How to Charge Americans in Conspiracies with Russian Spies?

As I laid out a few weeks ago, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

In general, Jack Goldsmith and I have long agreed about the problems with charging nation-state spies in the United States. So I read with great interest his post laying out “Uncomfortable Questions in the Wake of Russia Indictment 2.0 and Trump’s Press Conference With Putin.” Among other larger normative points, Goldsmith asks two questions. First, does indicting 12 GRU officers in the US expose our own nation-state hackers to be criminally prosecuted in other countries?

This is not a claim about the relative moral merits of the two countries’ cyber intrusions; it is simply a claim that each side unequivocally breaks the laws of the other in its cyber-espionage activities.

How will the United States respond when Russia and China and Iran start naming and indicting U.S. officials?  Maybe the United States thinks its concealment techniques are so good that the type of detailed attribution it made against the Russians is infeasible.  (The Shadow Brokers revealed the identities of specific NSA operators, so even if the National Security Agency is great at concealment as a matter of tradecraft that is no protection against an insider threat.)  Maybe Russia and China and Iran won’t bother indicting U.S. officials unless and until the indictments actually materialize into a trial, which they likely never will.  But what is the answer in principle?  And what is the U.S. policy (if any) that is being communicated to military and civilian operators who face this threat?  What is the U.S. government response to former NSA official Jake Williams, who worked in Tailored Access Operations and who presumably spoke for many others at NSA when he said that “charging military/gov hackers is dumb and WILL eventually hurt the US”?

And, how would any focus on WikiLeaks expose journalists in the United States to risks of prosecution themselves.

There is a lot of anger against WikiLeaks and a lot of support for indicting Julian Assange and others related to WikiLeaks for their part in publishing the information stolen by the Russians.  If Mueller goes in this direction, he will need to be very careful not to indict Assange for something U.S. journalists do every day.  U.S. newspapers publish information stolen via digital means all the time.  They also openly solicit such information through SecureDrop portals.  Some will say that Assange and others at WikiLeaks can be prosecuted without threatening “real journalists” by charging a conspiracy to steal and share stolen information. I am not at all sure such an indictment wouldn’t apply to many American journalists who actively aid leakers of classified information.

I hope to come back to the second point. As a journalist who had a working relationship with someone she came to believe had a role in the attack, I have thought about and discussed the topic with most, if not all, the lawyers I consulted on my way to sitting down with the FBI.

For the moment, though, I want to focus on Goldsmith’s first point, one I’ve made in the past repeatedly. If we start indicting uniformed military intelligence officers — or even contractors, like the trolls at Internet Research Agency might be deemed — do we put the freedom of movement of people like Jake Williams at risk? Normally, I’d absolutely agree with Goldsmith and Williams.

But as someone who has already written extensively about the ConFraudUs backbone that Robert Mueller has built into his cases, I want to argue this is an exception.

As I’ve noted previously, while Rod Rosenstein emphasized that the Internet Research Agency indictment included no allegations that Americans knowingly conspired with Russians, it nevertheless did describe three Americans whose activities in response to being contacted by Russian trolls remain inconclusive.

Rod Rosenstein was quite clear: “There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity.” That said, there are three (presumed) Americans who, both the indictment and subsequent reporting make clear, are treated differently in the indictment than all the other Americans cited as innocent people duped by Russians: Campaign Official 1, Campaign Official 2, and Campaign Official 3. We know, from CNN’s coverage of Harry Miller’s role in building a cage to be used in a fake “jailed Hillary” stunt, that at least some other people described in the indictment were interviewed — in his case, for six hours! — by the FBI. But no one else is named using the convention to indicate those not indicted but perhaps more involved in the operation. Furthermore, the indictment doesn’t actually describe what action (if any) these three Trump campaign officials took after being contacted by trolls emailing under false names.

On approximately the same day, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the email address of a false U.S. persona, [email protected], to send an email to Campaign Official 1 at that email account, which read in part:

Hello [Campaign Official 1], [w]e are organizing a state-wide event in Florida on August, 20 to support Mr. Trump. Let us introduce ourselves first. “Being Patriotic” is a grassroots conservative online movement trying to unite people offline. . . . [W]e gained a huge lot of followers and decided to somehow help Mr. Trump get elected. You know, simple yelling on the Internet is not enough. There should be real action. We organized rallies in New York before. Now we’re focusing on purple states such as Florida.

The email also identified thirteen “confirmed locations” in Florida for the rallies and requested the campaign provide “assistance in each location.”


Defendants and their co-conspirators used the false U.S. persona [email protected] account to send an email to Campaign Official 2 at that email account.


On or about August 20, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the “Matt Skiber” Facebook account to contact Campaign Official 3.

Again, the DOJ convention of naming makes it clear these people have not been charged with anything. But we know from other Mueller indictments that those specifically named (which include the slew of Trump campaign officials named in the George Papadopoulos plea, KT McFarland and Jared Kushner in the Flynn plea, Kilimnik in the Van der Zwaan plea, and the various companies and foreign leaders that did Manafort’s bidding, including the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs in his indictment) may be the next step in the investigation.

In the GRU indictment, non US person WikiLeaks is given the equivalent treatment.

On or about June 22, 2016, Organization I sent a private message to Guccifer 2.0 to “[s]end any new material [stolen from the DNC] here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.” On or about July 6, 2016, Organization 1 added, “if you have anything hillary related we want it in the next tweo [sic] days prefable [sic] because the DNC [DemocraticNationalConvention] is approaching and she Will solidify bernie supporters behind her after.” The Conspirators responded,“0k . . . i see.” Organization I explained,“we think trump has only a 25% chance of winning against hillary . . . so conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting.”

But the activities of other American citizens — most notably Roger Stone and Donald Trump — are discussed obliquely, even if they’re not referred to using the standard of someone still under investigation. Here’s the Roger Stone passage.

