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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Mueller Indicts 12 Russian Intelligence Officers for Election Interference. Aired 3-3:30p ET
Aired July 13, 2018 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Twelve Russian military intelligence officers for allegedly conspiring to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Specifically, the effort was to hack into the systems of the Democratic National Committee and the campaign of Hillary Clinton, get information, and distribute that information to affect the election.
The charges reel a sophisticated assault on the United States election by Russian military officers working in their official capacities as government officials, presumably with the OK of Russian President Vladimir Putin, an operation national security officials say could not have happened without his approval.
Let's begin with CNN's Shimon Prokupecz and Evan Perez.
Evan, take us through these charges.
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, we're talking about the Russian military officers. They are named in this indictment.
Their ranks are listed in this indictment. Their unit, the unit they work for in the GRU, is listed in the indictment. The FBI, the special counsel and the National Security Division of the Justice Department revealed a lot of details, including a lot of tradecraft that the United States intelligence services and the FBI have used to identify these people.
They talk about their communications. They talk about the servers that they used in Malaysia and other countries around the world to orchestrate this campaign to infiltrate the DNC, the DCCC, as well as members of the Clinton campaign.
And, obviously, the entire purpose of this operation was to undermine her campaign using Web sites and personas, such as Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks, as well as WikiLeaks, to disseminate some of the stolen e- mails.
And, obviously, this is a stunning indictment, simply because this is the focus of what the special counsel has been appointed to do. And we have been waiting to see what exactly they were going to say about Americans. It's very important to hear the deputy attorney general today made
clear that this indictment does not make any allegations against any Americans, that they knowingly were communicating with Russian intelligence.
It's certainly clear that they were communicating with those people. But it says that there is no allegation in this indictment that they were knowingly doing so. Obviously, this is still an investigation that's ongoing, Jake, so we will see whether or not those -- there are more charges that will come from this investigation that will target those Americans.
TAPPER: And, Shimon, the indictment also says that the Russians, specifically the Russian intelligence officers of the military, they were targeted Web sites, they were targeting technology relates to elections. Tell us more about that.
SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Jake.
So, some of the defendants, they are saying, some of the Russians here, that in July of 2016, that they hacked into the Web sites of state boards, it's unnamed, they don't name which states, state boards of elections, and they stole information related to approximately 500,000 voters, according to the indictment.
Now, the indictment says some of this information has to do with people's addresses, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and driver's license numbers.
Also, a company that was involved in the election, some of the tools that were used for voting, some of their systems was hacked. That is also something that the prosecutors said occurred here. So, when you think about this, it's the first time really we're learning this level of detail, this level of information that the Russians were able to get as it related to registered voters.
TAPPER: Now, the indictment says that there was an individual who was in contact with senior officials of the Trump campaign and he did communicate with Russian intelligence figures. As Evan points out, it does not say that he did so knowingly.
But those conversations were going on.
I want to bring in Abby Phillip right now. She's traveling with President Trump. She's in Glasgow, Scotland, where President Trump will appear in within next half-hour or hour.
Abby, one would expect the reaction of the White House to be something along the lines of the Russian election interference is unacceptable, we are going to bring this up with President Putin, it can't be allowed to happen again, thank you to Mueller and to Rosenstein for bringing this to the attention of the public.
What did the White House say today?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's right, Jake.
You would expect the White House to say something along those lines. But it was notable for as much as it didn't say, especially about the indictments and about the allegation that the Russian military or officers within it were involved in this attack on America.
The White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters released a statement that paraphrased some of what Rod Rosenstein said in his press conference, specifically the parts about how the allegations doesn't specifically implicate any Americans wittingly in any of this.
She says: "There was no allegation in the indictment that Americans knew they were corresponding with Russians, no allegation that any American citizen committed a crime, and no allegation of conspiracy changed to the vote count or affected the election."
But she does say this: "Today's charges include no allegations of knowing involvement by anyone in the campaign and no allegations that the alleged hacking affected the election results. This is consistent with what we have said all along."
