WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday seized on what was wasn’t in special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of Russians as evidence that his campaign didn’t collude in Moscow’s effort to influence the 2016 election.
Mueller’s detailed charges against Russian nationals and companies for election meddling aimed in part at trying to boost Trump’s candidacy said they co-operated with “unwitting” campaign staffers and outside advisers. For the White House, that revelation was a victory, as Mueller has spent nine months probing for potential direct collusion between campaign aides and Russian entities.
But Trump’s claim of vindication appeared to be unsupported by the indictment and premature, as Mueller’s probe has shown no signs of abating.
“Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President,” Trump tweeted Friday, two hours after the indictment was unveiled. “The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion.”
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders followed minutes later with a statement echoing the “no collusion” claim in capital letters.
Trump attorney John Dowd was jubilant in a statement of his own, saying, “The only thing I have to say is that I’m very happy for the country and Bob Mueller did a great job.”
The cries of vindication appeared to be more show than substance.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Mueller probe, carefully chose his words Friday as he stated, “There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity.”
But neither he nor Mueller’s office has ruled out any potential collusion in any other plot to disrupt the election.
Trump also called for the indictment to mark the end of “outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories” about the election, asserting they “only serve to further the agendas of bad actors, like Russia, and do nothing to protect the principles of our institutions.”
“We must unite as Americans to protect the integrity of our democracy and our elections,” Trump added.