On or aboutAugust 15,2016, the Conspirators,posing as Guccifer 2.0,wrote to a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, “thank u for writing back. . . do u find anyt[h]ing interesting in the docs i posted?” On or about August 17, 2016, the Conspirators added, “please tell me if i can help u anyhow . . . it would be a great pleasureto me.” On or about September 9, 2016,the Conspirators, again posing as Guccifer 2.0, referred to a stolen DCCC document posted online and asked the person, “what do u think of the info on the turnout model for the democrats entire presidential campaign.” The person responded,“[p]retty standard.”

The Trump one, of course, pertains to the response GRU hackers appear to have made when he asked for Russia to find Hillary’s emails on July 27.

For example, on or about July 27, 2016, the Conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third‑party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office. At or around the same time, they also targeted seventy‐six email addresses at the domain for the Clinton Campaign.

Finally, there is yesterday’s Mariia Butina complaint, which charges her as an unregistered Russian spy and describes Aleksandr Torshin as her boss, but which also describes the extensive and seemingly willful cooperation with Paul Erickson and another American, as well as with the RNC and NRA. Here’s one of the Americans, for example, telling Butina that her Russian bosses should take the advice he had given her about which Americans she needed to meet.

If you were to sit down with your special friends and make a list of ALL the most important contacts you could find in America for a time when the political situation between the U.S. and Russia will change, you could NOT do better than the list that I just emailed you. NO one — certainly not the “official” Russian Federation public relations representative in New York — could build a better list.


All that you friends need to know is that meetings with the names on MY list would not be possible without the unknown names in your “business card” notebook. Keep them focused on who you are NOW able to meet, NOT the people you have ALREADY met.

Particularly as someone whose communications (including, but not limited to, that text) stand a decent chance of being quoted in an indictment in the foreseeable future, let me be very clear: none of these people have been accused of any wrong-doing.

But they do suggest a universe of people who have attracted investigative scrutiny, both by Mueller and by NSD, as willing co-conspirators with Russian spies.

Granted, there are three different kinds of Russian spies included in these three documents:

  • Uniformed military intelligence officers working from Moscow
  • Civilian employees who might be considered intelligence contractors working from St. Petersburg (though with three reconnaissance trips to the US included)
  • Butina and Torshin, both of whom probably committed visa fraud to engage as unregistered spies in the US

We have a specific crime for the latter (and, probably, the reconnaissance trips to the US by IRA employees), and if any of the US persons and entities in Butina’s indictment are deemed to have willingly joined her conspiracy, they might easily be charged as well. Eventually, I’m certain, Mueller will move to start naming Americans (besides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates) in conspiracy indictments, including ones involving Russian spies operating from Russia (like Konstantin Kilimnik). It seems necessary to include the Russians in some charging documents, because otherwise you’ll never be able to lay out the willful participation of everyone, Russian and American, in the charging documents naming the Americans.

So while I generally agree with Goldsmith and Williams, this case, where we’re clearly discussing a conspiracy between Russian spies — operating both from the US and from Russia (and other countries), wearing uniforms and civilian clothing –and Americans, it seems important to include them in charging documents somewhere.

104 replies
  1. NorskieFlamethrower says:

    “…it seems important to include them in charging documents somewhere.”

    Ya think??!!!

  2. Bill Durbin says:

    This is not exactly on topic, but it occurs to me that, in light of Butina’s activities, the visit of all those Republicans to Russia on the 4th of July takes on a whole new significance, especially if you take into account their NRA campaign contributions.

    • Dee says:

      Not her:

  3. Trent says:

    U.S. newspapers publish information stolen via digital means all the time.  

    Okay, I’ll play.  What kinds of information?

    I don’t read too many newspapers.


    • Trip says:

      Newspapers published what Wikileaks released. That’s at least one example. The intercept published Reality Winner’s doc.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The shorthand version is that a news organization can publish leaked or stolen materials if they are of public interest – and the organization had no part in their unauthorized disclosure or theft.

      A responsible organization also goes to great lengths to verify information it receives and then to put it into context when publishing it.  A news organization is not responsible in a defamation action if the information is publishes is factually incorrect.  It is liable, however, if it published information it knew was false at the time it published it, or acted with reckless disregard for whether it was accurate.

      The issue related say, to stolen DNC emails, is the suspicion that Trump’s campaign assisted in their theft or sought and directly benefited from their theft and disclosure.  That would be participating in a crime, be it theft or computer fraud and abuse, or conspiracy do those things.

      Then there’s the crime of dealing in stolen goods.  DNC emails by definition would have been stolen.  Neither Trump nor his campaign is a legitimate news organization.  They would not have published or had them published to generate a more informed public.  They would have done it for personal political advantage.  That’s the short version.

  4. Trip says:

    Assange isn’t indicted, so he stands as an informal accomplice, no reason to ponder legally and extrapolate, at this point.

    Other countries have jailed people for acts of espionage, including Russia. One was a business man, (he was a ‘retired’ intelligence agent). This was back in 2000:

    US diplomats (or intelligence) were routinely harassed:

    [The WaPo link was edited to remove unique ID attached to URL for tracking. Please remove them from future shared URLs. /~Rayne]

    • John Ely says:

      I’m beginning to think Assange should be, but the Swedish-British legal behavior regarding him is so strange, and so suspiciously has the US security state behind it, I think this will be highly problematic…for any coherent impressions of the rule of law in international relations….It would be so much simpler to indict him as a free citizen in some Latin American country, regardless of ‘bringing him to justice’ any more than with the GRU 12….This portion of l’affaire Russe is going to be politically and legally ugly.

  5. David Reed says:

    Yes, it is at best fatuous to think that the criminal justice system affords an effective means of responding to state on state trespasses, but that is not the the focus of Mueller’s work and Goldsmith’s piece is more revealing of the psychological state of its author than it is enlightening about the legal processes it discusses.  Mueller’s focus is and should be whether Americans broke American laws than whether Russia tried to inflict damage on the US.

  6. lamsmy says:

    ” It seems necessary to include the Russians”.

    Not just to make the legal case, but to make the case to the American people as well.

