The four-page summary of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on his Russia investigation, in which Attorney General William Barr laid out what he said were the "principal conclusions" reached by Mueller, revealed the hallmarks of a covert intelligence operation carried out by Russia, according to an analysis by a former Central Intelligence Agency officer published by The Center For Public Integrity.
Donald Trump and congressional Republicans have highlighted Barr's claim in the letter, posted online by The House Judiciary Committee, that Mueller "did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities."
According to Trump and the Republicans, that sentence has exonerated Trump of "collusion." In fact, on Thursday, nine Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee called for the committee's Democratic Chair, Adam Schiff, to resign from his position for his advice of investigations into Trump's Russia ties. Even Trump himself said that Schiff should resign from Congress, according to CNN.
But, writing under the pseudonym "Alex Finley," the former CIA officer noted that Barr's wording was far narrower than Trump and the Republicans have claimed.
"There is interesting mystery and ambiguity in this statement, however, just as in any spy story," the former CIA agent wrote.
"The wording is important, particularly given how intelligence operations work," Finley wrote.
Finley quoted CIA guidelines for covert intelligence operations, which state that in United States covert operations, "the role of the U.S. government is neither apparent nor publicly acknowledged."
Barr wrote that Mueller found no Trump conspiracy with "the Russian government." But in a covert operation, the involvement of the Russian government would be kept secret, Finley wrote.
Instead, the Russian government would use third parties, known as "cut outs," to make the contacts with the Trump campaign in order to give the government itself "plausible deniability" - the ability to deny government involvement without telling an obvious lie.
One of those "cut outs," Finley noted, was likely Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. — as well as Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign chair Paul Manafort — in Trump Tower in June of 2016, promising to deliver incriminating information about Democrat Hillary Clinton. But Veselnitskaya later acknowledged that she was acting as an agent for a top Kremlin official, as The Inquisitr reported in 2017.
Other Russian "cut outs" may have included Trump's business partner in a Trump Tower Moscow deal, real estate magnate Aras Agalarov; the metals tycoon Oleg Deripaska, to whom Manafort was deeply in financial debt; and Joseph Mifsud, the European academic who told Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos in April of 2016 that Russia held "dirt" on Clinton in the form of stolen emails, as The Inquisitr has reported.
"The only thing that Barr's summary of Mueller's report tells us for sure is that Mueller could not establish a 'tacit or express' agreement with the Russian government as fact," Finley concluded. "That is, he did not feel he could prove it in court. This does not mean Mueller found no links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government's actions."