Yesterday, the Special Counsel’s office, through a DOJ press conference, announced the indictment of 12 Russian military officers, by name and in some cases identified the specific GRU (Russian Military intelligence) unit involved, in connection with the investigation into the cyber attack on the 2016 presidential election.
Thus far, the Special Counsel’s office has indicted 32 individuals and 3 Russian organizations with 191 charges. Five individuals have pleaded guilty. Three of those,Flynn, Gates and Papadopoulos, were close to the Trump campaign. Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign manager, pleaded not guilty and faces trials in Virginia and DC, starting July 25.
The level of detail and specificity in this indictment is astounding. Names, units, dates, and minute details of how the hackers carried out the attack on America are all given. It is safe to say that Robert Mueller has an incredible amount of evidence and only a portion of that evidence was included in the indictment.
There are a number of key points from the 29 page indictment that you should be aware of.
Russian hackers targeted Clinton emails the same day Trump called for them to find “missing” emails.
From the indictment: “on or about July 27, 2016, the Conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office. At or around the same time, they also targeted seventy-six email addresses at the domain for the Clinton Campaign.”
Earlier that day, in a press conference, then-candidate Donald Trump called for Russia to find Hillary’s missing emails. “They probably have her 33,000 emails that she lost and deleted. You’d see some beauties, so we’ll see. Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by the press,” Trump said.
Russia wanted Hillary Clinton defeated
The latest indictments show the lengths the Russians were willing to go to in order to defeat Hillary Clinton, CNN reports.
To commit the alleged crimes, the Russians targeted more than 300 people affiliated with Clinton’s campaign and Democratic political organizations, including the Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta. Once inside the Democratic computers, they searched for keywords like “Hillary,” (then-GOP candidate Ted) “Cruz,” “Trump” and “Benghazi investigations” so they could steal the most damaging files. They wanted opposition research, campaign field operations and voter data, the indictment alleges.
A Candidate for congress asked for stolen documents from Russia
The indictment alleges on page 15 that an American candidate for congress contacted Guccifer 2.o to request documents stolen from the DNC.
“On or about August 15, 2016, the conspirators received a request for stolen documents from a candidate for U.S. Congress. The conspirators responded using the Guccifer 2.0 persona and sent the candidate stolen documents related to the candidate’s opponent.”
The indictment does not name the candidate or party affiliation nor does it indicate if they won their election.
Fake Identities on Social Media
To steal documents from the DNC, the hackers breached their target by using basic methods to steal passwords, track keystrokes, and monitor banking transactions. To avoid detection, the indictment alleges, “The use of bitcoin allowed the conspirators to avoid direct relationships with traditional financial institutions, allowing them to evade greater scrutiny of their identities and sources of funds.”
In order to spread the documents they had stolen across the internet, the conspirators claimed to be Americans, CNN reports.
Many of the 12 Russian intelligence officers used fake names online, showing that anyone could be behind that “blablabla1234565” handle. One hacker even chose Americanized names like “Kate S. Milton,” “James McMorgans” and “Karen W. Miller” to hide his foreign identity. DCLeaks.com, the domain operated by the hackers to post stolen documents, used the name “Carrie Feehan,” who wrongly appeared to be a New Yorker.
They hacked election infrastructure
The indictment alleges the Russians hacked a state election board website and stole information of 500,000 voters. The state was not identified. Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein stated the conspirators also “targeted state and local offices responsible for administering the elections; and sent spearphishing emails to people involved in administering elections, with malware attached.” He emphasized that there is “no allegation that the conspiracy altered the vote count or changed any election result.”
To win the presidency, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in three key states by a margin of around 75,000 votes so this is an important aspect of the investigation. All indications point to Russia’s continued cyber attacks in upcoming elections and that 2016 will be used as a learning opportunity for their future methods. The Department of Homeland Security has said that 21 states were likely targeted by Russian hackers and are working with states to improve election infrastructure leading up to the midterms.
The Investigation Continues
The indictment does not name or charge any American. But it does mention, in addition to the congressional candidate, an individual who was in contact with Guccifer 2.0 and who was in regular contact with the Trump campaign. That person is likely Roger Stone, who initially denied that he was the person then later admitted it “probably” was him. He maintains the messages were “benign”.
This indictment seems to indicate that the special counsel’s investigation is just beginning and, many legal analysts believe, will soon expand to Americans who were involved in the Russian’s conspiracy.
And, while the 12 Russians named in this indictment, and the 13 named in a previous indictment, will likely never see the inside of a US courtroom, the charges are important, nonetheless. Not only does it limit the travel capabilities of the individuals – if they travel to a country with an extradition agreement with the US, they can be arrested and brought to the US for trial – it also sends a strong message to the Kremlin that we know what they did and are watching them. Indicting foreign officials is an unusual and significant step for the DOJ to take so we can take from that that this case is unusual and significant.
The Helsinki Summit
On Monday, President Trump will be sitting down face to face with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Donald Trump has yet to acknowledge the position of the intelligence community, Homeland Security, and the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia committed an act of cyber warfare against the United States of America.
Rosenstein stated the President was briefed earlier this week about the indictments, CNBC reports.
Despite this, Trump has made no changes to his plan to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday in Helsinki. He has also publicly maintained a positive attitude towards Russia and Putin all week, as he attended meetings in Brussels and London. On Friday, he seemed like he might let stand Putin’s denial of Russia’s interference in the election, despite evidence to the contrary.
“I know you’ll ask, ‘will we be talking about meddling?'” Trump said to a reporter, “And I will absolutely bring that up. I don’t think you’ll have any, ‘Gee, I did it, you got me'” moment from Putin, he said, “but you never know what happens, right? I will absolutely firmly ask the question.”
Trump is still planning to meet with Putin, in spite of the latest indictments and calls to cancel the summit.