It seems very much so from that statement, Jake, that the White House is trying to vindicate President Trump, that that's the objective here. It's critical because we're just a couple of days away from this meeting that President Trump is going to have with Putin in Helsinki, Finland.
And while the president has said that he is going to talk about Russian meddling with Putin, he's also said in the past that he believes Putin when Putin says he didn't do it. Even earlier today, in England, when he was at a press conference with Theresa May, he called -- characterized the investigation as the stupidest thing and said it was hurting his ability to have good relations with Russia.
It's an open question, and a lot of people are questioning right now how forcefully will President Trump bring this up in the meeting with Putin? And a lot of Democrats right now are calling for the president to postpone the meeting.
Again, Jake, no mention by the White House of election meddling and no condemnation at all of this action, which is essentially an attack on the United States of America, Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Abby Phillip in Glasgow, Scotland, thank you so much.
Let's bring in our friends and experts here to talk more about this.
David Chalian, I have to say, the White House statement seems entirely about politics, entirely about protecting the president, not at all about protecting the American people.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I know it's not surprising, but it's not any less outrageous because it's not surprising. This is -- so, the United States Department of Justice puts forth a
series of what it says are provable facts, that they are going to be able to prove this case in court, about a direct attack on the core of our Democrats, free and fair elections.
And the commander in chief, the president of the United States, through his spokesperson, issues a statement that says absolutely nothing about the country being attacked, but instead is just a self- serving statement to say, see, I told you so, this didn't involve me or my campaign.
That is such a dereliction of duty, I find it truly offensive.
TAPPER: And also, we should point out, Gloria, the indictment does mention somebody who did speak with, and it might have been unknowingly, but did speak with Russian military intelligence officers, and then talked to senior officials of the Trump campaign.
So this isn't necessarily over. It might be, but it isn't necessarily over.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.
TAPPER: And where is -- as Bob Dole once said, where is the outrage?
BORGER: First of all, there isn't any outrage. If there's such a thing as a narcissistic White House -- official White House statement, this is it.
This is about Donald Trump saying, see, we didn't do anything wrong, I didn't do anything wrong.
Where in the statement was a congratulations to the Justice Department for all of its hard work and its forensic work, which is quite stunning, if you read the indictment, in bringing forth this indictment?
TAPPER: Right. It's not like they can just walk into Russian military intelligence officers and interrogate them.
I know nothing about this, but I can only imagine what it was like, because they're quoting from the e-mails that they clearly got or the text messages. Where -- where is the president of the United States saying, you know, we have to find a way to make sure that this does not occur again, this is cyber-war, and we have to defend ourselves?
Instead, we got this self-serving statement from the president of the United States. And you point out that in -- particularly in section 44 of this indictment, it's not just American citizens here.
These are people who work for or around the Trump campaign, that they are quoting their e-mails, one of which really struck me. It said, what do you think -- from Guccifer 2.0.
TAPPER: Right. Guccifer is actually Russian military intelligence officers.
BORGER: Yes, right.
TAPPER: Pretending to be a hacker.
BORGER: Communicating with someone who was in contact with regular members of the campaign. "What do you think of the information on the turnout model for the Democrats' entire presidential campaign?" The answer was, "Pretty standard." But it was answered.
TAPPER: Very interesting.
Now, you worked for Bob Mueller. And he is the one behind the presentation of information to the grand jury. The grand jury then indicts. And Rod Rosenstein and the prosecutors go on from there. What struck you, looking at this indictment?
MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, what I think Mueller has given us now is part two, Jake.
Part one was the social media campaign. We saw an elaborate indictment against 11 organizations and individuals who used social media to impact voter perceptions. Now we have part two, which is the hacking of computers, obtaining e-mails, distributing those e-mails in an effort to impact the voter outcome.
