Reading the Mueller Report
By Suzann Thompson
If you follow national news, you have heard about the Mueller Report many times. It is the product of a 22-month investigation, led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, into “Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election and related matters” (from Vol. I of the report, page 11).
Getting an accurate understanding of the report can be difficult, because opinions and reporting seem to vary according to individual political persuasion. The best opinion is an informed opinion, which is why I decided to read the Mueller Report for myself. I hope you will read it, too.
The Mueller Report is available to download online, free of charge, at https://www.justice.gov/storage/report.pdf. Online retailers offer paperback copies of the Mueller Report for $7 to $15, plus sales tax and shipping. The Public Library can help you find the report online, and may even have a paper copy for you to read.
The Mueller Report is 448 pages long, but you don’t have to finish it in one day. Cover sheets and tables of contents take up 13 pages in all, and there’s no need to read those. A lot of the text is redacted, so you won’t be able to read it anyway.
My goal was to finish reading the report in two months, so I am reading about 10 pages a day most days. Maybe you can read only 2 pages a day, or as many as 20. That’s okay. Just read it.
Here is what I found out in my first six days of reading about people and events in the Mueller Report:
Volume I of the report starts with an executive summary. It condenses 189 pages of findings into seven. It is carefully written. Every word counts, so reading it takes concentration. Luckily, the body of the report is easier to read. It tells the story of what happened, who did what, and when they did it.
The Russian government absolutely interfered in our 2016 election. A wealthy Russian business owner, with reported ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, funded the Internet Research Agency (IRA). The IRA created accounts posing as U. S. persons or U. S. activist groups. These accounts posted hundreds of thousands of times on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The posts were meant to cause friction among U. S. readers, and set different groups against each other. As the 2016 general election came closer, the Russians’ social media strategy was to support candidates Trump and Sanders, and smear candidate Clinton.
The IRA used social media to set up rallies and other events. Without revealing the fact that they were based in Russia, they contacted U. S. individuals to help organize and plan these events. Some of the U. S. individuals the IRA contacted for help were members of candidate Trump’s campaign or affiliated with it. Investigators have not “identified evidence that any Trump Campaign official understood the requests were coming from foreign nationals” (Vol. I, page 35). “The investigation identified no similar connections between the IRA and the Clinton Campaign.” (Vol. I, page 33).
U. S. citizens and residents have the right to support or smear any candidate on social media. We have the right to gather in support or opposition to candidates and policies. But to have a foreign government do it or direct it is wrong. Robert Mueller and his team thought so, and referred a case against the IRA to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for prosecution (Appendix D, page 2).
Starting in April 2016, a Russian intelligence agency called the GRU, hacked into computer networks of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Clinton Campaign, and individuals associated with them. The report describes how the hacking was accomplished and how it was funded.
The GRU stole hundreds of thousands of emails and other documents. They were released online, seemingly timed to inflict maximum embarrassment on the Clinton Campaign, or to distract from embarrassments for the Trump Campaign.
The GRU hacked into other computer networks, targeting “state boards of elections, secretaries of state, and county governments” and “public officials involved in election administration and personnel at companies involved in voting technology” (Vol. I, pages 50-51).
Even those of us who approve of the results of Russian hacking in 2016 need to be angry and concerned about foreign countries hacking into our computer systems. Any U. S. organization, corporation or individual could be next.
This is my take on 65 pages of the Mueller Report. Don’t let anyone, including me, feed you a line about the Mueller Report. Read it for yourself. Our democracy depends on having informed citizens. Sometimes that means you have to inform yourself.