Explosive new Mueller Russia indictments are a game-changer

The indictments by Special Counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTrump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts House impeachment hearings: The witch hunt continues Speier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump MORE of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations for attacking American elections and colluding with Americans who were described in these indictments as “unwitting," will be a defining inflection point in the Russia investigations.

The indictments specifically charge that among the purposes of the Russian conspiracy charge Friday were to support the presidential campaign of President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he will 'temporarily hold off' on declaring Mexican drug cartels as terror organization House Judiciary Committee formally receives impeachment report Artist behind gold toilet offered to Trump sells banana duct-taped to a wall for 0,000 MORE and to disparage Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonYang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations Top GOP legislator in California leaves party GOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties MORE.

I wrote in my column in The Hill Wednesday that the refusal of President Trump to clearly and unequivocally state that the Russians did in fact attack our elections and his failure to mobilize the full resources of the United States government to expose and defeat this Russian attack are some of the great derelictions of duty in presidential history.

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I also warned, with 90 percent confidence, that Russia will probably work to elect Republicans in 2018, as Russia worked to elect Trump in 2016, a prospect that Republicans have a patriotic and political interest in joining Democrats to prevent.

 

Mueller’s indictments Friday will dramatically escalate the pressure on Trump to acknowledge the Russian attack and move aggressively to defeat it.  

Everything Mueller charged Friday involves tactics that will be used to attack the midterm elections in 2018. Russians continue to use social media, disinformation, lies, false identities and their full range of weapons to attack our midterm elections. 

Mueller’s indictments open the door to further investigations of Americans who may have colluded or conspired with Russians. The charges involve Americans who colluded with the Russians “unwittingly” but do not specify whether other Americans are under investigation for conspiracy which could violate criminal laws.

Friday’s indictments will dramatically escalate focus on Russia’s attacks against the 2018 midterms and offer a clear roadmap for the weapons Russia will employ in 2018 against our midterm elections that they employed to attack our 2016 elections.

Friday’s indictments also charge that Russia paid Americans to support their campaign to elect Trump. It is very possible that Mueller’s investigation goes much further on the matter of Russian payments to favored groups, presumably but not yet charged to some groups that lined up in support of Trump since their payments would probably be aimed at supporting the goals they sought in 2016, including electing Trump.

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Friday’s indictments occur at a time when another blockbuster event may soon come in the investigation, with widespread rumors that Mueller and Rick Gates, who was a close advisor to Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortGiuliani draws attention with latest trip to Ukraine GOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties GOP fantasies about Ukrainian election 'interference' blow up Trump's impeachment defense MORE and currently faces pending criminal charges, may be close to reaching a plea bargain agreement.

Friday’s indictments will increase pressure on Trump and his Republican allies to end their attacks against the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well.

Make no mistake, Russia attacked America in 2016 and continues the attack in 2018. Make no mistake, one of the main Russian goals in its 2016 attack against our elections was to elect Donald Trump and disparage Hillary Clinton.  Make no mistake, Mueller and the FBI are on the case, focused on the law and facts, producing indictments and plea bargains.  

Congress should pass a law now to protect Mueller and his investigation from potential obstructions of justice and another "Saturday Night Massacre."

Above all, as I proposed in my latest column, Americans should demand that the full force of American democracy be deployed immediately to expose and defeat the Russian attack against our midterm elections in 2018.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.