On Sunday., March 25, U.S. Attorney General William Barr released a letter summarizing the findings of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
“The report outlines the Russian effort to influence the election and documents crimes committed by persons associated with the Russian government in connection with those efforts,” the summary reads.
“The report further explains that a primary consideration for the Special Counsel's investigation was whether any Americans – including individuals associated with the Trump campaign – joined the Russian conspiracies to influence the election, which would be a federal crime. The Special Counsel's investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
In response, the Russian Foreign Ministry said via its Twitter account that accusations of Russian interference, which the Russian government has always categorically denied, were “nothing more than a defamation attempt.”
However, while the summary by the attorney general indicates the Mueller report appeared to exonerate the president and his 2016 campaign of collusion, it does not challenge or deny the allegations of Russian interference in the election. On the contrary: the second section of the letter, titled “Russian Interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election,” goes into detail on this topic.
It states that the Internet Research Agency, the St. Petersburg-based “troll farm,” conducted “disinformation and social media operations in the United States designed to sow social discord and eventually with the aim of interfering with the election.” It also cites the hacking of the DNC’s emails and their dissemination via WikiLeaks. In both cases, Barr notes that Mueller indicted several Russian nationals in connection with these alleged crimes.
The narrative by the Russian Foreign Ministry and other Russian officials’ on the Mueller report is being picked up in Western media reporting. For example, an Associated Press report datelined Moscow begins with: “Russia savored an ‘I told you so’ moment,” quoting President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov who said:
“It’s hard to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if it isn’t there,” said Peskov. The AP went on to cite the indictment of 25 Russians in sowing discord on social media and hacking Democratic Party e-mails.
However, the lion’s share of the AP news story quotes Russians calling the Mueller report “a clear fake,” “a disgrace for the U.S. and its political elites,” and the U.S. media reporting “so many fake scoops” – part of a narrative apparently being repeated by a number or Russian officials and media outlets.