Putin min­ions in­dicted

Tampa Bay Times - - Front Page - As­so­ci­ated Press

A grand jury charges 12 Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers in hack of Democrats .

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

The in­dict­ment stands as spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s first al­le­ga­tion im­pli­cat­ing the Rus­sian govern­ment di­rectly in crim­i­nal be­hav­ior meant to sway the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies have said the med­dling was aimed at help­ing the Trump cam­paign and harm­ing the elec­tion bid of his Demo­cratic op­po­nent, Hil­lary Clin­ton. The ef­fort also in­cluded bo­gus Face­book ads and so­cial-me­dia post­ings that pros­e­cu­tors say were aimed at in­flu­enc­ing public opin­ion and sow­ing dis­cord on hot-but­ton so­cial is­sues.

The in­dict­ment lays out a broad, co­or­di­nated ef­fort start­ing in March 2016 to break into key Demo­cratic email ac­counts, such as those be­long­ing to the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee, the Clin­ton cam­paign and the Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee. Among those tar­geted was John Podesta, the Clin­ton cam­paign chair­man.

The Krem­lin 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.

But the in­dict­ment iden­ti­fies the de­fen­dants as of­fi­cers with Rus­sia’s Main In­tel­li­gence Direc­torate of the Gen­eral Staff, also known as GRU. It ac­cuses them of covertly mon­i­tor­ing the com­put­ers of dozens of Demo­cratic of­fi­cials and vol­un­teers, im­plant­ing ma­li­cious com­puter code known as mal­ware and us­ing phish­ing emails to gain con­trol of the ac­counts of peo­ple as­so­ci­ated with the Clin­ton cam­paign.

By June 2016, the de­fen­dants be­gan plan­ning the re­lease of tens of thou­sands of stolen emails and doc­u­ments, the in­dict­ment al­leges. The mes­sages were re­leased through fic­ti­tious per­sonas like DCLeaks and Guc­cifer 2.0.

The charges come as Mueller con­tin­ues to in­ves­ti­gate po­ten­tial co­or­di­na­tion be­tween Rus­sia and the Trump cam­paign to in­flu­ence the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. The in­dict­ment does not al­lege that Trump cam­paign as­so­ciates were in­volved in the hack­ing ef­forts or that any Amer­i­can was know­ingly in con­tact with Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers.

The in­dict­ment also does not al­lege that any vote tal­lies were al­tered by hack­ing.

Still, Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod Rosen­stein said the in­ter­net “al­lows for­eign ad­ver­saries to at­tack Amer­i­cans in new and un­ex­pected ways. Free and fair elec­tions are hard-fought and con­tentious and there will al­ways be ad­ver­saries who work to ex­ac­er­bate do­mes­tic dif­fer­ences and try to con­fuse, di­vide and con­quer us.”

A White House state­ment of­fered no con­dem­na­tion of the al­leged Rus­sian con­spir­acy. In­stead it fo­cused on the fact that no Trump cam­paign of­fi­cials or Amer­i­cans were im­pli­cated in the new in­dict­ment. Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Gi­u­liani, said on Twit­ter that it was time to end the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion since “no Amer­i­cans are in­volved.”

But with Mueller still in­ves­ti­gat­ing, it’s not known whether fur­ther in­dict­ments are tak­ing shape or will.

Be­fore Fri­day, 20 peo­ple and three com­pa­nies had been charged in the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The 20 are four former Trump cam­paign and White House aides, three of whom have pleaded guilty to dif­fer­ent crimes and agreed to co­op­er­ate, and 13 Rus­sians ac­cused of par­tic­i­pat­ing in a hid­den but pow­er­ful so­cial me­dia cam­paign to sway U.S. public opin­ion in the 2016 elec­tion.

If the in­volve­ment of the GRU of­fi­cers in the hack­ing ef­fort is proved, it would shat­ter the Krem­lin de­nials of the Rus­sian state’s in­volve­ment in the U.S. elec­tions.

One at­tempt at in­ter­fer­ence noted in the in­dict­ment 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.

“Rus­sia, if you’re lis­ten­ing,” Trump said, “I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are miss­ing.”

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

Robert Mueller im­pli­cates the Rus­sian govern­ment.

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