On Friday, the Department of Justice announced it had charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies in a new indictment stemming from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
The announcement significantly undermines the Trump-Russia collusion narrative.
How did it do so?
For more than a year, people opposed to President Donald Trump have alleged that his campaign colluded with Russian operatives to undermine the 2016 presidential election through a disinformation operation targeting Hillary Clinton's campaign. Without concrete evidence, the mainstream media has bolstered the claim.
However, at a press conference Friday announcing the indictment, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein confirmed no American — including those working for the Trump campaign — "had any knowledge" of the Russian operation to undermine the election.
Rosenstein was asked by a reporter what the relationship Trump campaign associates had with the Russians targeted in the indictment. Rosenstein's answer couldn't have been more definitive.
"There’s no allegation in this indictment that any American had any knowledge" of the operation, Rosenstein said.
"And the nature of the scheme was the defendants took extraordinary steps to make it appear that they were ordinary American political activists, even going so far as to base their activities on a virtual private network here in the United States so if anybody traced it back to the first jump, they appeared to be Americans," he explained.
Rosenstein later undercut the idea that illicit Russian activity altered the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
"There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election," he said.
Was there any pushback?
Yes. CNN host Brian Stelter said a Fox News host "warped" Rosenstein's words when she reported on the press conference.
How Rod Rosenstein's words were warped yesterday... https://t.co/qihPcIaoou https://t.co/bD8BFe0emi— Brian Stelter (@Brian Stelter)1518875055.0
However, as Ben Shapiro noted at The Daily Wire, it would be impossible for Trump campaign associates to "collude" with Russians if they didn't know they were talking to or associating with Russian operatives.
"It’s not collusion, folks, unless the Trump campaign knew it was working with Russian sources. This line of attack seems to be falling apart," Shapiro, a lawyer, wrote.
"Collusion only counts if you know you’re soliciting help from foreign sources. Those involved with the Trump campaign apparently didn’t. That blows a rather large hole in the theory that the Russians were working hand-in-glove with Trump campaign officials," he explained.