Donald Trump is an illegitimate president -- and here is why
President Donald Trump (AFP/File / Olivier Douliery)

It’s all right there in the indictment — day by day, hack by hack, theft by theft — how agents of the Russian intelligence service, the GRU, set out in the spring of 2016 to steal the election for Donald Trump. When you track the actions taken by Russian intelligence in the indictment with statements made by Trump and actions taken on his behalf by members of his campaign, the picture is as clear as an iPhone photo. Agents of the Russian government coordinated with members of the Trump campaign and took cues from Trump himself in order to influence the election of 2016.

In announcing the indictment, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein may have refused to point to a victim of the Russians’ crimes other than to say it was America itself, but the intent of the Russians was clear. They took active measures over a period of at least nine months to aid the campaign of Donald Trump and to damage the campaign of Hillary Clinton. They stole the election for Donald Trump, and he helped them do it.

This article first appeared in Salon

From Paragraph 20 of the indictment, “The Object of the Conspiracy”: “The object of the conspiracy was to hack into the computers of US. persons and entities involved in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 US. presidential election.”

The indictment is breathtaking in the specificity of the crimes it outlines, how those crimes were committed, and by whom.

“Beginning by at least March 2016, the Conspirators targeted over 300 individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign, DCCC, and DNC,” the indictment alleges. Nowhere does it say that “individuals affiliated with” the Trump campaign were targeted. Only Democrats.

For example, the indictment spells out that “on or about March 19, 2016, “defendant [Aleksey Victorovich] LUKASHEV and his co-conspirators created and sent a spearphishing email to the chairman of the Clinton Campaign.” It further alleges that “On or about March 25, 2016, LUKASHEV used the same john356gh account to mask additional links included in spearphishing emails sent to numerous individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign.”

Let’s have a look at what else was going on in March of 2016.

On March 29, 2016, Trump hired Paul Manafort as his “convention manager.” His deputy, Rick Gates, joined the campaign with him. Both Manafort and Gates had worked for many years in the Ukraine and Russia and had numerous contacts with Russian intelligence operatives, including Konstantin Kilimnik, who was indicted by Mueller on June 18 of this year on charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice in conjunction with Manafort. Kilimnik worked with and for Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Kilimnik was a cut-out for Manafort with Deripaska, was used by Manafort to offer “briefings” about the Trump campaign to the Russian oligarch, and discussed the Russian hacking of DNC emails with Manafort.

The indictment goes into fantastic detail about how the Russian intelligence operatives accessed Clinton campaign and DNC emails throughout March of 2016. Then, in April, they began downloading thousands of the emails. The indictment says that “on or about April 22, 2016, the Conspirators compressed gigabytes of data from DNC computers, including opposition research. The Conspirators later moved the compressed DNC data using X-Tunnel to a GRU-leased computer located in Illinois.”

Let’s pause to have a look at what else was going on in April of 2016.

On April 18, a Maltese national and so-called “professor” Joseph Mifsud introduced Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos to Ivan Timofeev, the director of a Russian government-controlled think tank called the Russian Government Affairs Council. Timofeev told Papadopoulos he had high-level connections with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Individuals like Timofeev and operations like his “think tank” have, for decades, been used by Russian intelligence as cut-outs to spy on other countries.

On April 25, Papadopoulos reported to Trump campaign adviser Stephen Miller about his contacts with various Russians, including Timofeev.

On April 26, Trump gave a speech at Trump Tower after his victories in five East Coast primaries. Seemingly out of nowhere, he told the crowd, “We’re going to have a great relationship with Trump and Russia.”

Also on April 26, Papadopoulos sat down to breakfast in London with his friend Joseph Mifsud, who announced that he had just returned from Moscow where he had meetings with high-level officials of the Russian government. He told his young charge Papadopoulos that the Russians informed him they had “dirt” on Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” and that they were prepared to help disseminate the “dirt.”

Papadopoulos was indicted and pled guilty to the charge of lying to the FBI when he was questioned about the meetings he had with Mifsud and Russians.

