The foreign minister of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, visited Washington D.C. today. The visit was Lavrov’s second since President Donald Trump took office. In a joint press conference with United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the top Russian diplomat claimed that the U.S. had provided no evidence that Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Lavrov’s claim did not go unchallenged.
“Why not just read the Mueller report?” Washington Post reporter John Hudson asked Lavrov, as quoted by MediaIte. “It’s very detailed when it comes to U.S. allegations related to meddling in the 2016 election.”
On March 22, special counsel Robert Mueller submitted the report of his findings from a two-year investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. The report was made available to the public in redacted form on April 18.
In the report, Mueller documented what he called a “sweeping and systematic” effort by Russian intelligence agents to interfere in the election, with the ultimate goal of helping Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Prior to issuing the report, on July 13, 2018, Mueller slapped 12 Russian military intelligence officers with indictments over alleged cyber-attacks on the election. Those Russians, according to the indictment, were behind the hacking of Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign email servers.
In fact, on July 27, 2016, Trump gave a speech in which he called on Russia to find a supposed “30,000” emails that he claimed were “missing” from Clinton’s server. Just hours after Trump issued that call, the Russian military hackers attempted to break into the server.
After taking the question from Hudson, Lavrov claimed that he had, indeed, read the Mueller report. He said that Mueller did not show any “proof of collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Lavrov says he did read the Mueller report, that it didn't show "any proof of collusion" before claiming he has secret communications with the Obama White House in 2016 that will exonerate the Kremlin. pic.twitter.com/8maOHkrWyH
— Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) December 10, 2019
Lavrov’s answer appeared to avoid Hudson’s question, which came in response to the Russian official’s claim that the U.S. had offered no proof of Russian election interference at all — not whether Russia and Trump had engaged in “collusion.”
According to claims made by Just Security, Mueller’s report unearthed evidence contrary to President Trump’s accounting of the affairs surrounding his 2016 campaign, including incidents in which the campaign “coordinated with, cooperated with, encouraged, or gave support” to the Russian election interference operation.
Mueller said that he did not, however, find that the Trump campaign’s activities included actions that could be charged as criminal violations of federal election laws. Mueller said that in order to bring criminal charges, according to Just Security, he would need evidence that the Trump campaign “knowingly entered an agreement with the Russian government” to cooperate in the election attack.
The special counsel said in his report that he did not find evidence of such an agreement. But according to The New York Times, federal election laws do not require that a knowing “agreement” exist to establish illegal coordination between a campaign and an outside group or individual.