So, Mueller has told us, here is how they did it, part one, part two. Now the National Security Division will take that part over in the Justice Department. And Mueller will look at, I think, in respect to both part one and part two, were any individuals connected with the Trump campaign knowingly involved in these activities?
He's said nothing about that yet. He's just said people were in contact. But he didn't say whether they did so knowingly. And I think that's where Mueller will turn, while the National Security Division takes over these prosecutions.
TAPPER: Jennifer Rodgers, let me bring you in here.
What was your response to the indictment?
JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I thought, similar to Michael, that we have been expecting this indictment. We knew that there were crimes involving the Russians with respect to the hacking and distribution and also the hacking into the state electoral processes.
It's not a surprise to see that. I think that they have already, of course, been looking at whether any Americans were involved. And if they had the goods, they would have charged it here. But there still is work to do. We know that they have been in talks with Roger Stone and some people
around him about talking to the special counsel. So, I do think they have continued investigation to do. We may see a superseding indictment.
But I don't know that they really have held on off that piece. I think they have been trying to do it as things come up. It's just a little bit slower, and the Trump camp has not been particularly forthcoming in terms of providing witnesses and at least some information.
I think they're continuing to work in that regard.
TAPPER: Jennifer, what can the Justice Department do here? Obviously, these Russian intelligence military officers aren't going to fly in from the Kremlin and say, here I am, I'm ready for my day in court. They're not going to actually face any charges, really, are they?
RODGERS: They can do two things.
One thing is, of course, if they do end up traveling to a country that is friendly with the U.S., they can be scooped up that way. They probably will not be stupid enough to do that. But it's at least a possibility.
The other thing is, the president really should be pressing Putin to turn them over. This is a huge, obviously, attack on our country and interference in our elections. I don't think he will do that. I think we all know, given the posture he's taken so far, that's not going to happen. But that's really what should be happening here.
TAPPER: Now, in terms of what the president is going to do when he sees Putin on Monday, we should remember, the deputy attorney general, Rosenstein, when he gave his press conference, noted that he had briefed President Trump on these indictments that were likely to come down.
Now, knowing that, I want you all to take a listen to President Trump this morning giving a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May, talking about the Mueller investigation that he knew was about to result in the indictments of 12 Russian military intelligence officers for hacking into DNC and Hillary Clinton e- mails, distributing that information, and interfering with the election.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that we're being hurt very badly by the -- I would call it the witch-hunt. I would call it the rigged witch-hunt.
I think that really hurts our country and it really hurts our relationship with Russia. I think that we would have a chance to have a very good relationship with Russia and a very good chance, a very good relationship with President Putin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So it would seem that President Trump believes that the issue here is not the cyber-attack by the Russians on the United States, but the U.S. Justice Department and the special counsel investigation into that cyber-attack. That's the only thing you can glean from that.
BORGER: Exactly. He thinks the issue is Mueller and not Putin.
And he knew. What makes it worse is, the Justice Department briefed him on this. And the other day, if you recall, he mentioned to reporters, I'm going to ask your favorite question, your favorite question, about meddling. And then he said it all again today, as if he were just dismissive, dismissive of it.
And he knew this. And it just doesn't make any sense. His Justice Department has presented him with incontrovertible evidence here, and a grand jury indictment of key Putin advisers, aides, military men, intelligence officers, who wouldn't do any of this without the permission and the encouragement of Vladimir Putin.
And it's just stunning that he would be so dismissive of Mueller's work.
TAPPER: Hold that thought, Michael. We're going to take a quick break.
There's a lot in the indictments, the shocking information about who one congressional candidate reached out to in 2016 to get dirt on their opponent. That's next.
Plus, we're going to talk to the Hillary Clinton campaign manager about the campaign's e-mails being targeted. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome back.
We're taking a deeper look at the indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officers, including a very curious part of the indictment, how -- describing how one candidate for U.S. Congress reached out to a fake persona that the Russian intelligence officers had created, and that congressional candidate reached out in order to try to get dirt on his or her opponent, which the Russian intelligence officers provided.
