12 Russians indicted in hacking
Clinton emails, Dems, Florida voter registration among targets, Justice Dept. says
WASHINGTON — Twelve Russian intelligence officers have been charged in the hacking of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and Democratic Party computers, the Justice Department revealed Friday in an indictment that undermined President Donald Trump’s multiple bids to downplay Moscow’s election meddling.
The indictments obtained by special counsel Robert Mueller marked the first time he has charged Russian government officials. It portrays a complex operation, run from an office two miles from the Kremlin, involving fake identities, specially developed malware and determined efforts to penetrate Democratic campaign networks and steal sensitive documents.
Friday’s announcement is also the first time that anyone has been charged with the theft and release of private emails that dominated news coverage amid key moments of the presidential race, embarrassing Democratic officials and Clinton’s campaign.
The Russians also attacked the U.S. election infrastructure, prosecutors said, hacking websites and computers that handle voter registration.
“When we confront foreign interference in American elections, it’s important for us to avoid thinking politically, as Republicans or Democrats, and instead to think patriotically as Americans.” U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein
Several counties in Florida, a key swing state, were allegedly targeted as well.
The indictment does not suggest that Russian efforts affected vote totals.
“When we confront foreign interference in American elections, it’s important for us to avoid thinking politically, as Republicans or Democrats, and instead to think patriotically as Americans,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said when revealing the new charges. “Our response must not depend on which side is victimized.”
The indictment could hardly have come at a less opportune time for Trump, three days before he’s slated to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
Trump repeatedly has denounced the Mueller investigation as a “rigged witch hunt,” using that term as recently as Friday morning even though Rosenstein briefed him this week about the latest charges.
Before the indictment was released, Trump said at a news conference in Britain that he would bring up the subject of election interference with Putin, but warned people not to expect “a Perry Mason here.”
“I don’t think you’ll have any ‘Gee, I did it, I did it, you got me,’ ” Trump said.
Putin has denied that Russia interfered in the election, an operation that U.S. intelligence agencies have said he personally ordered to help Trump win.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Friday that the allegations were an attempt to “spoil the atmosphere” before the Finland summit Monday.
Rosenstein said the timing of the indictment had nothing to do with the Helsiniki meeting.
“Our analysis is based solely on the facts, the law and Department of Justice policies,” he said.
Democrats urged Trump to cancel his trip to Helsinki or confront Putin once he arrives.
“President Trump must demand and secure a real, concrete and comprehensive agreement that the Russians will cease their ongoing attacks on our democracy,” said a statement from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
The White House said the meeting would not be canceled. It responded to the indictment with a statement that did not condemn Moscow’s actions during the campaign.
Instead, Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters highlighted that no U.S. citizens were charged.
The indictment didn’t accuse anyone from Trump’s campaign of conspiring with Russians, a key issue that Mueller has been examining.
The president’s lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, described Friday’s announcement as “good news.”
“The Russians are nailed. No Americans are involved,” he said. “Time for Mueller to end this pursuit of the president and say President Trump is completely innocent.”
One of the accusations in the indictment does overlap with a controversial statement that Trump made during the campaign.
On July 27, 2016, during a news conference in Florida, he said: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” According to the indictment, “on or about July 27, 2016,” the Russians attempted “for the first time” to hack emails located on Clinton’s private email server.
Sean Spicer, when he was White House press secretary, later described the president’s statement as a joke.
However, Trump repeatedly capitalized on hacked documents during the campaign despite public reports that they were the result of a Russian intelligence operation.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller got indictments against 12 Russian intelligence agents in the hacking of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic Party.