The indictment unveiled last Friday by Assistant Attorney General Rob Rosenstein, charging 13 Russian nationals with posting "false" information on the internet would be great grist for a satirical send up of government incompetence except the underlying premise of the charges is nothing short of a road map for authoritarian governments who will want to treat anyone who dares post contrarian material on the internet as a criminal. Let me state it succinctly--if you posted a blog suggesting that Hillary deserved to go to jail then you might be a criminal.
The indictment is nothing more than a rancid puff pastry. It pretends to have a mountain of evidence of evil doing by the Russians. But if you simply ask probing questions about the underlying proof of the misdeeds you will quickly discover that this document is a piece of political theater rather than an actual listing of criminal deeds. What do I mean?
The indictment states that "THE ORGANIZATION" (i.e., THE INTERNET RESEARCH AGENCY) had the strategic purpose of sowing political discord in the United States. Okay. How do we know that? Did the owner of the IRA make such a statement or is there a written document or recorded conversation in which he made the claim? We do not know. There is not one piece of solid evidence in the entire document that substantiates that claim. It is nothing more than an assertion of belief. That is not how one writes an indictment alleging criminal conduct.
Also worth noting that the indictment provides not hard evidence, either documentary or the claim by a confidential informant, of THE ORGANIZATION acting on behalf of or at the direction of the Russian Government. Again, it is assumed but nothing even approaching solid evidence is proffered in this document.
There are three Federal statutes that the Russian citizens are alleged to have violated:
The general conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. § 371, creates an offense "[i]f two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose. (emphasis added). See Project, Tenth Annual Survey of White Collar Crime, 32 Am. Crim. L. Rev. 137, 379-406 (1995)(generally discussing § 371). . . .
The intent required for a conspiracy to defraud the government is that the defendant possessed the intent (a) to defraud, (b) to make false statements or representations to the government or its agencies in order to obtain property of the government, or that the defendant performed acts or made statements that he/she knew to be false, fraudulent or deceitful to a government agency, which disrupted the functions of the agency or of the government. It is sufficient for the government to prove that the defendant knew the statements were false or fraudulent when made. The government is not required to prove the statements ultimately resulted in any actual loss to the government of any property or funds, only that the defendant's activities impeded or interfered with legitimate governmental functions.
Any person who attempts or conspires to commit any offense under this chapter shall be subject to the same penalties as those prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the attempt or conspiracy.
(a)Whoever, in a circumstance described in subsection (c) of this section—
There is actual criminal conduct listed in the indictment, but that pertains to identity theft and other irregular financial activity. Left unanswered, however, is the explanation for how the Mueller team discovered these activities. Short of a cooperating witness, it appears that material from the NSA was turned over to Mueller and his team. We will likely never find out because none of the people named in the indictment will ever be tried.
This case is far from a slam dunk for the Mueller team. If it ever did come to trial there are significant gaps and vulnerabilities in the indictment that a competent defense attorney could savage. Nope. This is not about punishing lawbreakers. This is political theater designed to feed the meme promoting anti-Russian hysteria.
An objective examination of the "meddling" by this Russian company would conclude that the activities of the IRA bordered on irrelevant and ineffective. I am surprised that so many Americans are ignorant of two critical facts. First, Russia has been carrying out intelligence operations, including a whole host of propaganda schemes, inside the United States and against the United States for at least 80 years. Duh!!
Second, the United States has carried out comparable operations inside and against Russia/the USSR and has been involved in the covert interference in elections around the world.
That is the hypocrisy. We are having a hissy fit over laughable internet shenanigans by a small group of Russians who were poorly funded and generated little activity, while ignoring our own history of having actually overthrown other legitimately elected governments. There it is. Farce and hypocrisy.