Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich questioned the timing of Robert Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers while noting Friday night on “The Ingraham Angle” that the special counsel’s latest action might actually help President Donald Trump.
“They raise two questions in my mind,” Gingrich told Fox News host Laura Ingraham.”The first is, why is it that Mueller would decide to release this just before the president sees Putin? It’s odd timing. I don’t frankly care. Personally, I think it actually strengthens Trump’s hand to walk in and say, ‘Putin, we just indicted 12 of your people.'”
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced that Mueller indicated the Russians as part of his investigation of allegations that aides to Trump’s 2016 campaign colluded with Russian interests.
Earlier this week, Trump attended meetings in Brussels with U.S. European allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). There, and on Thursday and Friday in Britain, Trump sparred with European leaders on several issues such as trade and defense spending.
But his meeting Monday in Helsinki, Finland, has drawn intense speculation and interest because of the Mueller investigation and the continuing controversy about the collusion allegations.
Gingrich also pointed to some ways Trump can take advantage of his face-to-face conversation with Putin.
“But the second question I raise, which is a very interesting question, [is] if we are going to start going after people for hacking the United States, there are so many Chinese that should be indicted,” Gingrich said. “I think this is a very serious standard to start setting, probably the right standard. But it does mean we are going to go after other countries’ nationals in their own homeland and indict them. That will be a big change.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and others have called on the president to cancel the Helsinki meeting in the wake of the indictments. Schumer added that they shouldn’t meet until the Russia government takes clear steps to prove it won’t interfere in future elections.
Similarly, Rep. Jerrod Nadler (D-N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said Trump should demand that Putin extradite the 12 Russians named in Mueller’s indictment.
The Mueller indictment contends the 12 Russians conspired to hack into the computer networks of the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2016 campaign, and that they stole documents, including thousands of emails, and released them in the media in an attempt to influence the election.
Rosenstein emphasized, however, in announcing the indictment that no Americans were charged and those who may have dealt with any of the dozen Russians would not have known their true identities.
The 12 Russians named in the indictment work for the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), the military intelligence agency for Russia. Mueller previously indicted 13 Russian business executives and three Russian business entities on similar charges of seeking to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.