US Charges 12 Russians With Conspiracy to Interfere in ’16 Election

A federal grand jury has indicted 12 Russian military officers with conspiracy to hack into Democratic campaign computers during the 2016 presidential election, the latest charges brought by the special counsel investigating Russian interference.

The 29-page indictment charges the Russian operatives with carrying out one of two kinds of the Russian meddling the 2016 election: hacking the email accounts of volunteers and employees of the Clinton presidential campaign, including its chairman, and releasing them to the public.

The other aspect of the Russian interference involved a massive influence operation on social media orchestrated by a St. Petersburg-based troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency. In February, a grand jury indicted 12 of the company’s employees and its financial backer.

Special counsel Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the latest charges Friday.

The operatives worked for two special units of Russia’s military intelligence agency known as GRU, according to the indictment.

“The units engaged in active cyberoperations to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” Rosenstein said at a press conference. “One GRU unit worked to steal information, while another unit worked to disseminate stolen information.”

The charges came ahead of the highly anticipated summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday. Trump said at a news conference on Friday that he would “absolutely ask” Putin about the Russian interference in the U.S. election.

Rosenstein said he briefed Trump on the allegations earlier this week.

“The president is fully aware of today’s actions by the department,” Rosenstein told reporters.

The indictment names all 12 GRU officers engaged in the conspiracy. Eleven are charged with conspiring to hack computers, steal documents and release them in an effort to influence the election.

The 12th was charged with “conspiring to infiltrate computers of organizations responsible for administering elections, including state boards of election, secretaries of state, and companies that supply software and other technology used to administer elections,” Rosenstein said.

The Russians used two techniques to hack into computers: “spearphishing,” to trick users into disclosing their passwords and security information, and installing malicious software on computers to spy on their users, the indictment alleges.

Rosenstein said that while the Russian aim was to interfere in the elections, “there is no allegation that the conspiracy altered the vote count or changed any election result.”

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