CNN's Dana Bash is with me now to talk about this.
The person is unnamed.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Unnamed.
TAPPER: Hold on one second. I'm told that her -- your microphone's not working. So, let me fix that.
TAPPER: She's good now. Now it's working. OK. Great.
BASH: OK. All right.
What I was saying was the understandable focus of this indictment is on what the Russians were trying to do about the DNC and about the DCCC, and now we the state and local election boards.
But, in this indictment, as you mentioned, there is also something that looks and smells a whole lot like collusion, not on the presidential level, but on the congressional level.
And I will read you what this part says.
It says: "On or about August 15, 2016, the conspirators posing as Guccifer 2.0 received a request for stolen documents from a candidate for the U.S. Congress. The conspirators responded using the Guccifer 2.0 persona and sent the candidate stolen documents related to the candidate's opponent."
So this candidate asked what we now know is a Russian intelligence operative for information about his or her opponent, and then got it.
TAPPER: Received it.
BASH: Received it.
And presumably didn't just sit on it, probably used it in some way, shape, or form, although this indictment does not say that. Now, it says U.S. candidate for Congress. We don't know who it is. There is a mad scramble to find out. But we are also assured...
TAPPER: And we should point out that we don't know if this candidate was successful.
TAPPER: We don't know if this person is in the House of Representatives or not.
BASH: Correct. We don't know any of that.
But what is the informed opinion of those who are reading this -- and you can confirm this -- is that it's impossible to imagine this graph being in the indictment and there not being some follow-up down the road.
TAPPER: Is that right?
BASH: Because the focus of this is on the Russians. The focus of the whole indictment is on the Russians and not any of the Americans mentioned here.
ZELDIN: That's right.
And I think, to what we talked about earlier, I think Mueller has pigeonholed the stuff unto the United States from the stuff from the United States back out. We haven't seen that.
And so I think this is under investigation, because you as a prosecutor would say to yourself, how would this congressional candidate even know to reach out to Guccifer? How would they know that if there is not information that is being shared among others?
This is not like he's reaching out to Google. This is something very significant.
TAPPER: Let me ask you, legally, even if you don't know that the person on the other end of the e-mail is Russian intelligence, if you just think it's a hacker or somebody who is tooling around the Dark Web, is that a crime?
ZELDIN: It can be, just as receiving stolen property can be a crime.
You don't have to know that the person stole it or was participating in the theft. You just have to know after the fact or constructively know, you know, willful blindness, that this watch is not being sold for $50 because it was legitimately obtained.
So, sure, they can prove by constructive knowledge that a person who received information that they should have known was stolen and then distributed it participates in a crime.
BORGER: But isn't it hard to prove you should have known?
ZELDIN: Well, prosecutors use that, yes.
BORGER: They can say it's oppo research and we do this all the time.
CHALIAN: Remember what Donald Trump Jr. said after the Trump meeting.
CHALIAN: I'm listening to you read this and I'm thinking, you can imagine the e-mail -- potential e-mail exchange that happened before this, where the candidate is offered dirt on his or her opponent and says, I love it, let me see, and actually was doing it with Russian intelligence.
BASH: But what is remarkable about this, at least the way this paragraph is written, isn't that somebody came and said, hey, I have this. It's that the candidate sought out the person. TAPPER: Yes, they asked first.
TAPPER: Does that matter legally?
ZELDIN: That could be a conspiracy, or it could be aiding and abetting in the distribution of stolen materials.
Both of those statutes are implicated, potentially, by this conduct.
TAPPER: I want to bring in CNN political commentator Robby Mook who obviously is the former campaign manager for Hillary Clinton.
And, Robby, we're reaching you on vacation, so apologies for interrupting.
I want to get your reaction to the indictment, 12 Russian military intelligence officials, intelligence officers, indicted by district attorney -- indicted a grand jury, charges brought forward by the district -- the deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.
What do you make of it?
