Robert Mueller's not the only one zeroing in on the Russian hacking story. The Department of Justice is too — and that's more bad news for the White House.
Two right-wing media smear campaigns being orchestrated by the White House in connection with the sprawling Russia investigation took a major hit on Thursday. The Wall Street Journal reported prosecutors inside Trump's own Depart of Justice have identified six members of the Russian government who were responsible for stealing emails from the Democratic National Committee last year.
“If filed, the case would provide the clearest picture yet of the actors behind the DNC intrusion,” the paper reported. “The pinpointing of particular Russian military and intelligence hackers highlights the exhaustive nature of the government’s probe.”
The news, which appears in a Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper, completely undermines the fantasy talking point hyped in recent weeks on Fox News and from the White House briefing room that Democrats — not the Trump campaign — somehow colluded with Russians last year.
The report also dramatically weakens the rhetorical attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller. (Ironically, the paper's own editorial page has called for his resignation.) Evidence that Trump’s own Justice Department has also zeroed in on Russian hackers with ties to the government would certainly weaken any attempt to portray Mueller’s investigation as being overzealous or off track.
The Thursday news also raises the stakes for the White House, which finds itself besieged with damning revelations.
On Monday, former high-ranking campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were charged with 12 counts, much of it stemming from tax evasion that occurred through 2016, while they were working on the campaign.
Also, George Papadopoulos, who sat on Trump’s foreign policy team, has confessed to making “material false statements” to the FBI about the nature of communications with Russian contacts in order to try to obtain damaging information on Hillary Clinton.
Now, if six Russian government officials are named and indicted in the hacking case, any possible connection that Trump’s campaign had with the six, or associates of the six, would point to more possible evidence of collusion.
The existing evidence is already impressive and it continues to pile up, despite the White House’s stubborn denial that the story remains a “hoax.”
Last week, Julian Assange, who published thousands of the stolen emails at WikiLeaks, confirmed that the data mining firm that did work for the Trump campaign, Cambridge Analytica, reached out to him last year in hopes of coordinating with WikiLeaks on the release of the emails. (Assange claims he rejected the offer.)
What’s coming into clearer focus is how Russian operatives stole the emails, reached out to the Trump campaign, and then worked with WikiLeaks to get the emails published to create havoc for the Clinton campaign.
“Court documents revealed that Russian officials alerted the campaign, through an intermediary in April 2016, that they possessed thousands of Democratic emails and other “dirt” on Hillary Clinton,” The New York Times reported this week. “That was two months before the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee was publicly revealed and the stolen emails began to appear online.”
We may soon learn the names of the Russian operatives who stole the emails. Of course, it’s possible officials from the Trump campaign already know their identities.