Former CIA Director Michael Hayden says Friday's indictments lay the groundwork to bring charges against a 'widening circle' of co-conspirators.
The Department of Justice didn't name any Americans in the indictment handed down on Friday, but according to former CIA Director Michael Hayden, there's good reason to believe that more indictments are coming — and that Americans may be among those charged.
Appearing on CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper" on Friday, Hayden said the charges brought against 12 Russian intelligence officers earlier in the day made him even more confident that prosecutors are laying the groundwork for future indictments against a "widening circle" of co-conspirators.
"The longer this goes on, the richer in detail we get, the more I begin to believe that we're going to see a widening circle [of indictments] here," Hayden told host Jake Tapper.
While the White House and Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani tried to spin the indictment as "good news" and proof that no Americans were involved in the criminal conspiracy, Hayden said that's not the case at all. He pointed to the DOJ's careful wording, which deliberately did not deny the involvement of Americans, but rather said there are no allegations about potential American co-conspirators in this indictment.
"The indictment clearly says, 'we take no view on whether Americans were involved,'" he explained. "It doesn't say 'there were no Americans involved.' It just says 'we're not talking about that now.'"
Hayden said he doesn't expect this will be the last set of indictments — but it very well may be "the last indictment we see that doesn’t mention an American."
The indictment filed on Friday charged 12 Russian intelligence officers with "conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States."
The goal of that conspiracy, according to the indictment, was "to hack into the computers of U.S. persons and entities involved in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, steal documents from those computers and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election."
Legal experts say that any American who aided that effort by facilitating the release of the stolen documents or attempting to benefit from their release could be charged for participating in the conspiracy — even if they didn't know the identity of the person(s) they were working with.
We know that Americans were, in fact, involved in the effort. According to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, "several Americans" corresponded with the indicted Russians "during the course of the conspiracy," though the DOJ is not currently alleging that those Americans "knew that they were corresponding with Russian intelligence officers."
However, that doesn't mean those Americans won't be charged with a crime — and as Hayden noted, the indictment actually suggests that special counsel Robert Mueller's team may be setting the stage to do just that.
And he's not the only one who thinks Mueller may be moving in that direction.
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti said Friday's indictment lays out "what might be the clearest path towards an indictment charging an American with knowingly aiding the Russian effort."
"If an American joined the conspiracy, he/she would be liable for all of it even if the American wasn’t aware of all of it," Mariotti wrote in a tweet. Furthermore, he added, "any American who knew about the criminal activity and helped make it succeed would be criminally liable for aiding and abetting, regardless of whether they joined the conspiracy."
Clearly, the White House wants to declare "case closed," but the DOJ had the chance to say exactly that in Friday's indictment — and it very pointedly left it wide open instead.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.