What is The Mueller Investigation?

By Danielle Arena, Theresa Arocena, Kevin Del Rosario, Kara Dung, Alison Erves, Cheyenne Sykes, Roxane Breard

Posted on Wednesday, February 11, 2018 at 11:58 AM PDT

Photo: Wikimedia.org

Overview

Ever since the 2016 Presidential election, many have speculated that the Russian government tampered with the outcome of the election. The New York Times reported that the Russia meddling with our election was meant to damage Hillary Clinton’s campaign and to increase instability within U.S. politics. This includes millions of reportedly phony social media accounts made by Russian “trolls” to slander Clinton and to praise Trump. This foreign interference led to Congress appointing Robert Mueller as a Special Counsel  to investigate the situation.On February 16th, CNN reported that Mueller released his first indictment. He accuses thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian companies for committing fraud within the 2016 Presidential Election. The BBC reported that three of those named have also been accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and five of them have been accused of identity theft. These individuals posed as Americans, opened financial accounts in fake names, spent thousands of dollars a month buying political advertising, made countless social media accounts to slander Clinton’s campaign, and much more. Some operated with a monthly budget of as much as $1.25 million dollars.

The Guardian UK reported that, “The Russians are also accused of working to suppress turnout among ethnic minority voters. They allegedly created an Instagram account posing as ‘Woke Blacks’ and railed against the notion that African Americans should choose Clinton as ‘the lesser of two devils’ against Trump.”

According to CNN, the indictments from the Mueller investigation are “ … at odds with President Donald Trump's repeated questioning of those conclusions...Trump is still not convinced that Russia meddled in the election.”If Trump were to be arrested with everything regarding the Mueller investigation what would that mean for us? The Independent reported on the outcome if President Trump were to be impeached or forced out of office. It is theoretically possible, but highly unlikely, as no president has ever been, technically,  “removed” from office. The House of Representatives and the Senate are both controlled by the Republican party. If the Mueller investigation actually indicts President Trump, Vice President Pence might likely take “the oath” and become president.There has been a lot to say on social media and across the web about this topic, Trump has spoken out on Twitter saying that: “I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said ‘It may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer.’” President Trump had previously claimed that the Russian meddling was a “hoax.”  The Washington Post reported that the Russian “hoax” was actually real.  Did the Trump campaign collude with Russia? Trump Tweeted: “It never did!” This Tweet has thousands of likes, retweets, and varied replies, including from people agreeing with Trump and others demanding that he resign.  

Information Wars?

“We're no more propaganda than Voice of America is propaganda,” Margarita Simonyan, editor in chief of Russia Today, said in an interview with NBC and it pretty much sums up her argument against the claims of her network being an “international propaganda outlet" against the United States. She states that it is the “Establishment” that refuses to see that Russia is not “communist” anymore - that they have changed. Simonyan turned the tables in an interview with a  60 Minutes reporter by throwing her questions of propaganda back in their face with a simple "Well, what about you?" Another striking example was during her interview with Spiegel Online, when she said,“ … when Russia goes to war, then we will join them in battle…” and she fired back explaining how in 2008, when Russia invaded Georgia after the Georgian president was being aggressive to one of their allies, the West demonized Russia. It is incidents like this that allows Simonyan to point at the United States and make the claim of comparison since it is arguable that what the United States does is one and the same as what Russia Today does.

Spiegel Online then tried to probe her about why Russia has such a bad image if they have not done anything to warrant such claims. Her view is that “The West never got over the Cold War stereotype,” which has led to the negative image Russia has gained, rather than it being due to Russia’s own failings.

Russian Media Declared “Foreign Agents” by U.S.

The United States government demanded that all Russian media declare themselves as Foreign Agents. What exactly does it mean to be declared as a Foreign Agent? This is a broad term used by the Department of Justice to label anyone who actively carries out the interests of a foreign country while they are located in another host country. In 1938, the United States passed FARA, Foreign Agents Registration Act, a law requiring that agents who are representing foreign interests in any capacity must disclose that information and register with FARA to the U.S. Justice Department. The purpose of this law is to prevent and control the dissemination of foreign propaganda in the United States and it applies to any companies that are owned or controlled by foreign governments. After the United States uncovered an overwhelming amount of evidence that pointed to Russian interference in our presidential election, with RT being linked to information warfare against the western world, RT America was officially named a Foreign Agent last Fall. Sources from BBC and Reuters reported that under FARA, RT must now disclose its financial information and activities to the U.S. Justice Department. RT’s editor in chief, Margarita Simonyan, told Reuters affiliates that “RT would be compliant to avoid any further legal issues with the U.S. government” but she warns of retaliation on U.S. owned media to be declared foreign agents as well.