  7. Pseudonymous says:

    I have to wonder if the Republicans, including the president, haven’t forced this on the DoJ to an extent.  If everyone were on board with “it was the Russians and they played around in our election, with the hope of helping Trump win,” there wouldn’t be the same need to lay out the specifics of the Russian operation.  It seems to me that the level of detail in the filings has been made necessary to not just express, but demonstrate, that they have the goods on the perpetrators in order to preempt Republican accusations of a weak case or politicking when not enough details are included.

  8. Bob Conyers says:

    I’m sympathetic to the need for establishing boundaries between hacking that deserves prosecution and hacking that does not. And I agree that account for our past actions will help ease tensions with other countries, at least sometimes.

    I’d disagree with this part of Goldsmith’s analysis, though: “The question is what the United States should do about the unacceptable operations in 2016.  So far, it hasn’t done much.  As I have long argued, I think the United States’ failure to look in the mirror is a large part of the problem.” Quite frankly, I think if the Obama administration had forced the intelligence community to spend a long time looking in the mirror, it wouldn’t have changed the GOP’s lack of urgency about 2016 at all.

    We struggle with a political landscape where one party resorts to the crudest racist terror to win elections. The sad fact is that Goldsmith wants a major debate on what kind of funding of an opposition party in a repressive country might constitute unwarranted interference, while one party wants to strip all Muslims of basic rights and punitively put kids in cages.

    I’m not saying he’s wrong about the needs of legal scholars to work on these issues We need diplomats to work with other countries to develop a framework for cyberwar containment, in the same way that we have worked in the past on nuclear containment. But right now we have a party in power that is at war with its own diplomats and has attacked the idea of international agreements at all.

    I personally think we don’t even have a consensus on national conduct, and until we do, any attempt at accounting for our past misdeeds will go nowhere. The United States won’t look in the mirror until the GOP begins to accept the value of reflection in any form, or until the GOP loses a great deal of its current power.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Like the charging documents released Monday, the latest complaint against Butina says she was working under the direction of a high-level official in the Russian government and Russian central bank “to arrange introductions to U.S. persons having influence in American politics, including an organization promoting gun rights … for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation.”

      [Note the bank]

  9. jon b says:

    can I can an explanation of the meaning of this quote

    ll that you friends need to know is that meetings with the names on MY list would not be possible without the unknown names in your “business card” notebook. Keep them focused on who you are NOW able to meet, NOT the people you have ALREADY met.

  10. Avattoir says:

    Tip of the Gentleman, Honest Broker & Good Guy cap to Jack Goldsmith for acknowledging via Tweet the difference between Marcy’s practical analysis and his more ethereal View from Valhalla of the potential dangers (in more idyllic circumstances than confront Mueller).

  11. Susan Galea says:

    If the Russians are not named, but their activity is then they will surely recognise themselves as unnamed persons of interest and become a flight risk. Without a legal basis to detain them that wouldn’t be possible, hence they are named for tangible, concrete reason.

  12. Ed Walker says:

    Goldsmith is right that we should look in the mirror. When I look in the mirror, I see a country that has made a mess in country after country, meddling fnot for some reasonable form of national interest, but specifically to achieve the aims of our wealthy elites, such as our oil and gas interests, our banana interests, and other. There is every reason to play defense, but we need to lay off the offense and let other countries elect leaders in some confidence theyr aren’t electing US pawns.

    • orionATL says:

      ed walker –

      i really want to hear you talk honestly someday about how you see your responsibility for trump’s election by your actions in the time of the 2016 election.

      i read here how you view our “cultural elites” responsibility, thru your european lens, but i never hear you talking about your personal political judgement and responsibility.

        • orionATL says:

          earl of h –

          if your comment is addressed to me as ot appears to be, you can kiss my ass – and save your sanctimonious and hypocritical criticism for yourself – you know, your use of that inane political pejorative you so love, “neo-liberal”. what kind of emptyhead uses political jargon like that to think with.

          my question of ed walker is an excellent one. as i said, ed knows that.

          and by the way, now that you seemed to have raised the issue, i’ll ask the same question of you. what is your personsl responsibility for the election of donald trump and the ensuing destruction of 80 years of intermittant social progess – progress which has been under obvious attack at least since 1980?

          you don’t have to answer now. i guarantee this question from me to you personally will stick in your mind a long time – maybe every time you repeat your analytical mantra “neo-liberal” :).

          your comment seems oddly imperious for you by your past standards. have you by any chance been raised to monitor? if so, you really ought to be embarrassed by your clumsy favoritism in this situation. but that’s o. k., you’ll. probably learn in time not to abuse your power to benefit your favorites; some monitors do.

    • Sabrina says:

      OrionATL- I think that Ed is making a valid point, as someone who is a trustworthy poster and has had a number of insightful ideas, including his “Cultural Elites” series. (if this were a one-off “troll comment”, perhaps I’d feel like this was one of those “fake moral equivalence” attempts, but his views seem to me to be in line with much that is discussed on the blog).

      Respectfully, I think there is room for both his specific viewpoint (that perhaps the US has occasionally gone beyond the borders of respectable intervention in other nation’s politics for its own ends) and the idea that the Russian attack was coordinated, unprecedented, and terrible on every level. Those two ideas need not be mutually exclusive.

      • Bob Conyers says:

        I think there’s a valid point that the US should back off interference in other elections, and we should take responsibility for our past.

        Having said that, I think it’s a mistake to assume this is something that really matters to Putin, just as I think it’s nuts to assume Trump is triggered by some slight by Democrats, or Sarah Sanders would be open and honest if everyone was just nicer to her.

        Aggrievement is the tool, not the cause.

        As others have pointed out, Russia is weak, the economy and demographics aren’t good, and the US and Europe are always being seen, thanks to the internet and TV and movies, by his people as wealthy, lively, fun places to live. Russian nationalists will always hate that.

        We have a moral obligation to think about our past, but to be honest we have a moral obligation to help people oppressed by Putin as well. The Daily Show is inevitably going to run a satiric piece on Russian authoritarianism that will go viral, and we will inevitably anger Russia by letting it air. We shouldn’t stop it, any more than we should deny that Latvia or Armenia deserve independence. Even if George Soros had never spent a dime on teaching social science 101 to local politicians in Kamchatka, Putin would still use something in the past or present to justify destabilizing the US.

