Russia meddled in the United States 2016 elections. This is no longer speculation. Indictments from a grand jury have been handed down indictments on 13 Russian nationals. I assume none will be extradited to the US for trial. I have no idea if trials in absentia are possible. Already, there has been a response from one indicted Russian, that these charges are absurd and that 13 Russians could hardly change the results of an election. The indictments do not conclude the meddling changed election results.
There was an impact; it just can’t be assessed. It was a small group of professionals who came here to influence our election, likely supported by a larger dedicated group in Russia. I don’t know how many more Russians were involved within the US, who the Justice Department could not indite because they just don’t have sufficient evidence. The Russians came here with cash to spend and I suspect most of it went to help Donald Trump. Moreover, whatever their operatives were spending on the ground here, their Russian counterparts were likely spending much more on planning and directing as dirty a campaign as possible against Hillary Clinton. Mueller does not need to identify the full extent of the Russian meddling to get indictments, just that significant expenditures were made. A cool million probably satisfies this threshold.
The question which should be asked, is why Russia thought they could pull this off and sway the election in favor of Donald Trump? I think you have to look at how few people really determine the outcome of a Presidential election. Hillary Clinton lost Florida by 112,911 votes. If she had won Florida, she would have a total of 256 electoral votes. At that point, winning one or two “swing states” would have put her over the top (270 electoral votes). Clinton lost Pennsylvania by 44,262 votes, and 20 electoral votes she needed to secure victory.
How to influence the election in 2016 was obvious to Russians or anyone else following the US elections. Florida was #1 swing state. Northern Florida was predominately Republican and the more people who voted in the north, the better Trump’s chances of winning. Dressing up a woman in prison suit with a sign “Crooked Hillary” to get the media’s attention was perfect. If the electorate only knew!
This is Mueller’s show. No one really knows where his investigation is going, and his team as kept things pretty buttoned up, as they should be. My take is Russia did a whole lot more, including working with Trump’s team before the election to get dirt on Hillary, through the email hacks. We shall see.