Russia reacted with an “I told you so” moment Monday in state media after the conclusion of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Moscow’s involvement in the U.S. presidential election didn’t find evidence of collusion.
Wrapping up his 22-month investigation, Mueller’s report found no evidence that U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russian officials to influence the 2016 election.
Mueller said in a passage from the report quoted by U.S. Attorney General William Barr that there was no evidence that Trump “was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference.” But he reached no conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice.
Until Monday, there was little to no coverage in Russia of the Mueller investigation. Russian media didn’t closely follow all the leaks that accompanied the probe, but referred to the investigation from time to time as an example of what they described as U.S. hysteria against Russia.
Russian officials and state media, who have vehemently denied that the Kremlin wanted Trump to win and was helping him in the campaign, on Monday relished the news.
“The results of Mueller’s investigation are a disgrace for the U.S. and its political elites,” Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the information committee at the Federation Council, tweeted Monday. “All of the accusations were proved to be trumped up.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had a more muted reaction on Monday, saying that Russia has never interfered in elections in other countries and “doesn’t intend to do so.”
“It’s hard to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if it isn’t there,” he said.
Still, 34 people, including six Trump aides and advisers, were charged in the investigation. Twenty-five are Russians accused of election interference either through hacking into Democratic accounts or orchestrating a social media campaign to spread disinformation on the internet.
Russian authorities over the past months have portrayed the Mueller probe as a witch hunt against Trump and a tool of the Democratic Party to fan the flames of the anti-Russian sentiment in the U.S.
Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign affairs committee at the Federation Council, on Monday described the Mueller probe and the discussions around it as “two years of incessant lies.”
State-owned Channel One on its morning news show suggested that U.S. media had been consciously whipping up the hysteria about possible collusion in order to sway U.S. public opinion against Russia.
“There were so many fake scoops: the one about the non-existent back channel between Washington and Moscow, the one about the so-called Russia Dossier with the Kremlin’s alleged compromising information on Trump,” Channel One’s U.S. correspondent said. “But will the viewers hear the rebuttals now?”
The conclusions of the Mueller probe led some to believe that Trump will have a free hand now to improve U.S. ties with Russia.
“There’s an opportunity to reset out relations but the question is whether Trump will take the risk,” Kosachev said.