Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Moscow Overreads Mueller Report Just as Some in US are Inclined to Do

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 25 – US President Donald Trump and his supporters are claiming that the Mueller report completely exonerates him because it did not find evidence that there was a direct conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian authorities during the 2016 election.  As many have pointed out, that overstates what the report says.

            Even more at variance with the report itself, some in Moscow are saying that the report “did not find any evidence of Russian interference in the [US] presidential elections” (e.g., politikus.ru/events/117794-blef-myullera-ssha-ne-nashli-sledov-rossiyskogo-vmeshatelstva-v-vybory-prezidenta.html).

            In fact, the Mueller report’s most important finding in the longer term may prove to be the laying out of what can be known about Moscow’s interference in the US, something that will make it far more difficult for anyone to dismiss that reality however often they cite the report as providing evidence that there was no “collusion” between Trump and Moscow.

            Some Russian commentators are already coming to recognize that reality. In a quick-reaction piece for Yezhednevny zhurnal, Aleksandr Ryklin says that the release of the US Attorney General William Barr’s summary of the Mueller report may contain some good news for Trump, but it is “definitely bad” for Russia (ej.ru/?a=note&id=33581).

            If Trump can read the report as ensuring that he is no longer threatened with impeachment for “colluding” with the Russians during the election, Ryklin says, Russians and everyone else cannot fail to see that the report “precisely establishes that Russia made efforts to influence the course” of those elections.

            Now, he says, “these aren’t guesses, hypotheses, or suspicions, this is a fact established by an investigation.”

            Over the course of two years, the Mueller investigation established that Moscow not only undertook a massive campaign on social networks to disinform American voters but also offered “the Trump team ‘various proposals’ with goal of achieving victory over Hillary Clinton” – even if it did not find that Trump or his associates made use of these on the basis of an agreement.

            And that finding, documented in the Mueller report, will continue to cast a dark shadow on relations between the US and Russia, leading to more sanctions and more caution in the development of relations, whatever comfort it brought Trump by not suggesting that he was a participant in a criminal conspiracy with Russia to achieve Moscow’s ends.

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