U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz said he learned nothing new from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
The Panhandle Republican maintained to CNN Saturday that the two-year investigation into Russian election meddling never should have occurred.
“The Mueller report doesn’t create some new set of revelations among those on the Intelligence Committee, Armed Services Committee or Judiciary Committee about how Russia engages,” Gaetz said.
Host Michael Smerconish questioned Gaetz’s position. He noted Mueller’s investigation resulted in numerous indictments for individuals seeking to interfere with the 2016 presidential race.
“Was this investigation not worth it where 37 individuals and entities were indicted by Mueller for having meddled in our election?” Smerconish said.
But Gaetz said no.
“None of those 37 people will ever face justice,” Gaetz said.
Notably, that 37 number doesn’t just include foreign actors. Mueller’s investigation led to indictments for 34 individuals, including Roger Stone, a part-time South Florida resident and longtime confidante of President Donald Trump.
But it also includes 13 Russian nationals, all connected to the Internet Research Agency. Often called the Russian “troll factory,” all those individuals were involved in disinformation campaigns aimed at undermining U.S. democracy.
Mueller also produced indictments for three Russian companies linked to that effort.
Gaetz called all of those “ghost indictments” for individuals and companies who will never be detained.
Moreover, he said trying any of those for charges in the U.S. justice system may actually compromise national security.
“God forbid they showed up and tried to use our criminal process to try and uncover sources and methods our intelligence community uses,” Gaetz said.
Smerconish questioned Gaetz on whether the Mueller investigation still provided important information about how Russia meddled specifically in a U.S. election.
Gaetz said while he remains concerned about those efforts, it’s nothing the U.S. government didn’t already know was happening.
“We actually have that information,” he said. “We get a lot of briefings around the world and in the Congress, and a lot of those briefings go into great detail, not only about the goals and strategies Russia uses but the tactics, whether its bribing religious officials, co-opting news agencies or trying to compromise people in government and record them.”
The tactics used in the 2016 election aren’t new, he said. Russia has engaged in similar disinformation campaigns in Eastern Europe and other areas in Russia’s immediate sphere of influence. Gaetz said the entire Judiciary Committee took a trip previously to the Balkans to see the impact of those efforts firsthand.
Gaetz said he’s far more concerned, however about election security.
“I’m very concerned about the integrity of the vote and the ballot,” he said. “That’s why we’ve got to secure our cyber-defenses.”