Pages 4-10 (pages are those in the original report.)
The executive summary has four subsections:
- Russian Social Media Campaign
- Russian Hacking Operations
- Russian Contacts With The Campaign
- The Special Counsel’s Charging Decisions
Russian Social Media Campaign
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.
The report calls the IRA operations “the earliest,” which implies there were other organizations involved. The first two paragraphs contain redactions, “Harm to Ongoing Matter” (which I will refer to as HOM from now on). This could be the Roger Stone prosecution or the FBI counterintelligence investigation, which continues.
My reading of Rod Rosenstein’s charge to the Special Counsel was that the investigation was to be primarily into the Russian interference, and I assumed it would be comprehensive. But timing is everything, and the investigation ended when it did. On balance, getting the information out sooner and having the FBI continue the counterintelligence investigation is probably a good decision, although it is possible that Donald Trump’s naming of William Barr as Attorney General cut the investigation short.
Counterintelligence investigators tend to be extremely secretive, which I disagree with on the whole. More about that as we hit more redactions.
The IRA itself called its operations information warfare. It began operations before the presidential campaign, as early as 2014, and favored Trump and disparaged Clinton.
The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons conspired or coordinated with the IRA. Section II of this report details the Office’s investigation of the Russian social media campaign.
Russian Hacking Operations
The Russian intelligence service known as the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Army (GRU) carried out the hacking operations. The hacking began in March 2016 into Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The material was disseminated through fictional “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0,” along with Wikileaks. WikiLeaks began releasing emails stolen from John Podesta on October 7, 2016, less than one hour after a U.S. media outlet released the “grab her by the pussy” video. The Trump campaign displayed interest.
A couple of redactions here (Harm to Ongoing Matter, HOM) look like they have to do with the Roger Stone prosecution.
Russian Contacts With The Campaign
The Russian government felt that a Trump win would benefit it, and members of the Trump campaign expected to benefit electorally from the Russian actions, but
the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.
The Russian contacts consisted of
- business connections,
- offers of assistance to the Campaign,
- invitations for candidate Trump and Putin to meet in person,
- invitations for Campaign officials and representatives of the Russian government to meet, and
- policy positions seeking improved U.S.-Russian relations.
This section then gives a summary timeline of Russian contacts which you might want to mark to check back on sequences of events. I’m not going to summarize the timeline, as the events will be treated in detail later in the report.
On January 6, 2017, members of the intelligence community briefed President-Elect Trump on a joint assessment-drafted and coordinated among the Central Intelligence Agency, FBI, and National Security Agency – that concluded with high confidence that Russia had intervened in the election through a variety of means to assist Trump’s candidacy and harm Clinton’s. A declassified version of the assessment was publicly released that same day.
In January and February 2017, three Congressional committees announced investigations into Russian interference. In May, Trump fired James Comey, and the Special Counsel was appointed.
Worth noting: This timeline implies that the report covers only the period up to the appointment of the Special Counsel. The January 2017 briefing and DNI report make it impossible for Trump to claim he knows nothing about Russian interference, but he does anyway.
The Special Counsel’s Charging Decisions
The charging decisions have three main components:
First, the report concludes that Russia’s two principal interference operations in the 2016 U.S. presidential election – the social media campaign and the hacking-and-dumping operations – violated U.S. criminal law. Therefore, individuals and entities involved in the social media campaign were charged with participating in a conspiracy to defraud the United States and related counts of identity theft.
Second, although 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, three in particular:
- The evidence was not sufficient to charge any campaign official as an unregistered agent of the Russian government;
- Evidence about the June 9, 2016 meeting and WikiLeaks’ s releases of hacked materials was not sufficient to charge a criminal campaign-finance violation.
- Evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election
Third, several individuals affiliated with the Trump Campaign lied to the Special Counsel’s Office (SCO) and to Congress about their interactions with Russian-affiliated individuals and related matters. Some of those lies were charged as violations of the federal false statements statute, including by Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos, and Michael Cohen. A redaction (HOM) in the series naming those charged may refer to Roger Stone. The US District Court also found that Paul Manafort lied to the SCO and the grand jury.
A few other points:
Interactions between Russian Ambassador Kislyak and Trump Campaign officials both at Trump’s April 2016 foreign policy speech and during the week of the Republican National Convention were brief, public, and non-substantive.
The investigation did not establish that the efforts to dilute a portion of the Republican Party platform on providing assistance to Ukraine were undertaken at the behest of candidate Trump or Russia.
The investigation was limited in a number of ways – by individuals invoking their fifth-amendment rights, by lies, and by materials and witnesses being outside the United States. Also, some witnesses deleted relevant communications or communicated during the relevant period using encrypted applications that do not provide for long-term retention of records.
There are gaps in the record, which is part of the reason that conclusions could not be drawn about some of the potential crimes.
Cross-posted to Balloon Juice. If you want more discussion, there’s more over there.