This is obviously a big freaking deal for a lot of reasons. First, here are the basics of what you need to know.
Here is the full indictment. There are no Americans named in the indictment nor does it say whether Russian activities affected the result of the election. Just that they happened.
These are the first charges filed by Robert Mueller that directly accuse the Russian government of meddling in the 2016 election. That’s a big deal because, well, I don’t need to tell you that’s a big deal. Per our judicial system, we have established an indictable case (but remember, these are not convictions, just allegations legitimate enough to be presented in federal court) which removes any remaining doubt as to whether Russia meddled in our election. The evidence was already overwhelming, but now we have serious allegations which have been vetted by some of our most capable lawmen and women.
Not only does this settle whether Russia meddled, it settles who they meddled against. This indictment is filled with allegations of Russian crimes against the DCCC and DNC. There is no mention of the Republican Party. But again, it does not make a judgment on the effect of these Russian actions.
What it also does is create a really bad situation for anyone who gets connected to these indictments. Like Mueller’s previous indictment of foreign nationals running the Internet Research Agency, these Russians will almost surely never stand trial. Functionally, this is more of a legal declaration than anything, stating that the Russian government did “X.” Where it could become a much more tangible issue is if Mueller finds an American in Trump’s circle who also contributed to “X.” With those indictments established, connecting someone’s crime on behalf of a hostile foreign government is, well, you know.
Here’s a speculative, yet substantive example to end on: One of the Russian Military Intelligence cutouts named in the indictment is Guccifer 2.0. Longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone admitted that he spoke with Guccifer 2.0 via direct message on Twitter during the 2016 election (he told The Smoking Gun he thought the exchange was public).
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.