The U.S. Department of Justice has indicted twelve Russians for interfering in the 2016 presidential election. The charges were announced by Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein Friday in Washington, D.C.
The twelve individuals identified in the indictment were all officers in Russian security services. They worked for the Russian military intelligence services, the Main Intelligence Directorate known as the GRU.
The defendants worked for two units within the GRU: one worked to steal information while the other worked to disseminate it.
Starting in at least March 2016, the conspirators hacked email accounts belonging to both volunteers and employees of the Hillary Clinton presidential election.
Beginning in June 2016, they released tens of thousands of stolen emails and documents. They did so by using fictitious online profiles, including “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0,” according to the Justice Department.
In addition to releasing documents directly to the public, they also shared the documents with another entity, identified in the indictment only as “Organization1,” that had previously posted documents stolen from U.S. individuals and the U.S. government.
To hide their connection to the Russian government the conspirators used false identities. To further those identities, they used a network of computers located around the world, including the United States and paid for the network by using cryptocurrency.
Rosenstein also alleges that the conspirators corresponded with several Americans via the internet, but stopped short of saying whether there was deliberate cooperation on the part of the Americans.
“There is no allegation in the indictment that the Americans knew they were communicating with Russian intelligence officers,” Rosenstein said.
Rosenstein briefed President Trump on the charges earlier in the week, he said. The indictment was announced from the Justice Department at the exact moment the President was meeting with Queen Elizabeth II in England.
The President addressed the charges the following day on Twitter.
“The stories you heard about the 12 Russians yesterday took place during the Obama Administration, not the Trump Administration. Why didn’t they do something about it, especially when it was reported that President Obama was informed by the FBI in September, before the Election?” he wrote.
The charges contained in the indictment offer the clearest link to the Russian government of interference efforts into the U.S. election. The investigation has become a partisan flashpoint in Washington D.C. with Republicans accusing the probe of being politically motivated and Democrats accusing Republicans of protecting President Trump at the expense of the national defense.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into those efforts has been going on for more than a year.
Rosenstein sought to tamp down any political reaction to the indictments during his announcement. “In my remarks, I have not identified the victims. When we confront foreign interference in American elections, it is important for us to avoid thinking politically as Republicans or Democrats and instead to think patriotically as Americans. Our response must not depend on who was victimized,” Rosenstein said.
“The blame for election interference belongs to the criminals who committed election interference. We need to work together to hold the perpetrators accountable, and keep moving forward to preserve our values, protect against future interference, and defend America,” he added.
President Trump is scheduled to meet with Vladimir Putin tomorrow in Helsinki, Finland, for the first ever-summit between the two leaders. He was asked today whether he would ask Putin to extradite the twelve named conspirators to the U.S.
“Well I might. I hadn’t thought of that. But I certainly, I’ll be asking about it. But again, this was during the Obama administration. They were doing whatever it was during the Obama administration,” the President responded.
Photo by U.S. Department of Justice