Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team of top investigators looking into Russian interference in the 2016 election have wrapped up their work. And on Sunday, Attorney General William Barr sent a summary of the report to Congress, indicating that the investigation had found no evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign.
For Trump and his acolytes, it was a euphoric ending to a nearly two-year-long process.
For the amateur investigators who have salivated over Mueller’s every move it was something else entirely. On Monday, many said they weren’t done with their investigations, noting how little of the actual findings had been put out in the public records. Others said that they simply didn’t buy Barr’s explanation that there was no explicit collusion, nor various reports that no one else would be indicted as part of the investigation.
“Why don’t we wait and see what’s in it?” Louise Mensch, a former British member of Parliament and News Corp executive who reinvented herself as a Trump critic on Twitter, told The Daily Beast.
#Resistance Twitter stars like Mensch and self-described “futurist” Eric Garland joined the chorus of other skeptics who wondered why so much stock was being paid to Barr’s four-page summary of Mueller’s exhaustive reporting.
But in typical conspiratorial fashion, they also posited that the special counsel had another trick up his sleeve. In particular, they pointed to random sealed indictments in federal court as proof that something is still coming from Mueller.
Barr’s letter was fairly vague, quoting only roughly 80 words of Mueller’s report and not detailing the factual findings made nor the primary documents collected. But it did explicitly say that there were no more sealed indictments related to the investigation. That didn’t stop Garland and Mensch from suggested otherwise to their hundreds of thousands of combined followers.
“Stay frosty,” Garland tweeted to his fans. “And ignore the gaslighting frauds who have been wrong about EVERYTHING for three years.”
Garland and Mensch’s doubling down on Russia collusion reflects a basic issue for the Russia-gate ecosystem: The main media protagonists are dependent on the drama never ending.
Over the past two years, speculation about the findings of Mueller’s investigation has filled thousands of hours of cable news programming and birthed a small cottage industry of enthusiastic Twitter personalities who have amassed large online followings by immersing themselves in the details of the investigation and making bold predictions about Trump’s supposed guilt.
Twitter elevated University of New Hampshire professor Seth Abramson, who leveraged his account into a book deal with a major publisher—the book is titled Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America—and predicted repeatedly that Donald Trump Jr., Blackwater founder Erik Prince, and Infowars correspondent Jerome Corsi would be indicted before Mueller wrapped up his investigation. Garland, who made his name in the Resistance with a notorious thread about Russia and “game theory,” sold access to a private Twitter account for $10 a month. So did John Schindler, a former counterintelligence analyst who has amassed nearly 300,000 followers on his main Twitter, @20Committee.
But Barr’s announcement that the Mueller investigation found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia has left the ecosystem not just demanding more underlying intel, but also feeling adrift and unable to explain the bold pronouncements that Mueller’s investigation would almost certainly bring the Trump presidency down.
Activist Claude Taylor rode Mueller mania to more than 200,000 followers for his Twitter account, @TrueFactsStated. In his social media fight against Trump, Taylor has promoted at least one hoax and bought a giant inflatable rat that he parks outside the court hearings of Trump associates.
But on Monday, Taylor sounded disappointed though he said he’s waiting until some version of the actual Mueller report comes out to make up his mind about Trump and Russia.
“It’s the end of the beginning, it’s not the beginning of the end,” Taylor said.
Taylor says he’ll keep up his attacks on Trump, whatever the report says.
“The rat is here to stay until Trump is gone,” Taylor said.
While many #Resistance figures were defiant in the wake of Barr’s summary, others seemed willing to concede that a new chapter had come for their cause. Brian and Ed Krassenstein have spent the last two years racking up a combined 1.5 million Twitter followers by breathlessly tweeting predictions about the Russia investigation. They’ve dedicated themselves to defending Mueller online, created a podcast about the investigation, and even self-published a children’s book which ends with a buff shirtless Mueller holding Trump accountable.
In a phone call on Monday, Brian Krassenstein said he was disappointed that Barr had released the letter while withholding release of the full report, but that ultimately he would be happy for America if the Mueller report said Trump did not collude with Russia.
Krassenstein—who at one point filmed himself singing about the FBI and impeaching Trump—downplayed the assertion that the Russia investigation was a large part of his brand, saying that with the investigation over, he would focus his Twitter account on other ongoing Trump investigations and supporting Democratic candidates. He did acknowledge, however, that he would likely not publish a sequel or update his children’s book.
“It's possible I’ll lose followers,” Krassenstein said in a brief phone call, adding. “But if I lose followers I’m not going to lose sleep over that.”
But for at least one prominent Russia tweeter, the business he’s built around the Mueller investigation will continue long after the investigation itself has ended.
Schindler’s premium tweets about Russia and Trump have become a lucrative side business. At one point, Schindler was making more than $17,000 a month from his premium tweets. The current number of subscribers to his premium account is not publicly available.
Schindler says he’s not concerned that, with the Mueller investigation over, he and other Mueller-watchers will lose their internet fame.
“It turned out to be kind of fun and people pay for my tweets, so here I am,” Schindler said.