        • Trip says:

          Absolutely brilliant, on point comment, @Bob. Putin and the Kremlin are driven by their own imperialistic and globalist agendas. It’s not cause and effect that the US did A, so the Kremlin did B. Putin and the oligarchs are living high on the hog throughout the globe, via stolen money from the people. This isn’t a new response. It’s a parallel development.

        • harpie says:

          Bob Conyers: “We have a moral obligation to think about our past, but to be honest we have a moral obligation to help people oppressed by Putin as well.”

          Yes. There must be a reason Tucker and Trump were talking about Montenegro, of all places…

          Tucker: “Why should my son die for Montenegro?”

          Trump: “I understand and I feel the same way”  


          4:48 AM – 18 Jul 2018 Surely it was coincidental that, of all the NATO states, Trump and Tucker talked the one that suffered a Russian coup attempt. [REUTERS] 

        • harpie says:


          @realDonaldTrump calls Montenegro “aggressive”. Here he is shoving the Montenegro PM out of the way in May 2017. [BBC Video] 

          That seems like so long ago, but still awful.

        • orionATL says:

          bob conyers –

          the u. s. is the major world power. it has opportunities to exploit that power for good or ill. it will do just that no matter what we think or hope otherwise.

          it may be, it historically has been, that our presidents sic the cia on weaker nations with bad results. that does not mean we will, or should, stop intervening, as in the ukraine.

          power carries a responsibility in a world dominated by homo sapien primates who are as hard wired for war, or at least repeated violent group conflict, s they are for sex.intervention in the affairs of other nations is a given for the u. s. until it becomes much weaker eco omically and mitarily. tbere is o getting around this.

          watch what is about to happen, has already happened, in the middle east in terms of neutering and po ishing iran. folly? yes, in my view. inevitable? no necessarily. stay tuned for more u. s. power-politics.

        • Bob Conyers says:

          I want to stress that I think there is a lot of value in the US working to repair its past misdeeds. The sad fact is that we’ll have a lot of repairing to do in the future when we get the goons out of power here. I look at what’s happening now with Daniel Ortega, and I can’t help but mourn the disaster of the Reagan years in Central America, and the weakness of our efforts to atone for them in the following decades.

          In some cases, I think US admission of guilt and responsibility will go a long way, combined with tangible assistance. And even when it’s not likely to make much difference, in the face of opposition from a determined despot like Putin, I think we should still make a good faith effort and be open to opportunities for reconciliation, and I think people who feel we should push harder should still make their case.

      • orionATL says:

        sabrina –

        ed walker is well known and respected here. no one could consider him a troll.

        of course there is room for his viewpoint. there is also room for criticism of it, of which there has been far too little. repeated agreement does not make for strong arguments in the long run.

        my question to him is quite legitimate. ed knows that. he knows why i ask. . he will respond in his own time.


        • Sabrina says:

          Fair enough. Of course, I certainly don’t mean to interfere in anything between the two of you. If he knows why you’re asking that question, then his answer is none of my business.

          From the outside, it just appeared to be a slightly harsher rebuke than would be warranted- but if there is other info here that I’m not aware of, then my mistake. Thank you for letting me know.

        • orionATL says:

          your comments are never “interfering”. have at it.

          there is no reason to edit yourself in your head out of fear of writing something socially “wrong” here. if you do your commenting job right, i. e., speak forthrightly, you are guaranteed to offend at least one person. :)

        • Rayne says:

          Want to point out you now have three (possibly more?) accounts here at emptywheel. So far the three I can see that you’ve used in the last three days have the same username, but some other identity factor about the account was different. Please stick to one account, thank you.

        • orionATL says:

          i’m a ittle confused, rayne. surely this comment is not for me. i have had precisely the same name and adddress for a decade (at least).

        • orionATL says:


          if by chance your comment was indeed meant for me (orion), please send me an email listing all three names. it bothers me a great deal to think that an update or change in browsers could have vacuumed up private info.


        • Rayne says:

          I don’t think an email is necessary. It looks like you may have made a typo entering an email address and used Guest once as username; these probably won’t generate security problems at your end. If you use the same username and email address each time you should be fine, keeping in mind sockpuppeting is one of a number of security issues we monitor.

        • orionATL says:

          thanks, rayne.

          my increasingly erratic typing and spelling make the most sense, but my own psuedonym? it may be time for major brain surgery :) or else i need to throw away these damned tablet devices and get a real keyboard.

          as for using “guest”, that does worry me. i have never used “guest”. in fact, i did ln’t know this site had a “guest” option.

          in the past i’ve depended on the site software to warn me of keyboard clumsiness with its alerting of an incorrect name. i know for a fact, because i do it so often, that site software warns me when i type “xxxxx@yyy. com”, i. e., an inappropriate space between “.” and “com”.

          in a minute or two i may do a test to see if i have misunderstood what wsrnings the site software will help me with. please ignore goofy names for the nonce.

          thanks for your help.

    • Bruce Olsen says:

      Agree completely.

      If more Americans were aware that the US overthrew Iran’s democratically-elected government in 1953 (even worse, at the behest of British oil companies, who had recently lost their Iranian reserves) they might have a different view of the conflict–and may be less inclined to engage in equally wrongheaded wars (I’m looking at you, Iraq).

      “Patriots” will claim these efforts will only provide aid to our enemies, but they actually weaken our enemies–as long as we start to behave accordingly. Look at the difference between the way Germany and Turkey addresses their heinous past actions…

      • orionATL says:

        it is good to know our history of meddling in other nations – for the benefit of american corporations or for political gain in u. s. domestic political contests. americans arenin fact increasingly aware of u. s. covert actions in the ’50’s-’70’s involving iran, guatemala, greece, italy, chile. the more who are aware of our history, the better. but is foolish to think this knowledge would bear on the current effort to neuter iran to israel’s benefit. that effort is driven by u. s. politics at the presidential level and involves getting hands on billionaire zionist fanatics’ donations, encouraging strongly zionist ordinary americans to vote republican, and benefitting from political help or business opportunities that israel, s. arabia, uar, et al., can offer to denizens of the trump whitehouse. citizen knowledge will not impact this dynamic at all.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Good comment.  Two separate issues.  The US’s long history of foreign interference demands attention and a shift in behavior.  So, too, does Putin’s.

