Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election has obtained a warrant to investigate Facebook’s role in spreading Russian misinformation to targeted U.S. regions.
The move reportedly opens a whole new avenue of speculation about what the investigation is finding and where it is leading, said Business Insider on Saturday.
“This is big news,” said former FBI counterintelligence agent Asha Rangappa, “and potentially bad news for the Russian election interference ‘deniers.’”
Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti told BI’s Natasha Bertrand that the warrant “may be the biggest news in the case since the Manafort raid” — referring to the pre-dawn FBI raid on the home of former Trump 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
Mueller has obtained a search warrant to investigate “inauthentic” Facebook accounts that are believed to have been operated by Russian-sponsored “troll farms” in and around the former Soviet Union. Rangappa said this reveals two key pieces of information.
One is that the investigation was able to convince a judge that there is reason to believe that a crime has been committed. Secondly, the prosecutor must show that the information sought by the investigation will provide evidence of the crime.
“The key here, though, is that Mueller clearly already has enough information on these accounts — and their link to a potential crime to justify forcing [Facebook] to give up the info,” Rangappa said. “That means that he has uncovered a great deal of evidence through other avenues of Russian election interference.”
Mariotti said that the Facebook warrant “means that Mueller has concluded that specific foreign individuals committed a crime by making a ‘contribution’ in connection with an election.”
The prosecutor continued, “It also means that he has evidence of that crime that convinced a federal magistrate judge of two things: first, that there was good reason to believe that the foreign individual committed the crime. Second, that evidence of the crime existed on Facebook.”