MOSCOW - Russia savored an “I told you so” moment Monday after special counsel Robert Mueller found no collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Moscow. Government officials also dismissed the extensive evidence uncovered by Mueller of Russian cyber-meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
“It’s hard to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if it isn’t there,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters, insisting that Russia has never interfered in elections in the U.S. or any other countries.
While Mueller found no evidence Trump’s campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Moscow to sway the election in his favor, he uncovered multi-pronged Russian meddling and indicted 25 Russians on charges of hacking Democratic email accounts and spreading disinformation on social media.
The Russian Foreign Ministry rejected those charges as “ridiculous” and “politically motivated” and denounced Mueller’s investigation as a waste of taxpayer money stemming from the Democrats’ effort to discredit Trump.
“Colossal efforts and significant taxpayers’ funds have been spent to refute a clear fake,” it said.
Russian authorities over the past months have described the Mueller probe in a language strikingly similar to that of Trump, denouncing it as politically driven witch hunt.
“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.”
Russian state-owned Channel One suggested that U.S. media had been deliberately whipping up hysteria about possible collusion to turn American public opinion against Russia.
“There were so many fake scoops: the one about the nonexistent back channel between Washington and Moscow, the one about the so-called Russia Dossier with the Kremlin’s alleged compromising information on Trump,” said Channel One’s U.S. correspondent, Yulia Olkhovskaya. “But will the viewers hear the rebuttals now?”
Putin’s spokesman said that Russia wants good relations with the U.S. but that it’s up to Washington to move to repair ties.
Other Russian officials and commentators likewise held out hope that Trump would now reach out to Moscow, but most pointed that the congressional support for sanctions against Russia and the political infighting in the U.S. would make any improvement in relations unlikely.
“There is nothing to celebrate here in Russia — the accusations against us remain,” said Konstantin Kosachev, chairman of the foreign affairs committee at the Federation Council. “There’s an opportunity to reset out relations, but the question is whether Trump will take the risk.”