      His game plan is not aimed solely at the US.  As others have said, it’s also not just about Russia, but about a global movement toward neo-fascist power holders and disaster capitalists.

      Imagine the increase in power Putin has acquired by being able to whipsaw an American president so easily.  Even if you discount the ease with which Trump can be manipulated, Putin has still achieved an enormous goal.

      If Putin can do it to an American president, is there anyone he cannot do it to?  That makes promptly addressing the US’s Trump problem vital for everyone, regardless of how many other problems are also crying for attention.

  13. orionATL says:

    as i may have said in praise of ew in her july 3 post,  there is, simply for, example, no constitutional amendment nor any other law, mores, or customs, that can be taken to extreme in protection of that entity, without colliding with another.

    a simple contemporary example is the 1st amendment freedom to practice one’s religion which, under that guise and “liberal” :) judicial interpretation is being extended to provide for freedom to impose one’s religion on others.

    from my perspective it is incredibly  foolish to avoid indicting 12 russian military officers/personnel if there is fair reason to indict them. the key here is “fair reason to indict them”. thecreadon not to indict is NOT, absolutely not, “gosh, if we indict them, they might indict our guys.”

    how else are we to protect ourselves and, quite importantly, inform our citizens, if we are foolish enough and self-centered enough with respect to those important professional categories (dare i say “elitist” enough?), to propose, encode, and then play what is essentially the cia game of trading spies/mikitary/journalists every now and then and keeping all under wraps from the citizenry.

    i do not consider it a legal or moral problem if our military, or our journalists, get caught and fairly indicted for messing in a foreign election. i do not consider it a legal or moral problem if…. in an american election, as likely happened in the 2016 election. if either nation pulls a wm. browder indictment trick, as putin and his captive judiciary did, then active journalism and an active congress would be a good counter, wouldn’t it?

    as for wiki leaks and juliian assange, they started off right with the apache video, etc. later, they saved a true american hero, edward snowden’s, bacon while he hid in hongkong. in 2016, however, assange stepped over any bounds that provide him “journalstic” protection with a personal attack on the united states and on candidate clinton that seems to have involved coopersting with the russian government. . there is a reason mainstream journalists are, to put it unkindly, mostly  wimps about publicly airing their  political opinions. that is because those opinions, when genuinely damaging to a society (not just to its poohbahs), are not protectable, by law or mores or customs. this as may have been the case with assange in 2016 and apparently was, by her decision anywsy, the case with the journalist  ew’s targeted forvthee fbi.

    so, as with the russian military officers, if assange is fairly indicted on the facts and on ths law, that is not a problem as i see it.

    the central issue in the case of the russian exploitation of an essentially unprotected american electoral system is how to insure that no other nnation in the future tries the same again. if emptywheel or jack goldstein can suggest a way to meet this central challenge and still protect american  journalists and military who, inappropriately, and probably in violation of the rules of war,  attack the electoral system of another country, ivd like to hesr it.

    i’ve raised the issue of russian military attacking civilian american targets here before. the silence here has been deafening. in fact, i may have been subjected to  silentnpunishement by monitoring :)

    in any event, both emptywheel and jack goldsmith demonstrate how journalism loses its way and how the rules of wat that were so talked about in 2002ff have suddenly become irrelevant in this digital age. what folly! . this is how nations and elite individual lose their moral compass. 

  14. DMM says:

    Eventually, I’m certain, Mueller will move to start naming Americans (besides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates) in conspiracy indictments…

    Wouldn’t that be the point of the Conspiracy to Defraud charges against the Russian actors to begin with, rather than just the underlying charges (CFAA, money laundering, etc.)? I mean, of course  GRU operatives “conspired” together to do these things, but it seems a little silly to put a thin layer of conspiracy frosting on top of substantial underlying charges against foreign agents — unless of course you’re intending to charge Americans as fellow conspirators, especially ones who may not have been a part of the direct commission of those underlying charges/crimes.

  15. Curious says:

    Forgive me if I’ve misunderstood something, but I wonder, if the idea of collusion isn’t supported by this one indictment of the russian officers then perhaps Trump could have done worse before and during the meeting with Putin, by either assuming, or, being pressured somehow, to somehow acknowledge there having being collusion between US citizens and well Russia. I guess if Trump had done something like that, then maybe then that could have been a sign of him being easy to push around by his administration (or the state I guess, unsure if they are the same thing, presumably every state org is his administration in this regard). Also, if Trump had accepted the idea of collusion, then maybe there would be complications that perhaps couldn’t be corrected either from some legal or public perception point of view. Presumably, Trump would agree to the idea of collusion, only when he thinks there is evidence for it. It was temping to simply write “when there is evidence for it” however I don’t know how elaborate such evidence would have to be so I don’t care anyway (and also I don’t live in USA).

    • Curious says:

      I want to add:

      Incidentally I glanced at this article yesterday about something Barack Obama was to have said recently as I understand it, and somehow the title I think had him state something about how important ‘facts’ are (afaik unrelated to Trump, but I didn’t actually read the article). Relating to ‘facts’ are nice I guess, but not quite as nice as the truth if one can successfully separate the two of them. I think that a sensible way of understanding “truth” is to think of it as being an accumulated set of facts, and that way one doesn’t so easily risk cherry picking facts to either construct a given problem or for fitting to an already established problem. Presumably, any action deemed pragmatic will be tainted by this urge to find the truth in a hurry, and so I would think that a lot of credibility is obviously hinging on generally trusting the people doing an investigation in the first place. And so there would be a good reason why any ‘bias’ in an investigation would obviously be bad thing for public trust (as an ideal that is), as one may no longer expect a result to come about in a truthful way.

