Washington Post / YouTube Watch Rosenstein s full announcement of...
Washington Post / YouTube

In case you’re wondering what the point is of Mueller and his team indicting 13 Russian individuals and three Russian companies rather than Jared, Don Jr. or Don Sr. himself—especially now that the White House is loudly declaring that it proves their innocence—here is my take.

Mueller and the other stratospherically brilliant minds on his team know that this process is not just legal, but political.  They aren’t just playing for an audience of judge and/or jury in future trials; they’re playing for the American public.  Hence how public they’re being about it, delivering the goods in a press conference.

These indictments, by telling Americans the story of nuts and bolts Russian interference in the 2016 American election, lay the groundwork for what is to come.  They establish that a great crime—fraud against the United States of America—was accomplished through a host of small crimes including failing to register as a foreign agent, identity theft, entering the country on false pretenses, creating fraudulent financial accounts, destruction of evidence, etc., etc.

Right now, millions of Americans are reading, viewing or hearing the news and realizing, “OMG, this is real.  I remember seeing that ad!  I remember seeing that hashtag!  I went to a rally that was organized by them!”  I suspect this is why so much detail of content was provided.  As has been pointed out elsewhere, this was only part of the whole Russian action; it doesn’t cover infiltrating voter databases, hacking Dem emails and releasing them through Wikileaks, making campaign donations using laundered money, etc., etc.  However, establishing to the public that this crime was committed accomplishes several good things.

1) It puts the lie to claims by Trump, the right-wing noise machine and the Putinbotrolls that the Trump-Russia investigation is a hoax;

2) It puts the lie to the distracting propaganda being put out by Nunes and the White House, not to mention making everyone forget it.  Yo memo, what memo again?

3) It consolidates the viability of the investigation, making it much more difficult for Trump to fire Mueller or Rosenstein (who oversees the investigation and thus is the only person who can fire Mueller) so as to replace him with a toady who will hobble Mueller.  Now that solid information has been presented, it will look much more incriminating if Trump tries to spike the investigation in any way.  This is one reason why I think it was Rosenstein who did the press conference, even though the document is signed by Mueller: to put himself in the public eye as crucial to the investigation.

4) It provides viability for obstruction of justice charges by providing clear motivation for obstruction in the form of a crime to cover up;

5) It alerts the American public, in a stronger way than the scattered media reports we’ve had so far, to the fact that Putin’s government is both willing and able to pull an operation like this, and if they aren’t stopped, they’ll do it again or worse for this fall’s mid-terms.  Public insistence on bolstering defenses against interference is going to get more intense.

6) And, as Tea Pain notes in his #5 below, it also might help flip some more of the loathsome horde of scoundrels.

But there are some more subtle benefits.

6) Written in great detail, it provides Americans an education on how this whole thing worked.  Several times in #TrumpRussia diaries I have quoted John Schindler’s guide to the broad tactics in the Russian espionage playbook.  The indictment document shows some of these tactics in action.

I’m specifically thinking of two: dezinformatsiya, or deza for short (disinformation)—all that fake news on social media—and provokatsiya, which Schindler describes as “Taking control of your enemies in secret and encouraging them to do things that discredit them and help you. You plant your own agents provocateurs and flip legitimate activists, turning them to your side…”  Think of the unwitting Trump campaign officials and other Americans whose names are not given but who were involved in helping plan rallies, and who told the Russian spies that campaign efforts should be concentrated on purple states.

The fact that the Russian spies organized rallies both for and against Trump, set up fake organizations that pretended to be right-wing, left-wing, Islamic and Black, and campaigned in support of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, should show that Putin is actually on neither side, only his own.  This playing of both ends against the middle is another form of provokatsiya, if I understand rightly, meant to sow discord as Rosenstein pointed out.  In other words, divide and conquer.  Note also the Russian campaign’s stated goal of promoting distrust in the election, by disseminating fake stories of Dem voter fraud, and the political system itself—part of Putin’s broader plan to eliminate democracy worldwide.

Out of all this, Americans can:

1) Learn to be dubious about “news” stories that aren’t sourced well, “facts” stated from non-verified Twitter accounts, etc.—i.e. rev up their crap detectors.  (It’s not just social media, by the way, but mainstream media of both political stripes; we notice individual aberrations here on Daily Kos, but that story has yet to come out fully.)

2) Raise a ruckus demanding defenses against these and other Russian espionage actions not just for the mid-terms but permanently;

3) Realize that the virulence of the other side’s attacks against them is not all actually coming from the other side, but from a third side intent on destroying America, and act accordingly (I think I’m going to do a whole diary about this);

…but most importantly, because everything else springs from this:

4) Accept that this has happened, that a hostile foreign power launched what they themselves called “information warfare” at the United States of America, and were very successful, at least so far.  It is hard when the new reality is unprecedented, and also when you live in the most powerful country in the world so assume you’ll win every war.  But Americans must be honest with themselves.  Without accepting that this infiltration has happened, no one can do anything to combat it, and it will just continue and metastasize until Putin and gang do indeed have their ultimate success.  Americans need to get that the country is at war: information war.

But there’s yet another more subtle good coming from these indictments as well.  Because they include, very specifically, some of the content of the election interference campaign, Americans can check whether anyone else happens to be saying similar things and therefore should not be trusted.

Laura Clawson’s got this story on the front page here, in case you missed it, pointing out that Trump and the Russians both:

– attacked all candidates (primary and general) except Trump and Bernie Sanders, whom Trump was clearly soft on.  (To me, what was most striking was the theme of Hillary being locked up, which was pushed quite hard both by Trump leading chants at his rallies and the Russian operatives, who actually had a cage built and talked an American into dressing up as Hillary to inhabit it during a rally).

– tried to undermine confidence in the election, by claiming rigging by Democrats;

– tried to suppress minority voting;

– promoted a general message of suspicion, hate and fear (though I think in this the Russians were calculated, while Trump just let his natural personality shine through).

I would add that Trump’s messages attacking a purportedly-corrupt “Deep State” or “Swamp” as well as the mainstream news media were a further means of engendering public distrust in democratic institutions.  In short, he’s the perfect “useful idiot” for a democracy-destroying mobster thug like Putin to have in the Oval Office.

I would further add that Fox “News,” and other far-right-wing media also put out all the same messages during the campaign.  They, Trump and the Russian campaign (as we know thanks to Hamilton 68 and other indicators) continue to run lockstep in their messaging, having been joined more recently by Congressional Republicans.

In other words, these indictments make it clearer to Americans just who is aligned with a hostile foreign power, and who is genuinely loyal to their country.

History will look upon today as a good day.

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