Mueller Probe Brings Indictments Of Russians In Election Hacking Of Dems

on October 17, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong/Getty Images North America

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced Friday that a federal grand jury, as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, has indicted 12 Russian nationals accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign, including the email account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.

The 12 defendants named in the indictment are members of the Russian intel agency, the GRU, according to a Justice Department press release about the indictment. The charges were unveiled days before President Trump is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, though Rosenstein told reporters that the timing of the indictment reflected the evidence gathered and the prosecutors’ determination that it was sufficient to bring the charges.

The indictment includes 11 criminal counts and one forfeiture allegation. The criminal counts include conspiracy against the United States, identity theft and money laundering. The indictment names the Russians defendants: Viktor Borisovich Netyksho, Boris Alekseyevich Antonov, Dmitriy Sergeyevich Badin, Ivan Sergeyevich Yermakov, Aleksey Viktorovich Lukashev, Sergey Aleksandrovich Morgachev, Nikolay Yuryevich Kozachek, Pavel Vyacheslavovich Yershov, Artem Andreyevich Malyshev, Aleksandr Vladimirovich Osadchuk, Aleksey Aleksandrovich Potemkin, and Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev.

The hackers, the DOJ said in its press release, released the hacked information “on the internet under the names DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 and through another entity.”

The GRU officials, according to the DOJ, coordinated to “plan the release of the stolen documents for the purpose of interfering with the 2016 presidential election.”

A group of the GRU agents, according to the DOJ, “also conspired to hack into the computers of state boards of elections, secretaries of state, and US companies that supplied software and other technology related to the administration of elections to steal voter data stored on those computers.”

Rosenstein unveiled the charges at a press conference at the Justice Department headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“There’s no allegation that the conspiracy changed the vote count or affected any election result,” he said.

He also said that in the indictment, there is no allegation that the Americans who corresponded with the alleged hackers “knew they were corresponding with Russian intelligence officers.”

He indicated that there were plans to transfer the case to the Justice Department’s National Security Division while it sought to apprehend the defendants.

His remarks also included an allusion to the attacks the Justice Department has weathered as the Mueller probe heated up  — attacks that were in full view during a Thursday congressional hearing with a FBI agent who worked on the investigation in its infancy.

“I want to caution you, the people who speculate about federal investigations usually do not know all of the relevant facts. We do not try cases on television or in congressional hearings,” Rosenstein said.

He also said he briefed President Trump on the allegations earlier this week, and that “president is fully aware of the department’s actions today.”

Asked by reporters for more information about Trump’s view of the allegations he said he’d let the President speak for himself.

According to the indictment, the hackers “covertly monitored the computers of dozens of” DNC and DCCC employees, starting in or around April 2016, and implanted malware code while stealing the emails of the employees.

The hackers began releasing the documents in or around June 2016, using fake online accounts dubbed Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks, as well as another unnamed entity described as a website that had previously “posted documents stolen from U.S. persons, entities, and the U.S. government.”

That appears to be a reference to Wikileaks.

The indictment describes how the alleged hackers sought to conceal their identities:

The indictment goes into great detail about how the alleged hackers infiltrated Democratic email accounts, including that of Podesta, who is not identified by name in the indictment. It recounts the alleged spearfishing attack on Podesta and other Clinton campaign officials down to the account name the hacker used to mask the link that delivered the phishing attack to the victims’ email inboxes.

Their alleged operation included researching the hacking victims on social media, and they even created an email account that was one letter off from the name of a Clinton campaign staffer.

The spearfishing campaign continued through the summer, according to the indictment, as the hackers also targeted campaign emails hosted on a third party domain provider used by Clinton’s personal office, as well as 76 email addresses hosted by the campaign’s domain.

The effort to hack the DCCC begin in and around March 2016, according to the indictment, and included spearfishing as well as searches for the system’s vulnerabilities. Mueller here too describes that effort in significant detail. The indictment says that the hackers were able to use their access to the DCCC computers to then hack the DNC network.

As the DNC and DCCC became aware, in or around May 2016, that their systems had been hacked, the alleged hackers took countermeasures to conceal their presence in their networks and to maintain access to the networks. That effort included registering a domain name that mimicked the platform that “included a DCCC donations page,” according to the indictment.

The hackers maintained their access to the DNC networks through around October 2016.

The indictment then describes the alleged hackers tactics to release the stolen information. Not only did they create the DCLeaks page that posted many of the stolen emails, according to the indictment, but they created fake Facebook and twitter pages to promote the website.

The creation of Guccifer 2.0 — an online persona that claimed to be a lone Romanian hacker — was in response to the DNC’s announcement in June 2016 that it had been hacked by Russian actors, the indictment said.

The indictment includes terms the hackers allegedly searched for translations while creating the Guccifer 2.0 page, that then appeared on Guccifer 2.0’s blog posts.

According to the indictment, Guccifer 2.0 interacted with a congressional candidate, a lobbyist, and a reporter, sending each of the unnamed individuals some of the stolen materials. The indictment also includes communications that Guccifer 2.0 had with “who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump.”

Communications between Guccifer 2.0 and “Organization 1” — presumably a reference to Wikileaks — are also documented in the indictment.

About a week after Guccifer 2.0 successfully transferred some stolen materials to Organization 1, Organization on June 22 released 20,000 emails and other documents hacked from the DNC, with the release timed to the start of the Democratic National Convention, the indictment said.

Read the indictment below:

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