      Though perhaps the most jarring setting for such a problem of mine regarding bias and truth seeking, as if the actions themselves are thought to be investigations, would be all the occasional news articles about police violence in USA, where a police officer then is so pragmatic so as to having been reacting with immediacy, and with extreme violence, leaving very little, or perhaps with even nothing left, for seeking the truth, with there ultimately being an extreme bias (for wanting to be pragmatic after the fact of a police officer having discharged a firearm for whatever reason). Note, this type of ‘bias’ would/could be a different type of ‘bias’ as mentioned above (depends on whether bias is something: cultural, institutional, or personal, or perhaps something else, I could only think of these three aspects here as I write this).

      Btw, ‘a problem’ would be the intellectual considerations regarding something that goes into describing something, or ofc it could be figure of speech (I am no expert on metaphors, there are so many different sub types of metaphors that I find it a little confusing myself).

      I guess it should be pointed out that there might be another intellectual layer above ‘truth’ again, as looking for ‘truth’ might end up becoming a populist event. This other is presumably ‘hermeneutics’, meaning: the theory and methodology of interpretation. This again ofc assumes something authoritative that perhaps unfortunately, is again being pragmatic (“we do what we do, because that is how we do it”), and so, one isn’t necessarily on the right track to being truthful, as it then would involve discretionary interpretations by people in power, which could as well be an abuse of power for all I know.

        • Trip says:

          Orwellian scattershot.

          Might have been more direct to simply write “alternative facts” 1000 times in the composition of two comments.

      • Sabrina says:

        You know, I actually agree with the idea that truth is a set of facts, requiring one to look at the whole picture before rushing to judgement. However, none of your conclusions support your first paragraph there, and perhaps you should re-read your words as you appear to also be jumping to conclusions and replying on “convenient” facts to support them.

  16. Trip says:

    This sounds like more bullshit, an attempt to remedy the fuck-up in Helsinki, along with the ridiculous “scripted word mix-up” excuse. Trump wasn’t looking to meet Putin with strength. I question whether Rosenstein offered a choice in release time at all.  “Sources” were scrambling to rehabilitate Trump after his boot-licking session with Putin. I do not trust this narrative at all, or at least the reasons given for the choice.

    Trump Decided Russia Indictments Should Come Pre-Summit, Sources Say

    • Trip says:

      Sorry, I got beyond the edit limitations. The GOP doesn’t have the guts to do anything substantial  about Trump, all they do is recycle excuses, and make up new absurd ones. Then they treat his abhorrence like a tiny bump in the road or pothole, that they cover with BS, and keep driving down the highway in the bus running over citizens, on top of the sinkhole forming below. If any were capable of feeling shame, their faces would be burning with fire.

      • harpie says:

        Trip: “The GOP doesn’t have the guts to do anything substantial  about Trump, all they do is recycle excuses, and make up new absurd ones. ”

        Yes. Yesterday Kelly supposedly told GOP Congress critters what they were allowed to say about the SUMMIT from HELsinki…and they did what they were told.

        Then this: Newt Gingrich

        President Trump did right thing today in clarifying his comments in helsinki-reiterating his respect for and support of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and the intelligence community. President responded quickly and clearly once he realized he had used wrong language.

        And, today, there’s this: 2:53 AM – 18 Jul 2018

        So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki. Putin and I discussed many important subjects at our earlier meeting. We got along well which truly bothered many haters who wanted to see a boxing match. 

        As Daniel Dale says

        Predictably, Trump is now defending the press conference he yesterday claimed had involved the biggest accidentally omitted contraction in the history of press conferences.

      • harpie says:

        [posting again without the links]
        Trip: “The GOP doesn’t have the guts to do anything substantial  about Trump, all they do is recycle excuses, and make up new absurd ones. ”
        Yes. Yesterday Kelly supposedly told GOP Congress critters what they were allowed to say about the SUMMIT from HELsinki…and they did what they were told.  [ ]
        Then this: Newt Gingrich
        [quote] President Trump did right thing today in clarifying his comments in helsinki-reiterating his respect for and support of Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and the intelligence community. President responded quickly and clearly once he realized he had used wrong language. [end quote]

        And, today, there’s this: 2:53 AM – 18 Jul 2018
        [quote] So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki. Putin and I discussed many important subjects at our earlier meeting. We got along well which truly bothered many haters who wanted to see a boxing match. [end quote]

        As Daniel Dale says
        [quote] Predictably, Trump is now defending the press conference he yesterday claimed had involved the biggest accidentally omitted contraction in the history of press conferences. [end quote] 

        • Trip says:

          Yep. They promote this a minor incidence. Bygones.

          Let’s move on now, and hide the dirty money, and get back to stealing from the US taxpayers and causing all forms of harm.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          The logical conclusions are that the Republican Party does not want to do anything about Trump – it likes him just the way he is, the GOP wants him just the way he is – and will not do anything about Trump.

          Since most of them are public employees, perhaps that attitude should lead to their loss of employment come this November.

    • Bob Conyers says:

      I think it’s true, and I’m seeing a few different possible motives.

      One is someone is trying to cover themselves by washing their hands of the matter.

      Another is someone is trying to get Rosenstein by making it seem like he’s trying to manipulate Trump.

      Another is someone is leaking because they know someone else will take the heat for the leak. You could see Miller, for example, trying to further undercut Kelly.

      • Trip says:

        The most predominate motive, in my opinion, is rehabilitation. That Trump wanted the indictments out before the summit, to hold something over Putin (“strength”), is patently absurd, doncha think? Trump wasn’t calling Putin “a short, fat-handed bald guy”, or some other insult, like those directed at Jong-un. He was kissing Putin’s ass for the last two years, never mind the lead up to the summit. That there may be other motives of palace intrigue, sure, I guess. But this leak came on the heels of Trump being forced into walking back “would”, and then reestablishing his defense that “it could be anyone”, in the same damned breath.

        They want him to look like a leader with aforethought, not the pathetic marionette that he showed himself to be, for all of the world to see.

        • Trip says:

          But the GOP treats it like a “silly” incidence not the serious security issue  that it is for the country.

          It’s INSANE, that they are making this a “misspoke” situation and that any moron would fall for it.

        • Trip says:

          Birds of a feather.

