Donald Trump’s mantra since even before the election has been “no collusion.” Indeed, it seems somewhat unlikely that the Trump team possessed the competence or organization to actually set out to collude with a foreign power on a broad scale. On the other hand, individuals may have colluded, as Russian intelligence most likely infiltrated and influenced the campaign. Flynn and Manafort were clearly compromised, and it’s possible other members of the Trump inner circle have things to hide as well.
Not only that, but it’s almost a certainty that Donald Trump has committed criminal obstruction of justice in his haste to bring the investigation to a close. The question of how many people in his campaign were compromised is still open as well. Several previous members of the Trump campaign or transition team have already been arrested and charged, with at least two flipping on Trump and testifying as witnesses for the federal government.
Now, Robert Mueller’s team is bringing in a cybercrime expert from the Department of Justice, opening questions about potential charges in relation to hacking, a key component of the Russian effort to influence our democratic process. POLITICO reports,
‘Mueller’s addition of a veteran cyber expert to his team suggests that his investigation may be focusing on computer hacking, an element of Russia’s alleged 2016 election meddling that has received less attention than issues like possible collusion between Moscow and President Donald Trump’s team.
‘Dickey’s highest-profile case involved Marcel Lazar, also known as “Guccifer,” a Romanian man who hacked the personal email accounts of prominent Washington figures like Secretary of State Colin Powell and Hillary Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal. A federal judge sentenced him to 52 months in prison in September 2016.
‘Some experts have suggested that the special counsel probe may result in charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the landmark cybercrime law that makes it illegal to aid in a computer intrusion. If any of Trump’s associates knew about and encouraged the hacking of Democrats’ emails and computer servers, they could be charged under the statute.’
This a very interesting turn of events, because that means that charges directly related to collusion could actually be brought against individuals associated with the Trump campaign. So far, the Mueller strategy seems to be the same sort of thing usually employed against organized crime—lock up some underlings with airtight cases based on paperwork evidence, like money laundering, to use them as witnesses for the juicier stuff.
Many experts have agreed that since collusion itself is not a crime, charges would have to come from crimes committed along the way, or for crimes against justice. Lying to the FBI and obstruction of justice are good examples of that.
Yet this move by Robert Mueller suggests that there may be clear evidence of members of Trump’s team requesting attacks, or at the very least, information obtained through attacks. That would leave them open to prosecution under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Social media users reacted to the news with joy, mocking Trump’s belief that the investigation was going to end by Thanksgiving (and then the end of the year):
Trump has indicated in the past that he thinks if Russia hacked Hillary or the DNC, they were doing Americans a favor. With that attitude, coupled with his public request for Russia to release Hillary’s emails, it seems likely that any dirt offered to the Trump campaign would have been accepted. The communications with Wikileaks are also pretty damning on this count—it’s clear there was an appetite for illicit materials within the Trump camp. If Mueller has a smoking gun, Trump is in even more trouble than previously thought.
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