In this post I read Volume 1, Section II, which deals with the Russian Active Measures social media campaign to interfere with the 2016 election.
The entire report is here. Read along with me as I call out interesting details.
Both Watergate and the Trump-Russia scandal—some call it Stupid Watergate—started with a purloining of Democratic materials. This investigation started in mid-2016 when the DNC announced that “Russian hackers had compromised its computer network.”
With Trump’s daily cries of “Witch Hunt” and “No Collusion”, we often forget that this particular break-in to the Democratic networks was Mueller’s main focus, not to “get” Trump. The break-in investigation widened into an understanding that Russia had interfered in the 2016 Presidential election in “sweeping and systematic fashion” in order to help Donald Trump’s campaign and hurt Hillary Clinton’s. When an Australian diplomat informed the FBI that George Papadopoulous knew ahead of time that the Russians would be anonymously releasing documents to hurt the Clinton Campaign, the investigation grew to include any ties that the Trump campaign might have had with Russia.
Mueller divided up his investigation into the following parts: Russia’s social media campaign; their hacks into various Democratic/Clinton campaign networks; the dumping of those stolen emails; and the multiple arms of outreach to Trump associates.
Executive Summary to Volume I:
After two years of “collusion” talk, Mueller reveals that he was not looking into “collusion” at all, because that is not a legal term. He was concerned with criminal conspiracy.
A note on the topics that are consistently redacted: we know that Roger Stone’s trial is coming up in November 2019 and his name is always blacked out as “Harm to Ongoing Matter” (henceforth HOM). In this para, he is the one known to have informed others in the campaign that Wikileaks would be dropping docs in the future.
Another topic redacted for HOM relates to Trump’s public call to Russia: “Russia, if you’re listening…” in July 2016.
What could be ongoing on that front?
I’m struck by how much the free press has interleaved with and even helped this investigation. If not for public reporting on the Intelligence Community conclusion that Russia was behind the DNC hacks, the Australian diplomat who Papadopoulous drunkenly confessed to that he knew the Russians had stolen emails would not have gone to the FBI. This tip from the Australian diplomat is how the entire investigation started.
Although Mueller says he didn’t concern himself with “collusion”, if we are to use the common parlance, here we certainly have an instance of collusion. For months, campaign chairman Manafort had been sharing internal polling data with Kilimnik, an ex-GRU operative who the FBI considers to still be a GRU agent. Meanwhile Kilimnik discussed a plan for Russia to annex Eastern Ukraine, using the euphemism “peace plan”. So can we say…YES COLLUSION??!
The famous Seychelles meeting between Erik Prince (Trump associate) and Kirill Dmitriev (Russian businessman authorized to speak for Putin) is not the sort of thing that is inherently illegal. Why then did they lie and lie about it? Including to Congress? Mueller does not address that mystery here.
We always suspected that the choice of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State was looked upon favorably by Putin. Here, we see the upshot: a Kushner friend, not in any official capacity on the Campaign, was used as a backchannel to deliver a plan from Putin to Tillerson.
Although Mueller indicted Concord Management, Internet Research Agency, and others for their social media campaign back in 2018, it appears that there are still ongoing investigations in this area. The HOM redactions are perhaps justified because the Concord Management trial is ongoing. But it is curious to see a Personal Privacy redaction. It must be an American whose privacy is being protected, but we have no clue who that might be.
A clear summation of the particular crimes Mueller was not able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
Mueller throws cold water on some of the theories that catapulted Seth Abramson into a Twitter rock star. The Mayflower meeting, the Sessions-Kisliyak chat, the RNC platform change. It’s as though Mueller was reading Seth’s feed and made a mental note to challenge it all in one para.
This is might be the most disappointing paragraph in the entire report. It is Mueller saying the investigation was thwarted in various ways: by lies, people deleting texts/emails, using encryption, pleading the 5th, etc. Is it that easy to get away with crimes involving national security?
Mueller also hints that further investigation is warranted. (Is it perhaps ongoing in other offices?) Why did Mueller feel the need to shut down his investigation when he did, so soon after Barr got appointed AG—leaving all these loose ends? Why did he not run these leads to earth? Other SCO investigations have gone on for 5,6 years.
I wonder if he was shut down. I wonder if we will ever know.
I. The Special Counsel’s Investigation
Mueller’s investigation resulted in some counterintelligence info that went to FBI and is not included in this report. This report is centered around prosecutions they chose to take on or decline to take on.
II. Russian “Active Measures” Social Media Campaign
Sections A-C: Internet Research Agency
We are not permitted to know very much at all about the Internet Research Agency. It is heavily redacted as HOM. For instance, all we are allowed to know about the internal structure is of the company is: it grew, and thus had to be reorganized:
All three sections are replete with entire blacked out sections. And yet, the basic narrative is clear.
I’ll never cease to find it amazing that there was an entire company, occupying an entire building, whose job it was to impersonate and spoof regular people in a country half a world away. It’s like the world’s worst episode of Impractical Jokers. On the way, they created Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, and Tumblr accounts, with fake names like “Jess Abrams” and “Pamela Moore”, fake bios, fake hot-and-heavy fandom of Donald Trump, fake activism, and a fake rage against Hillary Clinton.
Starting in 2014, the Internet Research Agency, funded by Yevgeniy Prigozhin (often known as Putin’s chef), started a campaign of Active Measures, which is a sort of information warfare, to sow discord in the US. By early 2016 their thrust was to support Donald Trump and disparage other candidates, particularly Clinton.
They tried to inflame every divisive issue they could discern: the Black Lives Matter movement on both sides, the Confederacy, the anger of the Bernie supporters against Clinton and the DNC, anti-immigrant fervor, and so on.
Their social media accounts reached millions of unsuspecting people in the US and found engagement with prominent Trump supporters: for example, their fake Twitter account pretending to be the Tennessee GOP (@TEN_GOP) was often retweeted by the Trump’s large adult sons, Hannity, Roger Stone, and Michael Flynn Jr. They used their social media following to organize rallies in the US. Occasionally the IRA sent employees to the US on intelligence gathering missions, using fraudulent reasons for their visas.
Mueller indicted the IRA, Prigozhin, his firm Concord Management, and others, in February 2018; however, Concord Management is still fighting it in court. That might explain why so much text regarding the IRA is redacted. For all we know IRA’s activities continue in the present day; so it also must be the case that this is an active area for FBI’s counterintelligence work.
What we can learn despite the redactions, however, is bad enough.
Follow me at @TheOddPantry.
(Featured image source: Tom Williams—Newscom via ZUMA Press)