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Mueller's latest indictment proves American voters are too smart for Russia

  • The Mueller indictment of 13 Russians seems to clear the Trump team of collusion, at least in this part of the case.
  • But the most important part of the indictment is the fact that it says the Russian efforts had no effect on the election.
  • That's a major shot in the arm for American voters, who have proven able to resist foreign meddling.
Robert Mueller
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Robert Mueller

That hissing sound you're hearing may be the sound of the air coming out of the theory that the Trump campaign participated in some kind of conspiracy with the Russians to rig the 2016 election.

That's great news for President Trump, but there's much better news in this indictment for the American voters.

The news hit Friday afternoon that 13 Russian nationals were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of interfering in the 2016 presidential election.

But a closer reading of special counsel Robert Mueller's charges include the crucial claim that no member of the Trump team was a knowing participant in the scheme, nor is there any allegation that the scheme affected the outcome of the election. According to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, "There is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity."

The indictment also claims that this Russian cabal of sorts was not entirely working to help Trump. Bernie Sanders was also an alleged beneficiary during the election. After Trump won, the group organized opposing rallies --- one supporting then President-elect Trump and one opposing him --- at the exact same time and place.

To sum up: Some Russians allegedly used illegal means to try to influence our elections. They contacted Trump campaign officials, who never wittingly aided them in that crime. They also made some efforts to help anti-Trump groups. And in the end, there is no allegation that these efforts had any effect on the election.

This is hardly "crime of the century" material.

As Harvard Law Professor Alex Whiting explained earlier this year, collusion requires some form of intent on the part of those allegedly participating in it. When prosecutors refuse to claim intent in their own indictment, you can feel relatively certain that any Trump campaign officials connected to this group of Russians can breathe easy.

To be cautious, we don't know what Mueller and company will come up next. There could be more indictments connected to other attempts to collude with the Trump campaign that may include intent on the part of campaign officials. The many reports that Donald Trump Jr. attended a meeting with one Russian citizen to "get dirt" on Hillary Clinton in 2016 is one potential example of that.

While this is a bullet dodged for the White House for now, it's more importantly a solid vote of confidence in the American people. The most significant aspect of this story is not the political viability of the Trump presidency. Presidents come and go. This country has even survived and thrived in the wake of a presidential impeachment and another president's resignation just in the last 45 years alone.

Much more important is the viability of the American democratic process and the power of the voters to keep it viable. This indictment details a clever effort by the Russians to mislead the American public with millions of dollars to back it up. In the end, it failed because the American people simply didn't buy it.

This indictment isn't the only new piece of evidence to prove this. It comes on the heels of a scholarly article published by Joshua Kalla and David Broockman that shows the Russian ads meant to meddle in the election had no effect on voters' decisions.

So while this story seems to only be focusing on how it helps or hurts President Trump and his opponents, the real story is all about the voters.

The bottom line is the voters won.

Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.