In­dict­ment: 12 Rus­sians ac­cused of U.S. elec­tion med­dling

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY ERIC TUCKER

WASH­ING­TON — Twelve Rus­sian mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers hacked into the Clin­ton pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and Demo­cratic Party and re­leased tens of thou­sands of pri­vate com­mu­ni­ca­tions in a sweep­ing con­spir­acy by the Krem­lin to med­dle in the 2016 U.S. elec­tion, ac­cord­ing to an in­dict­ment an­nounced days be­fore Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s sum­mit with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin.

The in­dict­ment rep­re­sents spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s first charges against Rus­sian govern­ment of­fi­cials for in­ter­fer­ing in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics, an ef­fort U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies say was aimed at help­ing the Trump cam­paign and harm­ing

Demo­cratic op­po­nent, Hil­lary Clin­ton. The case fol­lows af­ter a sep­a­rate in­dict­ment that ac­cused Rus­sians of us­ing so­cial me­dia to sow dis­cord among Amer­i­can vot­ers.

The 29-page in­dict­ment lays out how, months be­fore Amer­i­cans went to the polls, Rus­sians schemed to break into key Demo­cratic email ac­counts, in­clud­ing those be­long­ing to Clin­ton cam­paign chair­man John Podesta, the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee and the Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee. Stolen emails, many po­lit­i­cally dam­ag­ing for Clin­ton, ap­peared on Wik­iLeaks in the cam­paign’s fi­nal stretch.

The charges say the Rus­sian de­fen­dants, us­ing a per­sona known as Guc­cifer 2.0, in Au­gust 2016 con­tacted a per­son in touch with the Trump cam­paign to of­fer help. And they say that on the same day Trump said in a speech, “Rus­sia, if you’re lis­ten­ing, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are miss­ing,” Rus­sian hack­ers tried for the first time to break into email ac­counts used by Clin­ton’s per­sonal of­fice.

Mueller did not al­lege that Trump cam­paign as­so­ciates were in­volved in the hack­ing ef­fort, that Amer­i­cans were know­ingly in touch with Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers or that any vote tal­lies were al­tered by hack­ing. The White House seized on those points in a state­ment that of­fered no con­dem­na­tion of Rus­sian elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence.

It was un­clear whether the in­dict­ment might fac­tor into Trump’s meet­ing with Putin on Mon­day.

He re­peat­edly has

ex­pressed skep­ti­cism about Rus­sian in­volve­ment in the hack­ing while be­ing ac­cused by Democrats of cozy­ing up to the Rus­sian pres­i­dent. Trump com­plained about the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion hours be­fore the in­dict­ment, say­ing the “stu­pid­ity” was mak­ing it “very hard to do some­thing with Rus­sia.”

The Krem­lin, mean­while, de­nied anew that it tried to sway the elec­tion. “The Rus­sian state has never in­ter­fered and has no in­ten­tion of in­ter­fer­ing in the U.S. elec­tions,” Putin’s for­eign af­fairs ad­viser, Yuri Ushakov, said Fri­day.

The in­dict­ment iden­ti­fies the de­fen­dants as of­fi­cers with Rus­sia’s Main In­tel­li­gence Direc­torate of the Gen­eral Staff, also known as GRU. If that link is es­tab­lished, it would shat­ter the Krem­lin denials of the Rus­sian state’s in­volve­ment in the U.S. elec­tions given that the GRU is part of the state ma­chine.

The Rus­sian de­fen­dants are not in cus­tody, and it is not clear they will ever ap­pear in Amer­i­can court, though the Jus­tice Depart­ment has re­cently seen value in in­dict­ing for­eign hack­ers in ab­sen­tia as pub­lic de­ter­rence.

The in­dict­ment ac­cuses

the Rus­sian hack­ers, start­ing in March 2016, of covertly mon­i­tor­ing the com­put­ers of dozens of Demo­cratic of­fi­cials and vol­un­teers, im­plant­ing ma­li­cious com­puter code known as mal­ware to ex­plore the net­works and steal data and of phish­ing emails to gain ac­cess to ac­counts.

One at­tempt at in­ter­fer­ence came hours af­ter Trump, in a July 27, 2016, speech, sug­gested Rus­sians look for emails that Clin­ton said she had deleted from her ten­ure as sec­re­tary of state.

That evening, the in­dict­ment says, the Rus­sians at­tempted to break into email ac­counts used by Clin­ton’s per­sonal of­fice, along with 76 Clin­ton cam­paign email ad­dresses.

By June 2016, the de­fen­dants, re­ly­ing on fic­tional per­sonas like DCLeaks and Guc­cifer 2.0, be­gan plan­ning the re­lease of tens of thou­sands of stolen emails, the in­dict­ment al­leges.

The Podesta emails pub­lished by Wik­iLeaks dis­played the pri­vate com­mu­ni­ca­tions, in­clud­ing de­lib­er­a­tions about mes­sag­ing that played into at­tacks that Clin­ton was cal­cu­lat­ing and a po­lit­i­cal flip-flop­per. Pri­vate speeches she gave to fi­nan­cial in­dus­try firms were par­tic­u­larly dam­ag­ing within the left wing of the Demo­cratic party and among in­de­pen­dents frus­trated with the in­flu­ence of Wall Street in pol­i­tics.

The in­dict­ment al­leges that Guc­cifer 2.0 was in touch with mul­ti­ple Amer­i­cans in the sum­mer of 2016 about the pil­fered ma­te­rial, in­clud­ing an uniden­ti­fied con­gres­sional can­di­date who re­quested and then re­ceived stolen in­for­ma­tion

On Aug. 15, 2016, the in­dict­ment says, Guc­cifer 2.0 reached out to some­one in con­tact with the Trump cam­paign and asked the per­son if they had seen any­thing “in­ter­est­ing in the docs I posted?” Guc­cifer 2.0 said it would be a “great plea­sure” to help.

Pros­e­cu­tors say weeks later, Guc­cifer 2.0 re­ferred to a stolen DCCC doc­u­ment posted on­line and asked the per­son, “what do u think of the info on the turnout model for the democrats en­tire pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.” The per­son re­sponded, “(p)retty stan­dard.”

The in­dict­ment doesn’t iden­tify the per­son, though long­time Trump con­fi­dant Roger Stone ac­knowl­edged through his lawyer Fri­day a “24-word ex­change with some­one on Twit­ter claim­ing to be Guc­cifer 2.0.”

“This ex­change is now en­tirely pub­lic and pro­vides no ev­i­dence of col­lab­o­ra­tion or col­lu­sion with Guc­cifer 2.0 or any­one else in the al­leged hack­ing of the DNC emails,” said lawyer Grant Smith.

In ad­di­tion, some­one at Wik­ileaks con­tacted Guc­cifer 2.0 be­fore the Demo­cratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion ask­ing for Clin­ton ma­te­rial, court pa­pers show.

AP PHOTO BY EVAN VUCCI

Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein speaks Fri­day at a news con­fer­ence at the Depart­ment of Jus­tice in Wash­ing­ton.

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