Last week Robert Mueller won a big court victory. The court decision was widely reported, but its significance may not have been fully seen at the time. Because of this court victory it is likely now that Mueller will be able to prove that criminal collusion took place between Russia and the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.
“A federal judge has refused a request by a Russian company accused of funding a propaganda operation to sway the 2016 presidential election in Donald Trump’s favor to dismiss the criminal charges brought against it by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.”
“The ruling by Judge Dabney Friedrich in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia comes after lawyers for the firm Concord Management and Consulting LLC had tried to argue that the indictment fails to properly allege a crime.”
Here’s the importance of this ruling: It takes away the most common defense of Donald Trump and his campaign team that “collusion” is not a crime.
Trump and his team have said many times that even if Robert Mueller can prove that collusion took place it’s no big deal. This has been a favorite claim of Trump, other Republicans, Fox News and Rudy Giuliani.
But now, thanks to Judge Friedrich, they can no longer say that. There is a now a federal court case which holds that collusion is indeed a crime.
Mueller has never used the word collusion in his dozens of indictments, convictions, and plea agreements with U.S. and Russian Trump associates. Instead, they have used the word “conspiracy” which is clearly a crime.
The meaning of the word collusion in this context is this: it means that people worked together for the common purpose of influencing a U.S. election.
Mueller can easily prove that Americans and Russians worked together. And thus according to Judge Friedrich, he can prove that they committed the crime of working together to commit crimes, which is in itself a crime — the crime of collusion.
In the original indictments, Mueller charged Concord, and Russian individuals with violating the criminal statute 18 U.S.C. § 371, “conspiracy to defraud the United States.”
The indictment said that “by secretly funding and promoting targeted messages to influence the election outside of any proper channel, the defendants conspired to stop the Federal Election Commission from enforcing campaign finance law, the Justice Department from registering them as foreign agents, and the State Department because they lied on visa applications to travel to the United States.”
The indictment did not charge any of the Russian companies or individuals with the underlying violations of any laws.
Therefore Concord’s lawyers argued to Friedrich that the conspiracy charge could not stand on its own, because “there is no such crime as interfering with an election.”
But Friedrich did not agree. She denied Concord’s request to dismiss the charges. She said that established law does not require prosecutors to prove any underlying crime to bring a charge of conspiracy to commit a crime.
In other words, she held that a conspiracy to attempt to interfere with U.S. elections can itself be a crime — and thus she gave Mueller a way to prosecute the Russians for their “collusion” with the Trump campaign.
This means that:
- Trump and his lawyers cannot argue that collusion is not a crime, and
- If the Russians committed a crime by colluding with the Trump campaign, then Trump campaign members also committed a crime by colluding with the Russians.
We know that Mueller has mounds of evidence proving involvement between Russia and the Trump campaign. We know that Mueller has enough evidence to bring indictments. He has done so against the Russians but not against Donald Trump (or his children).
Judge Friedrich’s decision has opened the door for Bob Mueller to bring more indictments for criminal conspiracy and collusion against Donald Trump and members of his inner circle, including members of his family.
“Robert Mueller is making consistent progress in his pursuit of the truth. Any ruling that leads to Russians being accountable for what they did in 2016 to support Trump is a problem for the White House and the Republican Party. Trump installed Matthew Whitaker as attorney general, but this ruling is a reminder that Robert Mueller is relentlessly grinding toward justice.”
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.