If I’m not mistaken, the man to whom Jeff Sessions reports remains unconvinced that Russia was absolutely behind the hackings even though he seems to be the only person in the natsec hierarchy who is. Having his own Justice Department indict Russian agents will make POTUS’s “whodunnit?” spin harder to pull off. I wonder how he feels about that.
I also wonder if it’ll damage the prosecution. Probably the suspects will never see the inside of an American courtroom, but if they did the defense would note that the president himself is privy to all the same intelligence that the DOJ is about the hackings and has maintained his skepticism throughout. How do you get to beyond a reasonable doubt when the “lead prosecutor” isn’t sold on Russian culpability?
My other thought when I read this, I’m embarrassed to say, was, “What will this mean for Hannity’s Seth Rich theory?“
The Justice Department has identified more than six members of the Russian government involved in hacking the Democratic National Committee’s computers and swiping sensitive information that became public during the 2016 presidential election, according to people familiar with the investigation.
Prosecutors and agents have assembled evidence to charge the Russian officials and could bring a case next year, these people said. Discussions about the case are in the early stages, they said…
The pinpointing of particular Russian military and intelligence hackers highlights the exhaustive nature of the government’s probe. It also suggests the eagerness of some federal prosecutors and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents to file charges against those responsible, even if the result is naming the alleged perpetrators publicly and making it difficult for them to travel, rather than incarcerating them. Arresting Russian operatives is highly unlikely, people familiar with the probe said.
This isn’t an arm of the Mueller investigation, it’s a separate probe involving agents from four different field offices. Seems hard to believe they’d be able to name the individual hackers who lifted the DNC material (Trump’s argument all along has been that you can never really know who’s behind cybercrime, in fact), but there have been reports for months that the feds have the identities of certain Russians involved in the operation. In January, two weeks before Trump was sworn in, NBC claimed that U.S. intelligence knows who handed the emails off to Wikileaks. And it wasn’t Seth Rich, needless to say.
Speaking of Mueller, a surprising poll result:
A 58 percent majority say they approve of Mueller’s handling of the investigation while 28 percent say they disapprove, the Post-ABC poll finds. People’s views depend in large part on their political leanings, but overall, Americans are generally inclined to trust Mueller and the case he has made so far…
The Post-ABC poll finds politics influences people’s responses, with 78 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of independents approving of the way Mueller is handling the investigation, compared with 38 percent of Republicans. People on both sides of the aisle are more unified in supporting the particular charges against Gates and Manafort. A 57 percent majority of Republicans say they approve of that case, as do 78 percent of Democrats.
I would have guessed far fewer than 38 percent of Republicans would give Mueller a thumbs up on the investigation so far considering all the heat he’s taken from conservative media lately. Talk radio, the Journal, the New York Post, and most importantly Fox News have all been slashing at him but nearly four in 10 GOPers are content — and a clear majority approve of the charges against Manafort. Those numbers will shrink if and when Mueller starts indicting members of Trump’s current team, obviously. Manafort left the team more than a year ago and he’s been dinged for money laundering he allegedly engaged in before joining the campaign; George Papadopoulos is an almost complete unknown among the wider public. Trump supporters have no political investment in either of them. The closer Mueller gets to the White House, the more polarized partisan opinion will be.
In the meantime, though, the relative popularity of the investigation makes it hard for POTUS to consider firing Mueller or granting blanket pardons to people like Mike Flynn. Why short-circuit a probe that even Republicans are reasonably tolerant of, unless Trump himself has something in his closet that he’s afraid Mueller will find? If Trump is innocent, by far his best play is to let the probe clear him and then declare ultimate I-told-you-so victory.