Mueller team indicts 12 Russian agents for hacking in 2016 election season

Mueller departs after briefing members of the U.S. Senate on his investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign on Capitol Hill in Washington DC

Joshua Roberts Reuters FILE

Updated 1:23 p.m. | The Justice Department's special counsel announced Friday the indictments of a dozen Russian military officers involved in Moscow's effort to interfere in the 2016 USA election.

A group of Russian military intelligence officers indicted Friday as part of an ongoing investigation into interference in the 2016 USA presidential election allegedly used bitcoin to fund their operations.

Mueller's probe, which began in May of 2017 to determine if any of Trump's campaign associates worked with Russia to interfere with the election, has brought 79 charges against 20 people and three companies; 14 of those charged are Russians.

"Eleven of the defendants are charged with conspiring to hack into computers, steal documents, and release those documents with the intent to interfere in the election", he said.

The deputy attorney general's press conference came as Trump was meeting Queen Elizabeth II and just three days before his meeting with Putin in Helsinki.

While no American is charged in today's indictment, there is nothing in it about precluding any eventual charges against a USA citizen. "There is no allegation that the conspiracy altered the vote count or changed any election result". Rosenstein said he briefed Trump earlier this week on the charges.

Russian Federation has denied any involvement in the attack and rejected accusations that it interfered in the United States presidential election in a bid to bring about the defeat of Democrat Hillary Clinton.

It also states that in July 2016 the Russian team hacked the website of an unnamed state board of elections and "stole information related to approximately 500,000 voters, including names, addresses, partial social security numbers, dates of birth, and driver's license numbers".

More news: Trump says he has been ‘tougher on Russian Federation than anybody’

"There was one unit that engaged in active cyber operations by stealing information and a different unit responsible for disseminating the stolen information", Rosenstein said, reports the Washington Post.

Rosenstein said the latest indictment did not include any allegation that Russian Federation was successful in their efforts to influence election outcomes.

Donald Trump has often scoffed at the notion that Russian Federation was behind the hacking of a Democratic National Committee server. And these indictments suggest that after Trump's order/plea/joke, Russians did step up their efforts to hack or deliver what turned out to be John Podesta's emails.

"There is no allegation in the indictment that the Americans knew they were communicating with Russian intelligence officers", Rosenstein said.

The indictment further alleges the hackers' specifically sought out documents from the Democratic Congressional campaign committee that related to Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Trump and the Benghazi investigations, the indictment says.

"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", Rosenstein said in a press statement.

The Russian operatives "created fictitious online personas", including "DCLeaks" and "Guccifer 2.0", Rosenstein said, adding that the group falsely claimed DCLeaks was started by a group of American hackers and that Guccifer 2.0 was "a lone Romanian hacker".

- Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) July 13, 2018 Mueller gets an A+ for the timing of these indictments, right before Trump is to meet with Mueller.

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