Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report lacks substantiating evidence supporting the central claims of Kremlin interference in the 2016 election, according to a new report from RealClearInvestigations.
Aaron Maté reports that discrepancies over the timeline, details, and conflicts of interest from key players in the report undercut Mueller’s findings and creates serious doubts around the special counsel and his investigators. Here are some of Maté’s key findings:
1. Uncertainty Over Who Stole the DNC Emails
The Mueller Report’s use of qualifying language—such as the word “appear”—undercuts its findings that Mueller has convincing evidence that GRU officers (Russia’s main intelligence agency) stole “thousands of emails and attachments” from DNC servers.
The report also concedes that Mueller’s team did not determine another critical component of the crime it alleges: how the stolen Democratic material was transferred to WikiLeaks. The July 2018 indictment of GRU officers suggested – without stating outright – that WikiLeaks published the Democratic Party emails after receiving them from Guccifer 2.0 in a file named “wk dnc linkI .txt.gpg” on or around July 14, 2016. But now the report acknowledges that Mueller has not actually established how WikiLeaks acquired the stolen information: “The Office cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016.”
Additionally, the report’s alleged timeline of how the emails were stolen conflicts with logic.
According to its account, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced the publication of the emails not only before he received the documents, but before he even communicated with the source that provided them…
If Assange’s “First Contact” with DC Leaks came on June 14, and with Guccifer 2.0 on June 22, then what was Assange talking about on June 12? It is possible that Assange heard from another supposed Russian source before then; but if so, Mueller doesn’t know it. Instead the report offers the implausible scenario that their first contact came after Assange’s announcement.
2. Mueller Did Not Interview Julian Assange
Mueller chose not to interview WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, the person with direct knowledge on the hacking and leaking of DNC emails. Assange claims Russia was not his source for the emails and has previously said he would be willing to discuss technical evidence with investigators.
“Given Assange’s previous denials of Russia’s involvement, that seems to indicate he was willing to provide evidence that Moscow was not his source. But he never got the chance,” Maté writes. “Mueller does not explain why he included Assange’s comments as reported by media outlets in his report but decided not to speak with Assange directly, or ask to see his “physical proof,” during a two-year investigation.”
3. FBI’s Reliance on the DNC’s Cybersecurity Firm: CrowdStrike
In March 2017, former FBI Director James Comey said the FBI never got direct access to the DNC’s servers in order to conduct their own investigation of the hacking. Instead, the FBI relied on CrowdStrike, the DNC-hired cybersecurity firm, which Comey said, “shared with us their forensics from their review of the system.”
CrowdStrike is not a neutral source. Thanks to the related legal battles of Trump advisor Roger Stone, it has since come to light that CrowdStrike redacted their own reports submitted to the government.
In other words, the government allowed CrowdStrike and the Democratic Party’s legal counsel to decide what it could and could not see in reports on Russian hacking, thereby surrendering the ability to independently vet their claims. The government also took CrowdStrike’s word that “no redacted information concerned the attribution of the attack to Russian actors.”
4. Reliance on (Biased) Former CIA Director John Brennan
Throughout the final year of the Obama administration, John Brennan, then Director of Central Intelligence, played a pioneering role in all facets of what would become the Mueller investigation. Including the suspicions that led to the initial collusion probe, the allegations of Russian interference, and intelligence briefings.
Since then, Brennan has revealed that he is not a neutral actor, calling President Trump a traitor and expressing his extremely partisan views of the Trump administration.
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???
— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018
This brings into question the fact that the Mueller Report relied heavily on findings in a January 2017 intelligence community assessment (ICA). Especially considering that the ICA itself said it did not have the evidence to back up the Mueller Report’s main assertion that the Russian government was helping to achieve a Trump presidency.
On the core conclusion that Russia aimed to help Trump, there is not even uniformity: While the FBI and CIA claim to have “high confidence” in that judgment, the NSA makes a conspicuous deviation in expressing that it has only “moderate confidence.”
Mate said there are multiple indications that the ICA is primarily the work of John Brennan, who we know played a critical role in the FBI’s decision to open the probe of Trump-Russia collusion, and has spent the last two years on cable news criticizing Trump.
In the weeks before Mueller issued his final report, Brennan was still predicting that members of Trump’s inner circle, including family members, would be indicted. Given Brennan’s bias and consistent patterns of errors, Mueller’s unquestioning, apparent reliance on a Brennan-run process is suspect.
The RealClearInvestigations report does not conclude that the Mueller Report’s central finding on Russian interference in the 2016 election is false, but it does expose how the report is missing important evidence to substantiate its core allegation.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Brennan leaked information about Russian collusion to CNN’s Jake Tapper. It was former director of national intelligence James Clapper who said he discussed Russian collusion with Tapper.