Correction, July 27, 2018, 12:06 p.m.: This post originally referred to Russian actors as “Soviets.” It has been updated.
Regardless of how many episodes of Law & Order one may have seen, most laypeople rarely understand the definition of circumstantial evidence. West’s Encyclopedia of American Law states: “There is a public perception that such evidence is weak (‘all they have is circumstantial evidence’), but the probable conclusion from the circumstances may be so strong that there can be little doubt as to a vital fact.”
The encyclopedia adds:
Particularly in criminal cases, “eyewitness”(“I saw Frankie shoot Johnny”) type evidence is often lacking and may be unreliable, so circumstantial evidence becomes essential. Prior threats to the victim, fingerprints found at the scene of the crime, ownership of the murder weapon, and the accused being seen in the neighborhood, certainly point to the suspect as being the killer, but each bit of evidence is circumstantial.
In spite of what your favorite television legal drama says, circumstantial evidence is still considered to be reliable evidence. Most evidence, including DNA, audio recordings and even scientific evidence is circumstantial evidence, as opposed to direct evidence (a videotape of a shooter firing a gun at the victim, for example).
And despite what Donald Trump, the Kremlin’s Executive in Charge of U.S. Operations, would have you believe, every credible intelligence source agrees that Russian hackers, under direct instructions from our sidepiece president, Vladimir Putin, interfered with the 2016 presidential elections. The evidence shows this is true.
But when it comes to whether or not Russin operatives actually changed votes or voter rolls, no one will admit to it, regardless of the mountain of circumstantial evidence.