The Justice Department is considering charging six Russian government officials allegedly involved in hacking and obtaining sensitive information from the Democratic National Committee’s computers during the 2016 campaign, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.
People familiar with the investigation told the newspaper that discussions about whether to bring a case are in early stages but that it could happen as soon as next year.
As the report points out, the U.S. would be more likely to publicly identify those individuals and impose significant restrictions on their travel than actually attempt to arrest and jail them.
The case could shed light on how exactly the DNC’s computers were infiltrated. The U.S. intelligence community’s January assessment that the Kremlin “ordered an influence campaign” aimed at disrupting the 2016 race offered little detail on how intelligence agencies reached that determination and did not identify any specific actors involved.
The DNC case is a joint investigation by federal prosecutors and FBI agents based in Washington, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Philadelphia, and is being conducted separately from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, according to the Journal.
The Russian government has denied interfering in the U.S. election, and President Donald Trump has cast doubt on the conclusion that the Kremlin was behind it, positing that other countries could also have conducted cyberattacks against Democratic operatives and organizations.
The Associated Press reported Thursday that Russian hackers’ 2016 targets extended far beyond the U.S. presidential race, targeting Russian opposition figures and U.S. defense contractors.