ROBBY MOOK, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, as for the fact that the Russians were intervening in the elections, I think we already knew that.
This is now a heck of a lot more evidence of exactly what took place and obviously who was involved. And so I think we have now reached a point where there's no question what happened. I think the question is what we do about it.
And the fact that the president of the United States seems to continue to ignore that a foreign adversary deliberately, with specially trained agents, tried to interrupt one of our elections, and is planning to meet with President Putin in two days, that should be alarming.
That meeting needs to be canceled and this should be a wakeup call to everybody. I also think what your guests were just talking about -- or, rather, the other people on the panel, is really important.
If you're a candidate for office or working on a campaign and someone approaches you with stolen material, you have got to say no and push it away.
And we saw this happen on Al Gore's campaign, where they were sent confidential information from the Bush campaign, and turned it away.
And so I do hope that those involved in this are announced and held accountable for what they did.
TAPPER: Two years ago, you told me that experts had told you -- this is right after the information came forward from WikiLeaks that had been stolen from the DNC, I believe, in March 2016 -- you told me experts had told you that it was Russians who likely did it.
And, of course, right after you and I had that conversation, I want you to take a listen to the conversation I had, an excerpt from it, with Donald Trump Jr.
And here is what he had to say about you saying the Russians were behind the hack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF DONALD TRUMP: I can't think of bigger lies. But that exactly goes to shows you what the DNC and what the Clinton camp will do. They will lie and do anything to win. It's a rigged system. It's disgusting. And the people should be fed up, because, when I heard it, I certainly was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Robby Mook?
MOOK: I'm going to let that speak for itself.
I have learned, once again, if you're patient in life, the truth comes out. Look, the past is the past. And, in fact, I think one of the most important lessons coming out of this is that the experts weren't just telling this to me.
This was all -- everything we need to know essentially was in the first "Washington Post" story that came out about this, which I think was in May or June of 2016. This was -- a lot of this information was out there.
Donald Trump publicly told the Russians to find Hillary Clinton's e- mails and release them. We see evidence in this indictment that the Russians responded to this request.
I think, moving forward, we need to do a better job believing these things when they're right in front of us and we can do something about it.
Moving forward, as I said before, the president needs to cancel this meeting with President Putin. His own Justice Department has put out overwhelming evidence of what happened, and he needs to represent our country and our republic, and not what's in his own selfish self- interest.
TAPPER: And, Robby, quickly, if you could, the White House is underlining the fact that these indictments do not mention -- or do mention or indict against any Americans.
There's no conclusion here that anybody in the Trump campaign or affiliated with the Trump campaign or any American at all knowingly spoke with these Russian intelligence officers knowing that they were Russian intelligence officers. Do you think that's going to be the end of it, or do you think or have
information that there is more to come?
MOOK: I don't think that this is the end of it.
What you said is accurate, and what the White House said is accurate. However, we know that Mueller is continuing to do his work. I think we need to let him finish his work before we draw any conclusions.
Roger Stone, who is an adviser to the president, himself said that he's spoke with Julian Assange. He's now retracted that and was claiming it was some kind of joke when he said that.
Roger Stone seemed to have advanced information about e-mails being distributed. So, I think that this raises way more questions than it answers. But it does get back to the point, whether you know someone is a Russian agent or not, if someone is peddling stolen information, that's still stolen information.
And we have now seen the ability of these foreign agents to quite adeptly manipulate Americans into carrying out their project. And so this is a warning to everybody. This is -- this was the beginning, not the end, of this kind of meddling in our election. And people in all parties need to be aware about protecting their information, but also resisting the temptation to play into the hand of these agents.
TAPPER: Robby Mook, thanks so much, and thanks for joining us on your vacation.
TAPPER: A key part of today's indictment is a tactic called spear- phishing. What it is and how the Russian intelligence officers used it, that's next.
Plus, all eyes on the Trump-Putin summit now, as President Trump arrives in Scotland for a weekend trip ahead of Monday's Putin summit.
Stay with us.