After two years of investigating, yesterday Robert S. Mueller III finally released his investigation, Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election. The 448-page report looks into Russian interference specifically but also into any individuals in the US that may have been involved.
Appointed in May 2017 as Special Counsel to the investigation, Mueller found that Russia’s interference in the 2016 election included social media activity, which related back to the Cambridge Analytica exposé in March 2018, and “a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton Campaign and then released stolen documents.”
“The Internet Research Agency (IRA) carried out the earliest Russian interference operations identified by the investigation – a social media campaign designed to provoke and amplify political and social discord in the United States,” says the report. ”The IRA was based in St. Petersburg, Russia, and received funding from Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin and companies he controlled.
“At the same time that the IRA operation began to focus on supporting candidate Trump in early 2016, the Russian government employed a second form of interference: cyber intrusions (hacking) and releases of hacked materials damaging to the Clinton Campaign. The Russian intelligence service known as the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Army (GRU) carried out these operations.”
Interestingly, data loss was discussed in the report as “the Office” had learned that some of the individuals they had interviewed – including some associated with the Trump Campaign – had deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using encrypted applications. In some instances this hindered the investigation, according to Mueller.
However, the report concludes, there isn’t sufficient evidence to prove a crime had been committed in relation to the US election.
“The Russian contacts consisted of business connections, offers of assistance to the campaign, invitations for candidate Trump and [Russian president Vladimir] Putin to meet in person, invitations for campaign officials and representatives of the Russian government to meet, and policy positions seeking improved US-Russian relations,” says the report.“While the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges.”
It is also unclear what will happen next. According to BBC News, Attorney General William Barr is facing “heavy criticism” of his handling of the report’s release, with some accusing him of misleading them with an earlier summary on whether President Trump obstructed justice.
According to USA Today, the Kremlin hit back at Mueller’s investigation: The report “does not present any reasonable proof at all that Russia allegedly meddled in the electoral process in the US,” said Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian president Vladimir Putin.