The Mueller report paints an extensive picture of Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped the White House from attempting to spin the story.
During an interview for the “Time 100” in New York on Tuesday, senior White House adviser Jared Kushner dramatically downplayed Russian efforts as “a couple Facebook ads” and argued that the special counsel’s investigation had done more to damage U.S. democracy since then.
Watch the video below, via MSNBC:
WATCH: Jared Kushner shares his view that investigations of Russian election influence in the past 2 years have had much harsher impact on democracy "than a couple Facebook ads" from the Russians. https://t.co/13F2pHK2pD pic.twitter.com/wFAcBuzVIm
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) April 23, 2019
Kushner’s characterization of Russian efforts — “a couple Facebook ads” — is far from the damning account meticulously documented in a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report.
“The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion,” the introduction to Volume I of the report reads.
Kushner’s reference to “a couple Facebook ads” seems to be a characterization of the work done by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a group described in the report as having “used social media accounts and interest groups to sow discord in the U.S. political system through what it termed ‘information warfare.'” The report states that the IRA was working out of St. Petersburg, Russia, and was funded by Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin.
But Kushner’s characterization of Russian efforts to sow discord in the United States and interfere in the 2016 presidential election falls far short of a fair account of their efforts. Kushner leaves out any mention of Russian efforts to steal and disseminate information against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
The Mueller report directly attributes the hacking and subsequent release of materials from the Clinton campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Democratic National Committee directly to the Russian government’s military intelligence agency, known as GRU:
In March 2016, the GRU began hacking the email accounts of Clinton Campaign volunteers and employees, including campaign chairman John Podesta. In April 2016, the GRU hacked into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The GRU stole hundreds of thousands of documents from the compromised email accounts and networks. Around the time that the DNC announced in mid-June 2016 the Russian government’s role in hacking its network, the GRU began disseminating stolen materials through the fictitious online personas “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0.” The GRU later released additional materials through the organization WikiLeaks.
The report also notes that hacked emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta were released just one hour after The Washington Post published the first story on the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape.
In response to the special counsel’s investigation, the Department of Justice indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities associated with the Internet Research Agency on charges including conspiracy to defraud the United States. Hacking carried out by the GRU also resulted in the indictment of 12 Russian nationals on charges including conspiracy to commit computer crimes and aggravated identity theft.
While Kushner’s spin on the matter may please a president who has previously downplayed the role of Russian interference in his electoral victory, it’s far from a fair account of what actually transpired.