          Kremlin’s transcript of Putin’s remarks in Helsinki redacts admission that Russia was responsible for Crimea’s separatist referendum

          The Kremlin doctored its official transcript of Putin’s remarks to journalists, following his meeting on Monday in Helsinki with U.S. President Trump, redacting the word “we” from Putin’s statement about the 2014 referendum in Crimea that led to Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula: “We believe [we] held the referendum in strict compliance with international law and the UN Charter.”
          In video posted on the Kremlin’s website, you can still hear Putin use the words “we carried out,” however.
          https://meduza .io /en/news/2018/07/18/pesky-pronouns-the-kremlin-s-transcript-of-putin-s-remarks-in-helsinki-redacts-an-admission-that-russia-was-responsible-for-crimea-s-separatist-referendum

          [Readers should use extra caution when opening Meduza links. / ~Rayne]

      • Trip says:

        It was confirmed that he was offered the option of time disclosure. I still stand by my opinion about the “strength” nonsense, though.

  17. Rusharuse says:

    Oops! Almost said the “T” word. What I will say – Trump is obviously conspiring with “others” against the interests of the USA and pollies, pundits and big chunks of the media are now using similar terms to describe what they are seeing. Maybe the “would, wouldn’t” wooden head has finally jumped the shark.

  18. Trip says:

    Before the Summit, Russian state TV, as followed by Julia Davis (everyone should follow her on twitter, even if you don’t have a twitter account, ):

    On Russian state TV, Putin has already won the summit with Trump

    Russian state TV hosts brazenly assert, “Trump is ours,” and joke that the U.S. lawmakers traveled to Russia “to make deals with our hackers, so they can rig the midterms in favor of Trump’s team.” They gleefully anticipate that Putin will run circles around “political neophyte” Trump, “educating” him about world events from the Russian perspective.

    Keep in mind that this content is approved by Putin and the Kremlin.

  19. earlofhuntingdon says:

    On the stupid Carlson – Trump argument that Montenegro is too god damned small for its security to bring the US into a NATO-led conflict against its aggressor(s).

    Small problems often lead to big problems.  An assassination in Sarajevo did lead to a small conflagration called the First World War.  But who would really want to go to war over a little valley called the Ruhr, or a parcel of land called the Sudetenland?  Or over any property not owned personally by Donald J. Trump?

    The Don is ignorant and deceptive. But all his advisers are smarter than he is, yet they shovel this shit all the time. Collective security is security. That’s why Vladimir Putin wants to unwind it. And that’s why Donald Trump is doing his level best to do it.

    • harpie says:

      Maybe Trump really meant “NOT” to sign the treaty:

      The Republican-controlled Senate overwhelmingly approved adding Montenegro as a NATO member a little over a year ago (the vote was 97-2), and Trump himself signed the treaty. [US News]

      • SpaceLifeForm says:

        LOL. Trump is a puppet. It is the Puppermasters that can not keep their strings staight.

  20. pseudonymous in nc says:

    The request to keep Butina detained fills in some of the blanks: funded by an oligarch, getting Person 1 to do her assignments, having sex with him and offering sex to others in exchange for access, applying for FSB jobs. I wonder if she and Torshin felt they had a degree of impunity after the election.

  21. posaune says:

    Last night

    posaune:  Butina only went after men — old white guys

    mr. posaune:  because that’s all there are in NRA!  Phyllis Schlafly would have known better.

  22. Chris Smith says:

    If GRU agents broke our laws in their operations, then charge them. If our spies break other countries laws in their operations and they get indicted, then so be it. If you don’t like it, don’t go into the espionage business.

    • orionATL says:

      7this is a view i share.

      sometimes i get really impatient with goldsmith whose mind seems permanently, if genteely, bent toward protecting government power and power-users.

      from another viewpoint:

      the options the u. s. government has to punish individuals and notify and deter others who would harm our society in some significant way, say by bombing a bridge or road tunnel in new york city (was”t this one of those 2009’s fbi stings of young muslims), or say by interfering in a u. s. presidential election, are not extensive. we can apprehend and imprison, and/or execute. we can exile. we can assassinate. we can torture and/or force to reveal or recant publicly. there is not a long list, and many options are considered improper for an american judiciary or president to engage in. in short, our ways of protecting our society are not as flexible and dextrous as 8 fingers and 2 thumbs on 2 hands; our options are clumsy and offer us the punishment dexterity of 2 seal’s flippers.

      for this reason of limited and “clumsy” (some illegal in themselves, highly unpopular and damaging internationally) prevention and retribution options, i really have no sympathy at all for goldsmith’s concern about our agent/lawbreakers being caught in flagrante in another country, arrested and tried (so long as facts and law fairly support that) if that concern negates a straight forward legal. process like that employed by mueller and the pittsburg team in bringing charges against the russian gru team.

      for our society at this moment, especially given our severely compromised president, the office of special counsel’s charge of the 12 officers based on what appears to be remarkable, intricate forensic computer analysis offers an excellent, above-board, domestically educational and politically effective, and internationally admirable and copiable course of government action.

      what would be a better option? any ideas?

  23. orionATL says:

    by the way, it has occured to me that the office of special counsel made a consciously timed release of its indictment of the russian military officers. that release certainly changed the entire dynamics of the putin-trump helsinki meeting – summit is too grandiose, more like sharing a blanket on a gentle slope to a small creek.

    • harpie says:

      Really interesting article …considering …

      from Julia Ioffe in November 2012

      In which I went shooting at an old KGB shooting range with Maria Butina, who was arrested today on charges of being a Russian agent.

  24. Charlie says:

    EW Sort of figured a bit back and forth and am feeling pretty sure who sent that text. This is better than doing cryptic crosswords!!!

  25. Rob says:

    Ex Naval Submariner……..

    On the question of And/Or I see a digression on which beaches are best for dogs, or something…..

    This is serious business!!

    We have been presented with a puzzle. Is it solvable (17 numbers in a Sudoku matrix), or unsolvable (16 or less numbers)?

    Marcy has an eye for spotting the meaningful vs BS.

    There is some info (some mis-information) and a lot of blanks.

    We need to solve this puzzle! This is serious business!

