While these latest indictments do not allege Trump’s team knowingly colluded, says Adam Schiff, that doesn’t mean later ones won’t
The top Democrat on the House intelligence committee suggested on Monday that Robert Mueller may still present evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, despite last week’s indictments stating that such connections relating to those cases were merely “unwitting”.
“It’s very clear from this 37-page indictment that this was a massive Russian operation and part of its design was to promote the campaign of Donald Trump,” Schiff said.
The indictment, he said, “tore any veneer off the argument that the Russians were not involved, and were involved for the purpose of helping him and hurting others”.
On Friday, Mueller’s office revealed that 13 Russians and three Russian entities, including one named the Internet Research Agency, had been indicted by a grand jury.
The allegations included claims that the Russians’ operations “included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton”.
But the indictment did not allege that Trump’s team had knowingly colluded, only that Russian operatives “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign”.
Asked if he believed the investigation would claim “witting participation” with Russian by anyone working for the president, Schiff said it was clear that the president was aware of Russia’s hacking and dumping of documents because the intelligence community had said in October 2016 it was being carried out at Putin’s behest.
Schiff said: “Then-candidate Trump used this information on a daily basis to denigrate Hillary Clinton … and we know there were conversations about getting dirt on Hillary Clinton between very high levels of the campaign, including the president’s own son, son-in-law and campaign manager met in the secret meeting at Trump Tower where the Russians had offered to send someone out from Moscow ... who was part of the Russian government effort to help elect Donald Trump.”
Schiff claimed the Russians communicated “something very similar” to George Papadopoulos, the former member of Trump’s foreign policy advisory panel who has pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents about contacts he had with the Russian government.
He said: “What we don’t know is: what did Papadopoulos share with others in the campaign and what was the message that went back from the Trump tower to the Kremlin? ‘We’d love to have your help, although what you delivered at that meeting wasn’t useful’?
Schiff pointed out that “very shortly after that meeting was when the dumping of stolen documents first began”.
Trump initially greeted Mueller’s indictments with glee, claiming that the failure to charge anyone in his political orbit with collusion was an exoneration. But over the weekend, he launched a multi-target Twitter attack that blamed Democrats for Russian meddling. He claimed the investigations were playing into Moscow’s hands.
“They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!” Trump tweeted on Sunday.
On Monday, Trump continued to taunt Democrats over their failure to block Moscow’s social media interference program, which Mueller’s indictment states began in 2014.
“Obama was president up to, and beyond, the 2016 election. So why didn’t he do something about Russian meddling?”, Trump tweeted.
Schiff said it was important to realize that the indictments only covered “one facet of the Russian active measures campaign … the use of social media to try to motive people to get out and protest for or against different candidates.
“There was a whole different vector the Russian used. They hacked democratic institutions, they leaked stolen documents, and that’s not covered at all in this indictment.”
Schiff said there may be good reason why Mueller is choosing to separate aspects of his investigation, if indeed he is.
“The fact that he didn’t allege in one active and willing participation by the Trump campaign doesn’t mean he won’t in the other,” said Schiff.