Jul 14, 2018

Mueller’s map: What 35 indictments and pleas tell us

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Mueller has now indicted or secured guilty pleas from 32 people and three Russian companies.

Vox's tally: "four former Trump advisers, 26 Russian nationals, three Russian companies, one California man, and one London-based lawyer. Five of these people (including three former Trump aides) have already pleaded guilty."

This is what I kept thinking as I read special counsel Robert Mueller's 29-page indictment yesterday of a dozen Russian intelligence officers (from Boris and Ivan to Sergey and Viktor):

  • Wait! A Russian military intelligence agency leased server space in Arizona and a computer in Illinois?
  • Wait! The Russian military used bitcoin to buy servers, register domains and pay for other election-hacking activity?
  • Wait! The Russian military used screenshots and keystroke-capture to monitor dozens of DCCC and DNC employees as they typed?
  • Wait! The Russian military tried to trick more than 30 Hillary Clinton campaign employees into clicking on a document titled "hillary-clinton-favorable-rating.xlsx" (that actually went to a Russian website)?
  • Wait! The Russian military extracted opposition research on Republican candidates in bulk from the DNC, as part of a multi-gigabyte haul?
  • Wait! A lieutenant captain in the Russian military named Nikolay Yuryevich Kozachek (Козачек Николай Юрьевич) disguised himself online as “blablabla1234565"?

And none of that is even the most alarming, damning news in the filing in U.S. District Court in D.C. Mueller, who personally signed the document, saved that for page 25:

  • Two of the officers conspired "to hack into the computers of U.S. persons and entities responsible for the administration of 2016 U.S. elections, such as state boards of elections, secretaries of state, and U.S. companies that supplied software and other technology related to the administration of U.S. elections."
  • And they actually pulled it off: "In or around July 2016, [Russian military officer Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev] and his co-conspirators hacked the website of [an unnamed] state board of elections ... and stole information related to approximately 500,000 voters, including names, addresses, partial social security numbers, dates of birth, and driver’s license numbers."

All of the documents are on one page on Mueller's official Justice Department website. I curled up and read them all. What I learned:

Known knowns about Mueller:

  • He has keystroke-by-keystroke reconstructions of online activities by the Russian "Conspirators," as the indictment calls them — down to their web searches.
  • He's going broader, deeper, wider than people realize — following the money, following the keystrokes, following the concentric circles of characters.
  • His indictments and plea agreements are providing a serial narrative of what Sen. John McCain has called an "act of war" perpetrated during one of the closest elections in American history.

Known knowns about Russia:

  • Yesterday's indictment was so significant because its scope went far beyond propaganda efforts and into a physical attack on America's state-by-state machinery of democracy.
  • This wasn't an attempt — the Russians actually succeeded in some of their incursions.
  • The attack was more sophisticated and involved vastly more resources than most U.S. politicians realized.

Be smart: David Kris, founder of Culper Partners consulting firm and head of the Justice Department's National Security Division under President Obama, told me that Mueller is following traditional prosecutorial practice by starting at the outer ring.

  • "His next steps may include moving in closer to the center of things."
  • One possible shot to drop ... Russian blackmail or threats targeting Americans who took things of value: "That's a traditional element of Russian tradecraft."

Go deeper ... "Mueller's web: Everyone caught up in the Russia investigation."

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