U.S. Social Media Venues Retaliate?

During the 2017 Presidential Election, the social media website Twitter chose to ban advertisements from Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik (BBC). This ban was "was based on the retrospective work we've [Russia Today has] been doing...and the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that both RT and Sputnik attempted to interfere with the [U.S.] election on behalf of the Russian government." Twitter also voiced hope of protecting the integrity of users after making the decision to ban RT and Sputnik.

The video viewing website YouTube also made moves to restrict Russia Today. Before the 2017 Presidential Election, YouTube and RT had a positive working relationship. The NY Times reported that YouTube granted perks to the channel including, “custom backgrounds for its channel in the early days and a ‘check mark’ that designated RT as a verified news source.” In September of 2017, YouTube removed RT from its preferred line-up, which grants them access to “guaranteed revenue from premium advertisers.” YouTube originally stated that their dropping of RT from their preferred line-up was unrelated to the election, but soon after, the United States Justice Department was demanding that RT register as a Foreign Agent. Registering as a Foreign Agent would include disclosure agreements that neither RT nor Russia was willing to abide by.

Accusations of Meddling in France and the United Kingdom

On the 29th of May 2017, only 15 days after he assumed the office, French President Emmanuel Macron invited Vladimir Putin to meet in Paris. The Washington Post reported that Macron invited the Russian leader to France to “reset” a relationship, but it apparently turned sour. Putin allegedly undermined Macron’s legitimacy and met with his far-right opponent during the campaign, Marine Le Pen.

Macron’s campaign had suffered a massive cyberattack. U.S. intelligence agencies blamed that operation on the Russian government. Putin denied his involvement in the hacking of the Macron campaign’s emails and internal communications. However, this subject was not broached during this meeting in Paris. Vladimir Putin said “The issue has not been raised. The French President did not show any interest, and I even less.” The  Post reported that Macron said that Russia Today and Sputnik were organs of influence and propaganda that spread counterfeit truths about him. We can notice that these two media are owned by the Russian Government.

Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, accused Russia of meddling in the UK’s elections. According to an article in The Guardian and also as reported on CNN, she said that she doesn’t want to “return to the Cold War, or to be in a state of perpetual confrontation,” and added that, "The UK will do what is necessary to protect ourselves, and work with our allies to do likewise.”

The Moment Russia Stopped Liking Us

March 24th, 1999 is a day that, according RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonovna Simonyan, while in conversation with 60 Minutes reporter Lesley Stahl, changed what the Russians thought of the United States. Reportedly in response to an ethnic cleansing started by the Serbs against the Kosovar Albanians, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) launched air strikes against Yugoslavia.  Simonyan alleges that the bombing was illegal because it did not have the approval of the United Nations. The conflict lasted for 78 days, ending on June 10th with the signing of the Kumanovo Agreement. According to multiple sources, the conflict killed an estimated 2,500 (500 of them being civilian,) and injuring 12,500. In 2013, fourteen years after the bombings, Balkan Insight reporter Marija Ristic reported that the number of people lost was still unknown. She also reports that “It is estimated that the bombing damaged 25,000 houses and apartment buildings and destroyed 470 kilometres of roads and 600 kilometres of railway,” and that “NATO forces killed 631 members of the Serbian armed forces, while a further 28 went missing.” Last year on March 24th, 2017, eighteen years after the conflict, according to Balkan Insight reporters Filip Rudic and Die Morina, Serbia was mourning the bombing, Kosovo was thanking NATO for it’s intervention.

Now What?

Apparently the same technologies reportedly used to meddle in the U.S. election were at play after the Mueller indictments came out, reported Slate Magazine. Is Russia trying to destabilize the United States? Will President Trump or one of his administration be indicted or exonerated from colluding with the Russians? Stay tuned for more.