s history.
“They want to be a force. And they want to disrupt things … They’ve been doing this since the 1920s, the 1930s,” he said. “What’s new is that they do it with cyber.”
Woolsey, who served as America’s top spy chief under Bill Clinton, said the key to confronting Russia rests not with countermeasures related to political campaigns but with geopolitics. If the United States can drive down the price of oil to less than $50 a barrel, he said, it will rob Russia of crucial revenue.
“We can deal with them a lot easier if they’re weaker,” he said.