    Let’s work together.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Keep in mind, just because there are 17 starting numbers does not mean it is a valid puzzle. Usually has multiple solutions.

      BTW, I rank Navy IC and Coast Guard IC in top 4, between FBI and NSA.

      ODNI and CIA are tied for last because they have no oversight.

      Of course, these days, not sure any Congresscritters can even spell ‘oversight’.

      • Rob says:

        To BMZ: No “sock puppeting” here, not aware of the term and haven’t Wikipedia’d it

        Just poor understanding of the site interface; not a frequent commenter.

        I am “worried” that Our Republic is in jeopardy.

        In my opinion the USA “jumped the shark” in March 2003. There, we proved that “shock and awe” only creates rubble. Since then our country’s esteem in the remainder of the world’s eyes has fallen. We showed we are vulnerable

        We are now susceptible to a “con” being run that exploits our vulnerability. We are told  that all people not like us are the enemy.  That truth is subjective

        Where I live, the car that delivers the local newspaper was reported as suspicious because it was moving so slow through the neighborhood.

        Something happened in the last 10 years that made it possible for a Con Man to seize power. I think people at this site are doing their best to try to put the pieces of the puzzle together to explain how that could happen in Our Country.

        I think it is a subtle game; lots of mis-direction by masters of the trade.

        I am “worried” that Our Republic is in jeopardy and hope that there is a network of concientious people who can save us.

  26. Keith McClary says:

    One reason not to put spies on trial is that you have to subject your own spies and hackers to cross examination about exactly how they got the evidence about the internal workings of the Kremlin and GRU. This would be awkward, unless you can have a secret trial. IANAL, can they do that in the US?

  27. Andrew says:

    Whatever the world might think of, or want to do within, the U.S., our President is responsible primarily for understanding and countering threats to our country and its institutions. Trump would, in a microsecond, attack verbally (and probably with force) any effort by some foreign power to unseat him as President. And we’d probably support him in doing so. In return, he’s expected to protect our democracy. He swears an oath to, specifically:

    ‘… faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States’

    That Constitution has set up a process for how we choose our President. That process is “sacred” inasmuch as any national electoral process is sacred. If we intervene in someone else’s democratic process, does that make the intervention right? No! That’s why the moral equivalence argument is logically full of holes — what we did is wrong, therefore we “deserve” what Russia did? How does that magically make what Russia did right? And is it therefore wrong for us to pursue every avenue necessary, including indicting, apprehending, and punishing those responsible? No. Every country does this; when we interfere in someone else’s election, there is no moral obligation on their part to take it lying down. They are allowed to deal with international meddling, just as we are. And they do, all the time. So should we.

  28. Andrew says:

    On the subject of why charge Russians, it seems straightforward to me that a.) you establish a crime was committed, and b.) you then establish a “conspiracy” by connecting the dots between the underlying crime and those who aided, abetted, and ultimately participated in it. That would then constitute “collusion”.

    On a very unrelated note (well, maybe not that unrelated) — I’m curious to know what sorts of intel Trump was gathering for Putin on Russian oligarchs in the U.S. This tidbit from the dossier has yet to have its airing.

  29. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Two excellent comments, Andrew. They also highlight Trump’s betrayals. His response to Putin’s supposed offer over Amb. McFaul is an example.

    It takes no experience and only the slightest negotiating skill to realize that Putin’s offer was a poisoned chalice no head of state could possibly accept. It was not a reasonable offer of a quid pro quo, head of state to head of state. It was an apple and glass of hemlock, and an arrogant insult to Trump and the US.

    Mueller does not expect Russia to extradict the twelve people he has indicted. We have no extradition treaty with Russia, there is no history of exchanges in connection with criminal charges, the twelve were working for their government, not in a rogue capacity. Their conduct is Russian state conduct and Putin is proud of it. Mueller indicted them because as Andrew points out, they are only half the equation. The people they committed crimes with, the people to be in the indictments to follow, are the real objects of this indictment.

    And no president would give up a US government employee, acting in their official capacity, let alone a senior State Department officer, who had explicit diplomatic immunity for the period in question.

    That Trump considered the idea or even delayed giving Putin a routine, suave no thank you, demonstrates Trump’s ignorance and an unusual capacity to destroy the things he is responsible for. More than that, it demonstrates how deeply compromised is Donald Trump. He should be removed from office before he destroys even more.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Congresscritters worthless. Here’s another angle.

      New York governor opens door to criminal case against Trump Foundation


      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Weak tea.  Underwood has already virtually pleaded for the governor to issue a criminal referral.  Cuomo hasn’t done it yet.  He says he would do it, if only Underwood were to ask him for it.  What does she need to do, say, “Pretty please,” or contribute to Cuomo’s PAC before she actually gets one?

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Missed the edit.  There appear to have been lots of conversations behind the scenes.  Underwood’s office formally says she is still considering whether to ask for a criminal referral.

          Cuomo gets to look responsive, without having to respond.  The threat is there, but Trump, his children and their foundation so far avoid a criminal indictment.  And it’s much easier to negotiate the end of a civil action than to terminate a criminal case, a process that would ordinarily already be ongoing.  Simplicity and privacy usually being paramount for wealthy families.

          Meanwhile, Underwood has asked for the Foundation’s legal existence officially to be terminated, something the Trumps reportedly already agreed to some time ago, but which hasn’t hasn’t happened yet.

          The Trumps have not maintained any of the corporate formalities, required to maintain the foundation’s legal existence, for a decade.  That makes it likely that, as a practical matter, the Trumps have already let the legal existence of their foundation expire.

          Why this action is being undertaken after so long suggests there is not much oversight of charitable orgs in NY.  Kudos for the unelected Underwood for taking it on.

  30. x174 says:

    “According to reporting by Rolling Stone and Mother Jones, Butina’s key American contact was likely South Dakota Republican Paul Erickson, 56, who reached out to Trump campaign leaders in a bid to establish a “back channel** between the campaign and the Kremlin, according to The New York Times”.

    [** Link edited to remove trackback. Please do this in the future before sharing links. / ~Rayne]

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