The release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report has generated pitched debate over whether it vindicates President Donald Trump or damns him. But lost in this partisan fight is one of the investigation’s most important findings: its detailed documentation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, which Mueller concluded was “sweeping and systematic.” If Democrats and Republicans cannot unite to take action against this threat to U.S. national security, they will leave Americans vulnerable to further attacks. Luckily, there are clear steps policymakers can take to secure American democracy—but they will require bipartisan leadership.
WHAT MUELLER FOUND
Mueller’s investigation found that the Russian government carried out a sustained campaign to interfere in the election, undermine trust in democracy, and “provoke and amplify political and social discord.” Mueller determined that the effort included a disinformation and social media campaign reaching more than 100 million Americans online, and using digital platforms to organize dozens of rallies offline. The effort also included computer hacking operations by Russian military intelligence to penetrate campaign operations in order to gather and disseminate information to influence the election and to target state and local election systems. Mueller’s investigation led to the indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officers and of the Internet Research Agency and associated companies and individuals. Russia’s operations targeted politicians and activists across the political spectrum, from the Black Lives Matter movement to Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
Mueller’s report adds detail to other inquiries, including bipartisan congressional probes and other Justice Department investigations. Those investigations have highlighted the continuous and wide-ranging nature of Russia’s interference efforts. Last July, the Justice Department charged Russian national Maria Butina with operating as an unregistered foreign agent and attempting to influence U.S. political figures. In October, it charged a bookkeeper working for the IRA with facilitating Russian information operations before the 2018 midterm elections. Mueller reported that Russian cyber operators scanned more than two dozen states’ election websites for vulnerabilities,
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