On Friday, special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 12 Russian GRU officers. The 12 are accused of conspiring to hack Hillary Clinton campaign and DNC computers to leak information ahead of the 2016 election.
This was the second substantial set of indictments coming out of the investigation. In February, the Justice Department indicted 13 other “conspirators” claiming that they had stolen the identities of US citizens to manipulate the campaigns. Russia has denied all the charges.
While indictments aren’t surprising, as a chance to try to show that the investigation in progressing, the timing is extremely unfortunate, to the point that it must raise suspicions. The indictment, after all, comes just days before President Trump is to hold a summit with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
Trump was already facing bipartisan opposition to having a summit with Putin at all, based on the allegations of election meddling. The indictments are adding fuel to the fire, sparking more calls from opponents of diplomacy to pull out of the summit at the last minute.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) demanded substantial changes to the summit saying that complaining to Putin about the indictments needs to be the focus of the entire summit, and that Putin and Trump should never be allowed to be alone in a room during the meeting.
Warner was one of the few to not call for the talks to be cancelled outright, with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) saying the meeting needed to be cancelled “now,” and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) saying that even shaking Putin’s hand would be “a moment of historic cowardice.”
Of course, these lawmakers were all attacking the summit long before these indictments dropped, and this simply is the new excuse for opposing the plan. With the growing sense that the Mueller investigation is designed to just keep going, there is also concern it’s going to keep being used as a source of excuses to not talk to Russia.