Russian lawmaker mocks expensive Mueller probe for finding "caviar" but no collusion

By Daria Litvinova

/ CBS News

Mueller report on Trump efforts to foil probe

Moscow, Russia — The release of the full, albeit redacted, version of the special counsel's report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election on Thursday didn't make any waves in Russia, where government officials have been denying all accusations of meddling from the very beginning.

In the 400-page report, special counsel Robert Mueller concluded there was no evidence of collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign. However, the report reiterated indictments of Russia's infamous troll factory and Russian intelligence officers involved in the hack of the Democratic National Convention.

The report also detailed attempts of Russian businessmen, oligarchs and people with connections in the Kremlin to come in contact with Trump campaign officials (and after the election, with members of the Trump administration).

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More in The Mueller Report

Yet Moscow's reaction has been scant. The few government officials that commented on the report maintained that it offered nothing new – and, more importantly, no evidence of Russian meddling in the elections.

Alexei Pushkov, a senator in the upper chamber of the country's parliament, mocked the cost of the investigation.

"Mueller spent $35 million to find out that (former president of Ukraine Viktor) Yanukovich gave Manafort a huge – 30-40 kilos – can of black caviar. This is very interesting, but has nothing to do with Russia, alleged collusion and meddling. Congratulations to the special prosecutor on a worthy find," Pushkov tweeted on Friday.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there was no "substantiated proof" of interference in the report, and added that the Kremlin regrets that "documents of this kind of quality" are influencing Russia-U.S. relations, according to the news website RBC.

"We are still not accepting these accusations. From the very beginning we said that no matter what the investigators do, they wouldn't find evidence of meddling, and President (Vladimir) Putin said so as well, because there was no meddling. Basically, publication (of the Mueller report) confirms that one more time," Peskov was quoted as saying.

Peskov suggested that U.S. authorities should look into whether it was worth spending taxpayers' money on the special counsel's investigation.

Russia's Foreign Ministry echoed his sentiment in comments to the state-run news agency RIA Novosti.

"There is nothing in it that would be worth paying attention to, it basically confirms there are no arguments (supporting the idea of) Russia meddling in the U.S. elections. There is no proof whatsoever," Georgy Borisenko, head of the Foreign Ministry's department of North America, said.

Earlier this month, Vladimir Putin commented on the Mueller investigation, saying that "Russia did not meddle in any elections in the U.S." and that "there was no collusion between Trump and Russia that Mr. Mueller was looking for."

Russians mentioned in the Mueller indictments either ignored or turned down CBS News' numerous requests for comments.

First published on April 19, 2019 / 11:35 AM

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