12 Russian spies were on Friday indicted by Federal grand jury, for hacking Democratic computer networks in 2016, in the most detailed U.S accusation against Moscow for meddling in the presidential election to help Republican Donald Trump.
The Russian spies attached to Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU, covertly monitored computers of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign and Democratic campaign committees, and stole large amounts of data, the indictment said.
The indictment, which alleges a wide-ranging conspiracy involving sophisticated hacking and staged releases of documents, raises the stakes for a summit next week between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The fine details of Russian intelligence operations – the names of officers, the buildings where they worked and the computers they used to run phishing operations and make payments –suggest that prosecutors had an inside view aided by their own or another government’s intelligence apparatus.
“In addition to releasing documents directly to the public, the defendants transferred stolen documents to another organization, not named in the indictment, and discussed timing the release of the documents in an attempt to enhance the impact on the election,” Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told a news conference.
This indictment secured by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was part of his probe into Russian involvement in the election, and the first by Mueller that directly charges the Russian government with meddling in the election, unexpectedly won by Trump.
With the latest charges, Mueller has secured indictments against three entities and 32 individuals, including more than two dozen Russians, and secured five guilty pleas. Mueller’s prosecutors have also marked out other Internet pathways they say Russia used to influence the U.S. election. On Feb. 16, they charged 13 Russians and three Russian entities with sowing discord among U.S. voters through social media — impersonating Americans, coordinating with unwitting U.S. activists and even planning rallies.
The Kremlin has however denied it interfered. Rosenstein said he briefed Trump earlier this week about the indictment. It contains no allegations that U.S. citizens committed a crime, he said. A few hours before the indictments were announced, Trump described the Mueller investigation as a “rigged witch hunt” that is hurting the U.S. relationship with Russia.
Trump had said he would “absolutely, firmly ask” Putin about the meddling, at their planned meeting in Helsinki on Monday.