It’s a little hard to get a grip on the new indictments Robert Mueller has delivered. The 13 individuals named are all Russian nationals. The 3 companies are Russian companies. I think it highly unlikely that any of them will be arrested or face a trial unless they do something incredibly stupid like fly to D.C. and turn themselves in.
More than that Mueller goes out of his way to say that any participation by any United States citizen named (and there aren’t many) was “unwitting”, so if you’re just reading the headlines and saying “this is it”, you are no doubt a little disappointed.
On the other hand, what does this do?
Well, it’s pretty much a manual for trolling (wrote one of those myself) so it’s technically interesting but there are other features that could or could not mean a great deal going forward.
It makes allegations of criminal activity under U.S. law, so you can no longer say there is no underlying crime. Related to that it establishes Conspiracy, which is illegal co-ordination to commit or cover up a crime, so it’s not neutral and nebulous “collusion” anymore (I can collude with you to blow off a meeting and sneek out and get ice cream).
There are also the things it does not mention.
It doesn’t discuss the money laundering. It doesn’t discuss the Trump campaign (except as a target they wanted to benefit) or name any campaign official. It doesn’t discuss the obtaining and release of Podesta’s and the DNC’s emails, instead it focuses on the “social media” (what a stupid name) campaign and contends that was sufficient interference in the 2016 election to constitute criminal violation of U.S. election law. It doesn’t address Obstruction of Justice.
We know because of reporting and admissions that in fact there is a whole lot more going on here so I strongly suspect this is the tip of a very big iceberg. In other developments we have Gates and Bannon poised to roll on the Trump conspiracy and even the infamous “Pee Tape” gets more credible though I don’t really think it was thrown in as a “good customer” bonus when the NSA cut a deal to recover its hacking tools (I don’t even think they want to “recover” them because that’s pretty impossible, they just want to know the extent of the damage which is also pretty impossible because how would you verify that?).
A far more interesting line of speculation is- why now? Why this? Mueller could fear that the Brand resignation does indeed mean Trump is plotting a Saturday Night Massacre. I don’t think so because it would be a dumb ass move, not that Republicans would do anything about it mind you but it might move the needle in 2018. Still, it would make sense in the same way that Trump’s lawyers lying that this will be resolved soon does. By focusing on Russians it may convince Trump that he’s not really threatened and stay his hand.
What I mostly think is this, as Mao Tse Tung said when asked whether the invention of fire had been a good thing for the Chinese people- “Too soon to tell.”