BY JOE HAYDEN
There is an old saying in boxing: “bang to the body and the hands will drop.” When the hands protecting the face drop, a fighter is vulnerable to being knocked down or knocked out.
Mueller’s 28-page indictment on Friday charged 12 Russian military intelligence officers with an orchestrated plan to hack the Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee in order to interfere with a free and fair election and obstruct and sabotage the campaign of Hillary Clinton. In a transparent attempt to send a message to the public about the depth of his knowledge about the Russian activities, Mueller laid out the Russian cyber-attack in painstaking detail, including naming the online companies which were used to funnel that stolen material to WikiLeaks for eventual publication, to the detriment of Clinton.
There is no rational way to read the indictment without concluding that these activities were known to and directed by Vladimir Putin – the man President Trump will be meeting with on Monday, July 16th. Moreover, the indictment notes that the hackers were regularly communicating with a senior member of the Trump presidential campaign. There has been considerable media speculation that that person is Donald Trump’s longtime friend and confidant, Roger Stone.
It is getting harder and harder for the Trump defenders to “roll with the punches” as the indictments pile up. The two indictments of Paul Manafort can be characterized as involving personal greed and wrongdoing outside of the presidential campaign. The allegations against Michael Flynn also involved self-enrichment and corruption, but his lying to the FBI – the charge to which he pleaded guilty – did not involve Trump or the campaign. Mueller’s first Russian indictment in February of 13 individuals for attempting subvert the 2016 presidential election through a creative but diabolical use of social media charged private citizens, not Russian officials. This most recent indictment charges that the plan was orchestrated and directed by senior Russian intelligence officers – which means in the real world that it was directed by Putin.
These two Russian hacking indictments have the feel that they are part of a trilogy. The final indictment is yet to come. Interesting questions arise. Will a third indictment, if returned, charge people on the American side, or even people in the Trump campaign? Will a third indictment have an obstruction of justice component? Will a third indictment contain a reference to an unindicted co-conspirator?
Veteran defense attorney Joe Hayden is InsiderNJ’s legal analyst.