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Mueller indicts 12 Russian intelligence officials for hacking Clinton campaign and DNC servers

The new indictment come days ahead of President Trump's diplomatic summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein  holds a news conference at the Department of Justice July 13, 2018 in Washington, D.C., to announce indictments against 12 Russian intelligence agents for hacking computers used by the Democratic National Committee, the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other organizations. (Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein holds a news conference at the Department of Justice July 13, 2018 in Washington, D.C., to announce indictments against 12 Russian intelligence agents for hacking computers used by the Democratic National Committee, the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other organizations. (Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Special Counsel Robert Mueller handed down a new indictment Friday morning, charging 12 Russian military intelligence officials with hacking the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) servers in 2015 and 2016, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) servers, and the email accounts of staffers working for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

The indictment names 12 defendants, all of whom are members of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, the intelligence wing of the the Russian military. It accuses them of working to release “tens of thousands of stolen emails and documents” it obtained in the hackings using “fictitious personas online personas,” including “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0,” in an attempt to swing the 2016 election in President Trump’s favor.

“The Internet allows foreign adversaries to attack America in new and unexpected ways,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a statement. “…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. So long as we are united in our commitment to the shared values enshrined in the Constitution, they will not succeed.”

The indictment details 11 criminal counts:

  • Count One alleges “criminal conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States through cyber operations,” related to efforts to release the documents in an attempt to sway the election
  • Counts Two through Nine allege “aggravated identity theft” carried out during the fraud scheme
  • Count Ten details allegations of money laundering, accusing the defendants of illegally funneling as much as $95,000 through cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin to purchase the computer servers and other technology necessary to carry out the scheme
  • Count Eleven outlines allegations of conspiracy against the United States by using hacked information and documents belonging to U.S. officials, state boards of elections, secretaries of state, and several “U.S. companies that supplied software and other technology related to the administration of elections.”

The indictment also specifies that “[no] American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity or knew they were communicating with Russian intelligence officers.”

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However, the special counsel’s decision to name Guccifer 2.0 in the indictment is nonetheless revealing, as it links the Russian GRU directly to a longtime Trump associate.

In August 2016, Roger Stone — who served as one of Trump’s campaign advisers from June through August 2015 and remained close with him in the months that followed — published an editorial critical of Trump’s rival, Clinton, for the right-wing Breitbart. In it, he claimed the DNC and Clinton email hacks, exposed earlier in the year, were the work of Guccifer 2.0, who described himself online as a lone, Romanian “hacktivist.” Stone claimed in the editorial that the Russians were not involved and that Clinton should stop complaining that they had sabotaged her campaign.

On August 14, Stone began a private Twitter exchange with Guccifer 2.0. In the messages, Guccifer 2.0 thanked Stone for the Breitbart editorial and said he would be happy to help Stone in whatever way necessary.

“wow. thank u for writing back, and thank u for an article about me,” Guccifer 2.0 wrote. “do u find anything interesting in the docs i posted?”

In a separate message, the “hacker” added, “please tell me if i can help u anyhow. it would be a great pleasure to me.”

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Days later, on August 21, Stone tweeted cryptically, “Trust me, it will soon the Podesta’s time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary.” The tweet implied Stone knew of more hacked emails yet to be published, this time from Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta.

Stone tweeted about the hacked Podesta emails once more, in October, days prior to their release. “Wednesday@HillaryClinton is done,” he wrote.

On October 7, WikiLeaks published the stolen Podesta emails online.

The Department of Homeland Security formally accused Russia of orchestrating the email and server hacks that same month, weeks before Trump won the presidency. Months later, in January 2017, intelligence officials issued a conclusive statement condemning Russia for the hacking and accusing Russian officials of working to upend the hand Trump the victory.

“Whatever crack, fissure, they could find in our tapestry…they would exploit it,” then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that month, testifying before Congress.

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Since that time, Trump, along with his administration and campaign associates, have repeatedly and vigorously denied that the president benefited from those efforts, calling the Department of Justice’s subsequent special counsel investigation into the matter a “witch-hunt.”

Friday’s indictment comes days ahead of a diplomatic summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has denied accusations Russian officials attempted to swing the 2016 election in any way.

Trump, too, has rejected the intelligence community’s consensus that Russia hacked the election, stating on multiple occasions that he believes Putin.

“He said he didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times,” he said in November last year. “Every time he sees me, he says, ‘I didn’t do that.’ And I believe, I really believe, that when he tells me that, he means it.”

Trump defended Putin again on June 28, tweeting, “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election! Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t Shady James Comey and the now disgraced FBI agents take and closely examine it? Why isn’t Hillary/Russia being looked at? So many questions, so much corruption!”

Trump has not yet formally responded to Friday’s indictment, however his close associates have already spoken out on the issue, claiming it proves the president is innocent.

“The indictments Rod Rosenstein announced are good news for all Americans,” former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a member of the president’s personal legal team, tweeted Friday afternoon. “The Russians are nailed. No Americans are involved. Time for Mueller to end this pursuit of the President and say President Trump is completely innocent.”