The indictment of 13 Russian citizens and three companies on Friday is "incontrovertible" evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 US election, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said Saturday.
The indictment, prepared by special counsel Robert Mueller, claimed that "operations to interfere with the US political system" began in 2014, with Russians using fake social media accounts to target US audiences and "traveling to the United States under false pretenses" to collect intelligence.
Although President Trump has wavered publicly on whether or not Russia interfered, his national security adviser says the indictment shows the US is becoming "more and more adept at tracing the origins of this espionage and subversion."
"As you can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain," McMaster said at a security conference in Munich.
McMaster made his comments shortly after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the indictment out of hand at the same conference.
"Until we see the facts, everything else is just blabber — I'm sorry for this expression," Lavrov said, adding he had "no response" when asked for comment on the allegations.
"You can publish anything, and we see those indictments multiplying, the statements multiplying," the Russian foreign minister said, arguing that Vice President Mike Pence and other US officials have said no country influenced the election results.
In a statement on Saturday evening, Trump undercut McMaster's remarks, tweeting that his national security advisor "forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia and Crooked H, the DNC and the Dems. Remember the Dirty Dossier, Uranium, Speeches, Emails and the Podesta Company!"
Friday's indictment contained no allegation that the Russian conduct altered the outcome of the election, nor did it allege any American was a "knowing participant." However, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told reporters that Mueller's investigation was continuing.
In Washington, however, White House spokesperson Raj Shah told Fox News on Friday night that the indictment "proved there was no collusion."
He also said the indictment did not mean that the Russian trolls had favored Trump over Hillary Clinton.
"All of these efforts were about sowing confusion in the electoral process and undermining the next president, not about supporting one candidate over the other." he told Tucker Carlson.
In fact, although Friday's indictment stated that the Russians sought to organize pro- and anti-Trump marches after the election, it also states that the defendants worked actively to support Trump and then-US Sen. Bernie Sanders during the race.
"They engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump," the indictment reads.
"Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump — we support them)," the Russians were directed, according to the indictment.
Another White House spokesman, Hogan Gidley, said those pushing a collusion narrative posed a bigger threat to the US than the Russians.
"There are two groups that have created chaos more than the Russians and that’s the Democrats and the mainstream media, who continue to push this lie on the American people for more than a year," he told Fox News on Saturday.
In another Saturday tweet, Trump himself falsely implied the indictment definitively determined there was no collusion.
In Moscow, Russian officials also doubled down in denying the allegations.
"There are no official claims, there are no proofs for this. That's why they are just children's statements," said the presidential envoy for international information security, Andrei Kutskikh, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.
When asked whether Washington would consider working with the Kremlin on cybersecurity issues, as President Trump proposed on Twitter last year, McMaster joked: "I'm surprised there are any Russian cyber experts available based on how active most of them have been undermining our democracies in the West."
"So I would just say that we would love to have a cyber dialogue when Russia is sincere," he added.
Hazel is a breaking news reporter and curation editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Hazel Shearing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grace Wyler is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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