Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report has been released, detailing his nearly two year investigation into the Trump campaign and Russian election meddling. You can download the report from the special counsel’s website here.
The report, which many expect to be politically explosive, was released Thursday following a press conference with Attorney General William Barr.
Though the release is more than a summary, it’s still not the full report, as the Justice Department has redacted Mueller’s findings. The investigation was focused on President Donald Trump and whether his campaign worked with Russia to help him win the 2016 US presidential election. Barr earlier said the report indicated there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian efforts to manipulate the election.
Shortly after Barr’s press conference, the president claimed victory in a Game of Thrones styled tweet. “Game Over,” read the tweet, addressed to his political opponents.
Some lawmakers remain skeptical, because of the Justice Department’s role in redacting multiple pages of the document, as well as Barr’s input on its release. At a press conference Thursday, Barr said he had no objection to Mueller testifying before Congress.
Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a Democrat from California, invited Mueller to testify shortly after the report’s release.
“After a two year investigation, the public deserves the facts, not Attorney General Barr’s political spin,” Schiff said in a statement.
Sen. Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a Republican from North Carolina, didn’t indicate that he intends to have Mueller testify, but he noted that the committee would be releasing its own findings soon.
“I look forward to presenting the American people with an accounting of the facts the Committee has uncovered as we conclude our own investigation. It is my hope to release the first of our final reports in the coming weeks,” Burr said in a statement.
The ongoing drama of the Mueller investigation has seized the public’s attention and shone a spotlight on the ways Russia has been able to manipulate the US electoral process — an issue companies like Facebook and Google and agencies like the Department of Homeland Security are still working to address.
The special counsel wrapped up his investigation and delivered his report to Barr on March 22. The next day, Barr provided Congress with a four-page summary of the roughly 450-page report and received criticism from some members for the summary’s lack of details.
Following the release of the Justice Department’s summary, the White House said the report was a “total and complete exoneration” of Trump. Barr’s summary, however, noted that Mueller’s report said in regard to obstruction of justice that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
On Thursday at a veterans event in the White House, Trump called the investigation a “hoax” and said, “This should never happen again to another president.”
The investigation was heavily focused on connections between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, but the report also gives an in-depth look at how election meddling played out through technology.
The special counsel examined how Russian hackers infiltrated the Democratic National Committee and used social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to spread disinformation.
As the investigation carried on, the special counsel’s office announced multiple indictments, including charges against 12 Russian hackers behind the DNC’s cyberattacks and 13 Russian nationals for spreading disinformation on social media. The propaganda efforts’ chief accountant was also charged.
Though the evidence didn’t point to an agreement between the Trump campaign and the Russians on election interference, Mueller’s investigation involved several key members of the campaign, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former campaign advisers Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen and longtime Trump associate Roger Stone.
Stone has been accused of communicating with WikiLeaks, which published thousands of hacked emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic committee. Last Thursday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested after being kicked out of the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK and is facing extradition to the US over hacking charges.
Tech giants have also fallen under the investigation’s scope. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said his company was working with Mueller’s office, as Russian operatives used fake personalities on the social network to pose as Americans arguing on divisive issues.
Facebook was also heavily scrutinized over its Cambridge Analytica scandal, involving a UK data analytics firm with consultants who worked with the Trump campaign. The firm, which harvested data on 87 million Facebook users without their permission, kicked the hornet’s nest on privacy issues for Facebook, leading to multiple congressional hearings and changes within the company. Mueller’s investigation questioned Cambridge Analytica’s former director of business development, Brittany Kaiser.
The special counsel’s office scrutinized Twitter as well, looking at tweets Trump sent related to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former FBI Director James Comey.
Trump has taken to Twitter to criticize Mueller’s investigation, often calling it a “witch hunt” and arguing that there was “no collusion” and “no obstruction.”
Russia’s hacking efforts
Mueller’s indictment against 12 Russian hackers last July detailed that their operations started in March 2016, as hundreds of files containing malware infected the DNC’s servers.
The Russian malware stole thousands of emails, which were posted on WikiLeaks and DC Leaks, a website created by Russian hackers posing as Americans. The defendants are members of Russia’s military intel agency, the GRU.
The hacking victims included John Podesta, who was Clinton’s campaign chairman during the election, with 50,000 emails leaked online. The Russian hackers also bought servers to host their operations, paying more than $95,000 for setups, Mueller’s investigation found.
The malware was discovered on at least 10 different DNC computers and allowed hackers to steal passwords, take screenshots and monitor network activity. They searched for terms like “Hillary,”http://www.cnet.com/”Trump” and “Benghazi Investigations.”
The social media storm
Mueller’s investigation also found that Russia was backing a $35 million operation to meddle with US politics through social media.
The money was spent between January 2016 and June 2018 and dedicated to spreading disinformation on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The operation ran like a professional social media marketing campaign, with specific departments in search engine optimization and graphic design, along with a staff of hundreds who posted on social networks.
The operation studied political groups on social media starting in 2014 and mimicked their tactics, Mueller’s investigation found.
The group behind the effort, the Internet Research Agency, was directed to support Trump’s campaign and attack Clinton, according to the investigation.
The operation also spent $60,000 on Facebook ads, $6,000 on Instagram ads and $18,000 on Twitter.
The report showed that the first ad the IRA paid for was on Instagram, on April 19, 2016. The ad said it came from the “Tea Party News,” and it asked people to upload photos with the hashtag “#KidsForTrump.”
The Russian state-actors would pose as Americans opining on divisive issues like race, gender and gun control. The goal was to create political chaos by fueling intense arguments around these issues.
The IRA tricked politicians and social activists with the fake personas, targeting battleground states like Colorado, Virginia and Florida. It also used stolen Social Security numbers and birthdates of US citizens to set up PayPal accounts.
You can read the redacted Mueller report here:
Originally published April 18, 8:05 a.m. PT.
Updates, 8:51 a.m.: Adds more detail; 9:02 a.m.: Includes responses from lawmakers.
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