To try to get some traction and attention for his stalled investigation of collusion between Donald Trump and the Kremlin, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has indicted 13 individuals and three groups from Russia for meddling in the U.S. election.
He says that their efforts were focused on three swing states — Florida, Colorado and Virginia. But an analysis of the election results indicates that the Democratic ticket actually ran better in these three states than it did nationally. So the agents apparently had little or no impact.
They were the gang that couldn't shoot straight.
While the Democratic Party margin nationally dropped by 1.7 percent from 2012 to 2016, its margin in the three states targeted by the Russians dropped by an average of only 1.4 percent. So the Russian efforts do not seem to have been effective.
This indictment is a prosecutor's dream. He can get all the headlines he wants, but Mueller knows the case will never come to trial. None of the potential defendants is in the U.S. and within reach of the court. So no chance of embarrassment. (Or does he really think Russia will extradite the accused?)
Mueller alleges "that the Russians created false U.S. personae and stole the identities of real U.S. people in order to interfere" in the election. Their goal, Mueller says, was to help Donald Trump win. They "leveraged Facebook and other social media platforms to spread divisive messages leading up to the election."
Some, posing as Americans, induced "unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities."
(Would photo IDs have helped?)
The indictment says, "Defendants made various expenditures to carry out those activities, including buying political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities."
Their efforts were focused on swing states, specifically Florida, Virginia and Colorado.
The indictment alleges that the accused "compensated real U.S. persons to promote or disparage candidates."
The indictment accuses the Russians of "impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016." It also accuses the Russians of efforts to suppress minority turnout.
Apparently, they didn't do any better than in states where they didn't operate. It all goes to show that the Mueller probe is much ado about nothing.
Of course, with the magnitude of coverage in the media, the amount of paid advertising and the intensity of the chatter on social media, it is the height of folly and arrogance to assume that a merry band of 13 Russians could influence the election. This dumb conclusion is appropriate for Russians who know little of our system and its history. But a special prosecutor with Mueller's vast experience should know better. And so, for that matter, should Hillary Clinton.