Source: Nicholas Fondacaro

The Special Counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election dropped federal indictments on 13 Russian nationals on Friday, stunning Washington, DC. And in a press briefing a short time later, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told the media that the indictments had no allegations against Americans because none were “knowing participants” in the plot and the election outcome was not swayed. But that didn’t sit well with a CNN Newsroom panel who couldn’t seem to wrap their heads around it.

Before introducing the panel, host Pamela Brown played a clip of Rosenstein articulating what was in the indictments:

Russians also recruited and paid real Americans to engage in political activities, promote political campaigns, and stage political rallies. The defendants and their co-conspirators pretended to be grassroots activists. According to the indictment, the Americans did not know that they were communicating with Russians. –> Now there is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.

After chiding how the White House had “latched onto” “the fact” that a few Trump campaign aids unwittingly worked with Russians, Brown wondered to White House Correspondent Sara Murray: “So you can imagine that the White House would want to come out and say, ‘look, doesn’t this show there’s no collusion?’ But can they come out and say that?

Well, I don’t think we can take this to mean there is no collusion in anything that Mueller is looking at,” Murray insisted. “Now that does not mean that there’s no part of Mueller’s investigation that has not found some kind of collusion.

 

 

Murray seemed to take issue with Rosenstein stating that the outcome of the election wasn’t stolen from Hillary Clinton by outside forces and seemed perturbed that it helped Trump’s argument. “Unclear to me how he feels like he can draw that conclusion based on this kind of interference,” she questioned. “But that is certainly something that will resonate with the President. Because he has viewed these Russian investigations a way to undermine his victory from day one.

CNN Political Director David Chalian also tried to discredit Rosenstein’s announcement. “We certainly can’t tell. We just don’t have the full scope of what Mueller and his team have. We have this piece of it. Lots of new detail but don’t have the full scope. So, it’s unclear how Rosenstein can say that,” he huffed.

Later in the show, Brown trotted out media reporter Brian Stelter and touted how the indictment destroyed Trump’s arguments about the Russia investigation. “Brian, not only does this completely blow up the president’s, quote, hoax argument but the conservative media that echoes him,” she praised. “Of course, the White House will say the President is talking about collusion when he says it’s a hoax, not Russian meddling, but that distinction hasn’t really been made.

I think his tweet from a few minutes ago shows that he’s still not taking this all that seriously. This is the kind of attack from another country that merits a prime-time address. That was true a year ago. It’s still true today,” Stelter self-righteously declared. “This is the kind of behavior by Russian propagandists that demand a forceful government response. And we’re not seeing it from the President.

Stelter admitted that he had been gullible enough to be duped by a Russian troll before the election. And because of that, he was worried about the rest of us. “The point is, I think all of us have to think about our use of these social platforms, whether we are even inadvertently falling for what could be foreign propaganda,” he opined. This coming from the outlet that helped push North Korean propaganda by fawning over their propaganda master being at the Olympics.

It wasn’t too long ago CNN was up in arms about President Trump tweeting negative things about Rosenstein. But not that he gave them news they didn’t like, the roles were reversed.

The relevant portions of the transcript are below, click expand to read:

CNN Newsroom
February 16, 2018
3:01:20 PM Eastern

(…)

ROD ROSENSTEIN: Russians also recruited and paid real Americans to engage in political activities, promote political campaigns, and stage political rallies. The defendants and their co-conspirators pretended to be grassroots activists. According to the indictment, the Americans did not know that they were communicating with Russians. –> Now there is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.

(…)

PAMELA BROWN: From a political standpoint, I know something that the White House has really latched on to, Sara, is the fact that the indictment says no one wittingly worked with the Russians, that there was some unwitting participation on behalf of Trump campaign associates and aides but no one wittingly. So you can imagine that the White House would want to come out and say, “look, doesn’t this show there’s no collusion?” But can they come out and say that?

SARA MURRAY: Well, I don’t think we can take this to mean there is no collusion in anything that Mueller is looking at. He is looking at these specific instances, these specific contacts and saying these people were not aware they were speaking with Russian, they were not aware they were helping Russian officials.

Now that does not mean that there’s no part of Mueller’s investigation that has not found some kind of collusion. We just don’t have the full sense of what he has been looking at. But you know, I do think in addition to pointing that out, I would be surprised, shocked if the White House did not note rod Rosenstein saying this did not affect the outcome of the election. Unclear to me how he feels like he can draw that conclusion based on this kind of interference. But that is certainly something that will resonate with the President. Because he has viewed these Russian investigations a way to undermine his victory from day one.

(…)

BROWN: We know, David Chalian, that appears to be top of mind and it’s curious that rod Rosenstein made a point of saying that today and, as Sara pointed out, how the heck can he — how can you tell whether or not this impacted – did he go to every voter and say, “did that social media post impact your vote.”

DAVID CHALIAN: We certainly can’t tell. We just don’t have the full scope of what Mueller and his team have. We have this piece of it. Lots of new detail but don’t have the full scope. So, it’s unclear how Rosenstein can say that.

(…)

3:36:12 PM Eastern

BROWN: Brian, not only does this completely blow up the president’s, quote, hoax argument but the conservative media that echoes him. Of course, the White House will say the President is talking about collusion when he says it’s a hoax, not Russian meddling, but that distinction hasn’t really been made.

BRIAN STELTER: I think his tweet from a few minutes ago shows that he’s still not taking this all that seriously. This is the kind of attack from another country that merits a prime-time address. That was true a year ago. It’s still true today. This is the kind of behavior by Russian propagandists that demand a forceful government response. And we’re not seeing it from the President.

(…)

I noticed in the indictment today a Twitter account called 10GOP is mentioned. 10GOP was one of these far right-wing Twitter accounts that promoted Trump and made up a lot of lies. I remember before Election Day getting into arguments with this Twitter troll, not knowing it was a Russian Twitter troll. I remember trying to debunk his lies. I guess it was a waste of time. The point is, I think all of us have to think about our use of these social platforms, whether we are even inadvertently falling for what could be foreign propaganda.

(…)