Beginning in May and continuing through the end of the election campaign, the Russian intelligence agents charged in the indictment created several different operations to release emails stolen from the Clinton campaign, the DNC and the DCCC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Although the indictment does not name WikiLeaks, it talks about the Russians contacting a “third party” to release documents, and they created two of their own operations, “” and “Guccifer 2.0,” which they used to release Democratic documents damaging to the Clinton campaign. They also created a DCLeaks Facebook page and Twitter account which they also used to disseminate Democratic documents.

According to the indictment, the Russian intelligence agents kept up their theft of Democratic documents for months. But after going into elaborate detail about how the hacks were accomplished, which email accounts were spearphished, how they set up fake email accounts to access “more than thirty” Clinton campaign accounts, how they inserted malware into DCCC accounts, and how they used their access to DCCC accounts to access the DNC server, the indictment suddenly stops being specific and devotes Paragraph 22 to make this allegation:

“The Conspirators spearphished individuals affiliated with the Clinton Campaign throughout the summer of 2016. For example, on or about July 27, 2016, the Conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office. At or around the same time, they also targeted seventy-six email addresses at the domain for the Clinton Campaign.”

Four things stand out about Paragraph 22. The first is the date: July 27, 2016. Let’s have a look at what else was going on the same day.

On July 27, at a press conference, seemingly out of the blue, Trump said: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” referring to the so-called “missing” emails from the private server Hillary Clinton used while serving as secretary of state.

Which brings us to stand-out thing number two: the spearphishing done by the Russian intelligence operatives was done “after hours.” At no other point in the indictment does the Mueller team refer to what time of day other hacking was done. Trump’s press conference was in New York at about noon. That’s 7 p.m. in Moscow. Russia was listening, all right. They started hacking immediately after Trump’s call-out to them. After hours.

Stand-out thing number three is the citation that the spearphishing was for “the first time.” In other words, never before had the Mueller team detected that the Russian intelligence team had spearphished this specific target, even though they had by now been at the business of hacking the Democrats’ emails for five months.

Stand-out thing number four is the spearphishing target: “a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office.” This is an obvious reference to Hillary Clinton’s personal email server, the one to which Trump was directing the Russians and from which the so-called “30,000” emails had been “deleted.”

So far, 25 Russian citizens have been indicted for seeking to aid Donald Trump in his campaign against Hillary Clinton in 2016. Mueller isn’t saying that Trump had the assistance of 25 folks from Utah, or Iowa. Or 25 New Yorkers he hired from a temporary help agency in the city. Or even 25 citizens of the United Kingdom or France.

Twenty-five Russians have been indicted for helping to elect Donald Trump. Twelve of them are active Russian intelligence agents. Thirteen of them worked for something called the “Internet Research Agency LLC,” described in the indictment handed down in February as “a Russian organization engaged in operations to interfere with elections and political processes.”

Clearly, the indictment issued by Special Counsel Robert Mueller yesterday is saying that right after Trump called on “Russia” to “find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” the Russians did just that. They went looking for those emails by going after Clinton’s personal email server.

If that’s not collusion with the Russians to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, I don’t know what is.

If that’s not two acts in a conspiracy — Trump calling out to “Russia” for help and actual Russian intelligence agents spearphishing emails from Hillary Clinton to provide that help — I don’t know what is.

If the indictment handed down yesterday by the grand jury being run by Special Counsel Mueller doesn’t allege, albeit in a roundabout way, that Russia conspired with Trump to steal the election of 2016, I don’t know what it does.

Anybody who gets elected to office in this country with the help of the intelligence agents of a foreign power has been elected illegitimately. It’s not a tough call. Donald Trump is president because Vladimir Putin wanted him to be. He acts like he owes Putin every single day. Twelve agents of the Russian intelligence service the GRU didn’t do all that spearphishing and email disseminating all by themselves. They did it on orders from Putin. That’s why Trump owes Putin. Read it for yourself. It’s right there in the indictment.