Yesterday, in a move that didn’t officially involve Special Counsel Robert Mueller but clearly had his fingerprints all over it, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Virginia unsealed a criminal complaint against Russian operative Elena Khusyaynova, accusing her of having used social media to try to meddle in the upcoming 2018 U.S. election. This had led to a lot of questions, including why now? Some of those answers are starting to potentially become more clear.
Palmer Report referred to the indictment as a “warning shot” aimed at scaring the Russian government away from any potentially larger election meddling. Khusyaynova’s antics were comparatively small scale and probably wouldn’t have a difference in the election outcome, but as we’ve so painfully learned, Vladimir Putin has bigger election meddling tricks up his sleeve.
Law Professor Barb McQuade has since backed up this notion, pointing out that the complaint is dated September 28th, and that because Khusyaynova isn’t even in the U.S. and therefore isn’t going to be arrested any time soon, there was no legal urgency to unseal it now; it was probably done to send a pre-election message. But it turns out there’s more to it.
Michael Carpenter from the Penn Biden Center caught onto the words “members of a conspiracy” in the criminal complaint, adding that in his view, it seems “like a predicate for future charges against US persons.” In other words, this particular indictment – while it may never result in Elena Khusyaynova’s arrest of prosecution – may have served the purpose of killing several birds with one stone. It’s worth keeping in mind that, for all the hype about a supposed Robert Mueller “quiet period” ahead of the election, there are no formal rules forcing Mueller to keep quiet about anything right now. He can strike at any time, and it looks like Roger Stone may be next.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report