Disinfo: No evidence of Russian meddling in 2016 US presidential election

Summary

When Mueller’s final report came out, in the spring of 2019, it found zero evidence of collusion but insisted there had been Russian meddling in the election. The only trouble was that he had no proof of meddling, basing it entirely on US intelligence community “assessments and his own indictments.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative denying Moscow's interference in the 2016 US presidential election and, by extension, other well-documented instances of such meddling in Western democracies (see the section on Elections).

The Mueller report is not based on the January 2017 ICA (intelligence community assessment). It arrives at similar conclusions, but is based on its own body of investigative and counterintelligence evidence-gathering. During its two-year investigation, "the [Special Counsel's] Office issued more than 2,800 subpoeanas; [...] executed nearly 500 search-and-seizure warrants; [...] obtained more than 230 orders for communications records; [...] and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses, including almost 80 before a hgrand jury" (Mueller report, p. 13).

Moreover, the report did not conclude that the probe had found "zero evidence of 'collusion,'" simply because that is not what Mueller's team was looking for. The report states that collusion is "not a specific offense or theory of liability found in the United States Code, nor is it a term of art in [US] federal criminal law," (p. 2) and therefore gathering evidence of it fell outside the scope of the Special Counsel investigation. The aim of the probe was not merely to ascertain contacts between the Trump Campaign and Russia-linked individuals during the election period, but to establish whether these interactions were deliberate enough on the part of Trump Campaign officials to sustain charges of conspiracy (ibid).

Mueller's report explicitly identifies "numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign" (p. 9). Furthermore, the Mueller report decisively concluded that Russian interference in the 2016 election was “sweeping and systemic.” For a factsheet of key conclusions, see here.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 198
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 12/05/2020
  • Language/target audience: English
  • Country: Russia, US
  • Keywords: election meddling, Robert Mueller, Manipulated elections/referendum, Elections

Disclaimer

Cases in the EUvsDisinfo database focus on messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages. This does not necessarily imply, however, that a given outlet is linked to the Kremlin or editorially pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. EUvsDisinfo publications do not represent an official EU position, as the information and opinions expressed are based on media reporting and analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force.

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Disproof

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Disproof

This is a recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about "secret elites" or a global "shadow" government controlling the world. As explained in this overview of common pro-Kremlin narratives, the notion of "evil elites" that are out of touch with ordinary people is a well-known populist trope used to provoke distrust in institutions and the political establishment - which is one of the primary aims of the Kremlin's disinformation campaign.

George Soros and Bill Gates are both frequent targets of pro-Kremlin disinformation: Soros for his financing of NGOs supporting human rights and democracy (read more here) and Gates for his work on public health, which has triggered multiple conspiracy theories in context of the COVID-19 pandemic that the pro-Kremlin media has actively promoted (read more here).

Russian media is more independent than its American counterpart

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Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin narrative on Western media not being independent and biased while Russia protects freedom of speech and the press. Contrary to the claim, the Kremlin organises regular briefings with the leading media outlets to hand out instructions on how to write and about what.

According to the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, Russia is in 149th place out of 180 countries. On the other hand, the US according to the same index, ranks in 45th place.