As part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigations into the alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections, a federal grand jury on Friday indicted twelve Russian intelligence officers on charges of sabotaging the Democratic campaign.
Mueller was conspicuously absent from the midday news conference where Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the charges, which he claims to have informed the president about earlier this week, saying that “the President is fully aware of the department’s actions today.”
“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 told reporters.
“So long as we are united in our commitment to the shared values enshrined in the Constitution, they will not succeed,” he said.
Here’s the list of the twelve GRU officers who, according to the 29-page indictment, “knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other, and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury to gain unauthorized access (to “hack”) into the computers of U.S. persons and entities, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
1. Viktor Borisovich Netyksho
2. Boris Alekseyevich Antonov
3. Dimitriy Sergeyevich Badin
4. Ivan Sergeyevich Yermakov
5. Aleksey Viktorovich Lukashev
6. Sergey Aleksandrovich Morgachev
7. Nikolay Yuryevich Kozachek
8. Pavel Vyacheslavovich Yershov
9. Artem Andreyevich Malyshev
10. Aleksandr Vladimirovich Osadchuk
11. Aleksey Aleksandrovich Potemkin
12. Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev
The GRU, which stands for Glavnoye Razvedyvatel’noye Upravleniye, is the military intelligence service of the Russian Federation.
The indictment comes ahead of US President Donald Trump’s upcoming one-on-one meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the Helsinki summit on Monday (July 16), which will go ahead as scheduled, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed on Friday.
The Russians “covertly monitored the computers, implanted hundreds of files containing malicious computer code, and stole emails and other documents,” Rosenstein said.
“The goal of the conspirators was to have an impact on the election. What impact they may have had . . . is a matter of speculation; that’s not our responsibility,” said the US Attorney General.
Rosenstein said that while the indictment does not name any American citizen, the Russian defendants did correspond “with several Americans during the course of the conspiracy through the internet.”
“There is no allegation in this indictment that any American citizen committed a crime,” he said. “There is no allegation that the conspiracy altered the vote count or changed any election result.”
Responding to a question about the timing of the announcement, Rosenstein said it was “a function of the collection of the facts, the evidence, the law, and a determination that it was sufficient to present the indictment at this time.”
Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani said on Twitter that the indictments were “good news for all Americans,” urging Mueller “to end this pursuit of the President and say President Trump is completely innocent,” now that the investigations have “nailed” the Russians and eliminated the possibility of American involvement.
The indictments Rod Rosenstein announced are good news for all Americans. 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.
— Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) July 13, 2018
According to the DOJ, the purpose behind the hacking was to target Clinton’s campaign, Democratic National Committee, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, with the mala fide intent to release the hacked data “on the internet under the names DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 and through another entity.”
The other entity, referred to as “Organization 1” in the indictment, was WikiLeaks, an international anti-secrecy non-profit group headed by the organization’s founder, editor-in-chief, and director Julian Assange, sources familiar with the case revealed.
Per the indictment, WikiLeaks is believed to have communicated with Guccifer 2.0 to access the hacked information.
The indictment states that WikiLeaks sent a private message to Guccifer 2.0 on or about June 22, 2016, asking them to “[s]end any new material [Stolen from the DNC] here for us to review and it will have a much higher impact than what you are doing.”
WikiLeaks followed it up with another message on or about July 6, 2006, which said, “if you have anything Hillary related we want it in the next two [sic] days preferable [sic] because the DNC [Democratic National Convention] is approaching and she will solidify Bernie supporters behind her after,” obviously referring to Democratic nominee, Sen. Bernie Sanders.
WikiLeaks went on to say that they thought “trump has only a 25% chance of winning against hillary . . . so the conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting.”
Echoing Rosenstein’s comments, Deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters said that the indictment absolves the Trump campaign of any “knowing involvement” in the Russian conspiracy.
“Today’s charges include no allegations of knowing involvement by anyone on the campaign and no allegations that the alleged hacking affected the election result,” Walters said in a statement, adding that it was “consistent with what we have been saying all along.”
“The detailed charges in this indictment make it unmistakably clear that the United States faces an aggressive, sophisticated adversary bent on using cyber means to subvert our democratic processes and institutions,” said David Laufman, former chief of DOJ’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.
“Now is the time for unequivocal recognition of this threat by both the executive branch and Congress, and for a unified and well-coordinated commitment to confront it,” Laufman added.
President Trump, who is currently visiting England, said at a Friday press conference that the investigation was nothing but a “witch hunt.”
Standing alongside British Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump said, “I think that we’re being hurt very badly by the — I would call it the witch hunt,” going on to say that “it really hurts our relationship with Russia.”