This is a realistic appraisal:
But veterans of criminal investigations said the president’s celebration may be premature.
While the indictment says three Trump campaign officials may have played “unwitting” roles in the specific Russian election interference it describes, the document draws no broader conclusions about any potential Trump campaign ties to the Kremlin — which has been alleged to take many different forms beyond the focus of Friday’s charges.
And they noted that Mueller’s latest move appears to establish the critical basis to charge American co-conspirators in the Russian election effort. Before Friday, it was unclear what crimes any U.S. persons might have been aiding or abetting. Now, a legal framework exists for criminal charges against Americans — including ones who do not show up in Friday’s court document.
The indictment mentions conspirators both known and "unknown" to the grand jury, legal experts noted.
“This language is purposeful,” said Elizabeth de la Vega, a former assistant U.S. attorney from the Northern District of California. “It unmistakably indicates there is much more to the story.”
“Think of a conspiracy indicting parties ‘known and unknown’ as a Matroyshka doll,” she added. “There are many more layers to be successively revealed over time.”
Joyce Vance, a former U.S. Attorney from Northern Alabama, said Mueller’s indictment now sends the signal that he believes it’s a federal crime for a foreign national to try and interfere in a U.S. election.
“That means any American who met with Russians in an effort to receive election assistance [how about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting - no1], also committed a crime,” she said. “And any efforts to cover that conduct up would be a very serious obstruction of justice.”
Mueller’s indictment also puts an exclamation point on findings from the U.S. intelligence community that Russia sought to interfere in the 2016 election, both to disrupt the U.S. political system and out of President Vladimir Putin’s longstanding animus for Clinton.
While Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on those findings — Trump said during one October 2016 presidential debate that the hackers stealing Democratic emails “could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds” — the indictment presented evidence specific enough to form the basis of federal criminal charges.
“Frankly, Trump is the only one who says there’s no meddling. This lays it out chapter and verse,” said Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor who served as a deputy to the mid-2000s federal investigation into the leak of former CIA operative Valerie Plame’s identity.