Interesting interview with former US Ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul about his views on the Mueller Report.
Foreign Policy: What’s your overall response to what you’ve read and heard about the Mueller report?
Michael McFaul: I have a couple of reactions. I’ve been skimming, so I haven’t read every word closely yet. One, on the part I’m most interested in, Volume I [which deals with Russia and collusion], I’m impressed by the level of detail and comprehensiveness that Mueller and his team have provided us on what the Russians did.
On the principal two operations—the IRA [Russia’s Internet Research Agency] and the GRU operation against the DNC [Democratic National Committee] and [Hillary Clinton campaign chairman] John Podesta—I think that should be celebrated by everyone both for what he [Mueller] did but also what our intelligence community is capable of doing.
My second reaction is this is only a partial investigation of what happened in 2016. The full investigation of everything that the Russians did, and more importantly what we as a government did or did not do, was not part of Mueller’s mandates. So I have questions about many other things that he didn’t cover. And the biggest piece Mueller left out, of course, is now what do we do as a country to prevent this in the future? Two or three years ago, some of us were arguing that we needed a bipartisan commission, not unlike what we had after 9/11, to look at everything that happened—including the Obama administration, by the way, and the social media companies, and the media itself—and this not that.
FP: Can you be more specific about what you think the special counsel didn’t cover?
MM: One is when they look at IRA, they’re looking at a very specific operation by one entity in Russia, but they’re not looking at general behavior by Russian actors on social media platforms that also have an impact. How do you somehow discern that one entity was important in meddling and the other one was not. … The other piece was Russia media itself. RT, Sputnik … what impact did they have? We don’t have any assessment of that. I’d like to know more about that. Third, they do this in an indirect way in talking about the meetings but I was hoping we would learn more about the Russian strategy for engagement with all these people, and was it an attempt to influence the outcome of the elections? … To me that’s one more piece of Putin’s playbook, and it’s not just about conspiracy with the Russians.
And then the money part feels incomplete. There were all kinds of hypotheses about Russian money [laundering] floated about last couple of years, and I don’t feel that somebody’s tied a bow under that. … I expected there would be more discussion of that. The money trail is the most important part of the unanswered questions. Were these just innocent transactions, or were these done by Russian proxies to gain influence?
FP: Referring to Russian investment in Trump Organization businesses and buildings?
MM: Yeah. But not only. And then one other thing—and this is not Mueller’s fault—it’s just the policy part. What were the Russians doing in those 21 states—and why did they choose not to be disruptive on election day, even though they had capacity to do so?