Ask Mueller about his ‘meddling’ evidence
When Robert Mueller testifies Wednesday, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee intend to use the former special counsel to drive home their narrative that Vladimir Putin helped Donald Trump steal the 2016 election.
Their plans could backfire, especially if in cross-examination, the public learns the truth — that liberals overhyped Russian “interference” along with the discredited “collusion” theory.
Having failed to find “collusion,” Mueller’s report nevertheless made a big deal out of Kremlin meddling, including deploying online trolls to mislead voters and hackers to steal information from the Democratic National Committee. But just-unsealed court records in a case against two private Russian firms suggest at least one federal judge thinks Mueller’s team has gone over its skis on the trolling.
“I am going to direct the government to refrain from making . . . [any] public statement that links the alleged conspiracy to the Russian government,” US District Judge Dabney Friedrich ordered prosecutors for the Mueller team. Making public statements about the link, she noted, risked prejudicing the jury.
There is good reason to suspect this was the real reason for Mueller’s May 29 news conference — to publicly soften his allegations against the Russian defendants. In a closed courtroom hearing the previous day, his team had to concede the Russian government had nothing to do with the 2016 trolling operations, as was strongly implied in the Mueller report.
“The report does not say that the Russian government participated in the activity that is charged,” lead prosecutor Jonathan Kravis assured Friedrich.
The Beltway media won’t report this stunning development, because they know it would shatter carefully groomed Democratic lore that Trump couldn’t have won without Kremlin tricks.
But Republicans have a chance to pick apart Mueller’s unproved “Russian interference” allegations and expose how voters have been fed politicized, if not fabricated, intelligence since the election. Here are nine questions Mueller would be loath to answer:
1) Why did you hold your May 29 news conference? Is it true that a judge 24 hours earlier had ordered your team to delink private Russian “trolling” entities you cited in your report from Russian intelligence?
2) Do you know for certain that Russian intel stole Democratic Party e-mails? To reach this conclusion, did you examine the DNC computers or rely solely on forensic reports drafted by a DNC contractor? Were you able to see full, or only redacted, versions of the DNC’s third-party report into the alleged thefts?
3) In your indictment of Russian spies, you alleged that WikiLeaks received the stolen DNC e-mails from them, but in your report, you state that you “cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred through intermediaries,” including a German hacker. Do you now not know for certain how WikiLeaks acquired the e-mails? Is this why you didn’t indict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange along with the Russians?
4) You alleged in your report that WikiLeaks received the stolen e-mails from Russia on July 14, 2016, yet Assange publicly announced he had them a full month earlier, on June 12 — and before the dates you claim he first made contact with Russian cutouts. Did you seek to interview Assange to resolve these problems with your timeline?
5) President Barack Obama’s intelligence assessment on Russian interference incorporated information from a Clinton campaign dossier compiled by British spy-turned-oppo researcher, Christopher Steele — namely, that “Putin ordered” the hacking and trolling ops to “help” Trump’s chances. To what extent did you rely on the Obama assessment and/or the dossier to draw your conclusions about Russian meddling?
6) UK media claim you sent agents to London to interview Steele in September 2017. Was he among the 500 witnesses you interviewed? If so, why doesn’t your report cite the interview?
7) September 2017 is the same month the foreign-intelligence surveillance warrant expired on Carter Page, a Trump associate. That warrant relied heavily on Steele’s discredited dossier. Yet you chose not to seek its reauthorization nor to indict Page, but instead began indicting Russians. Were you not able to corroborate Steele’s sources or allegations?
8) Your office spent more than $732,000 on outside contractor services. Who did this work for you? Was Steele or Clinton contractor Fusion GPS among the researchers you hired?
9) FBI counterintelligence chief Peter Strzok helped lead the investigation of Trump and Russian interference until you were forced to remove him, after the Justice Department inspector general alerted you to anti-Trump, pro-Clinton messages found on his old FBI-issued Samsung phone. You issued him an iPhone. Why did your office wipe all the information from that iPhone, per a December report by the Justice watchdog?
Paul Sperry is a senior investigative reporter for RealClearInvestigations. Twitter: @paulsperry_
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