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A federal grand jury on Friday returned indictments from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office against 12 Russian intelligence officials who were charged with conspiring to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
They are accused of hacking into computers at Democratic campaign committees and computers belonging to state boards of elections, secretaries of state and election technology companies. All the officers charged were working for Russia’s intelligence service, the GRU, at the time of the hacks.
The indictment revealed several new details about the breadth of the Russian influence campaign, including alleged discussions the Russian hackers allegedly had with a U.S. congressional candidate and a friendly journalist.
Below are some key takeaways from the indictment, released by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
1. The Russians allegedly hacked America’s election infrastructure, including state election boards and secretaries of state. The allegations in Friday’s indictment went well beyond merely hacking the Clinton campaign and Democratic campaign committees. From one state election board, the Russians managed to steal information on 500,000 voters, Rosenstein said, although he did not identify which state. Trump won the 2016 election by winning three key states by slim margins that added up to around 80,000 votes.
The Russians also “targeted state and local offices responsible for administering the elections; and sent spearphishing emails to people involved in administering elections, with malware attached,” Rosenstein said. He stressed, however, that the indictments contained “no allegation that the conspiracy altered the vote count or changed any election result.”
2. An American congressional candidate allegedly asked for, and received, stolen documents about his or her opponent from the Russians. According to the indictment, the operatives allegedly provided stolen campaign documents to a candidate for Congress. “On or about August 15, 2016, the conspirators received a request for stolen documents from a candidate for U.S. Congress,” the indictment said. The conspirators “sent the candidate stolen documents related to the candidate’s opponent.”
The candidate was not identified in the indictment.
3. A journalist allegedly discussed with the Russian front account, Guccifer 2.0, about when to release stolen documents related to Black Lives Matter. The reporter, who is not named in the indictment, also “offered to write an article” about the release of the stolen documents.
Russia’s efforts to use the Black Lives Matter movement to stoke racial tensions, and its attempts to turn Black Lives Matter supporters against Clinton, have been criticized as among the most insidious elements of Russia’s 2016 election influence campaign.
4. Russian hackers targeted Clinton emails the same day Trump called for them to find “missing” emails. On July 27, 2016, Trump said during a campaign event, “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” referring to emails Clinton deleted from her server because she said they were personal. According to the indictment, that same day, Russians “attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third party server used by Clinton’s personal office.”
The implication here is that Russian operatives did what Trump asked them to do, but the indictment specifically says: “There is no allegation in this indictment that any American citizen committed a crime.” Nor does the indictment name any Americans.
5. Trump knew about these indictments well before they were announced. “I briefed President Trump about these allegations earlier this week,” Rosenstein said Friday. “The President is fully aware of today’s actions by the Department.”
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.”