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Mueller indicts 12 Russians for DNC hacking

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What we covered here

  • Indictments in Mueller probe: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced indictments against 12 Russian officers for hacking.
  • The charges: Eleven of the Russians are charged with identity theft, conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to commit computer crimes.
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Roger Stone says he's "probably" the unnamed person in today's indictment

Roger Stone on May 22, 2017 in Coral Gables, Florida.

Roger Stone says he’s “probably” the unnamed individual in a new Russia probe indictment made public Friday who is described as having communicated with Guccifer 2.0 in 2016.

“I think I probably am the person referred to,” he told CNN’s Chris Cuomo.

Earlier Friday, Stone, a longtime associate of President Donald Trump and political figure, acknowledged to CNN that an exchange in the indictment matches messages he previously released, but initially maintained that he did not believe that he is the unnamed person in the indictment. Stone said the messages “don’t provide any evidence of collaboration or collusion.”

The indictment states that on Aug. 15, 2016, and again on Sept. 9, Russian officers posing as Guccifer 2.0 “wrote a person who was in regular contact with senior members” of the Trump campaign, with language that matches Twitter messages previously released by Stone, who is not named in the indictment.

In his interview later Friday with Cuomo, Stone that he “misunderstood the reference.” 

“I never denied that it was me, I just didn’t understand the earlier reference,” Stone said.

Watch the moment:

What today's indictment tells us about the Russian hacking effort

The Justice Department’s indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence agents on Friday was jaw-dropping in its scope and level of details into attempts to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

The indictment shows the lengths the Russians allegedly went to in order to defeat Hillary Clinton, thereby aiding Donald Trump’s campaign. Their actions throughout 2016 resulted in multiple criminal charges, from identity fraud to money laundering conspiracy.

Here are nine takeaways from the indictment:

  • To commit the alleged crimes, the Russians targeted more than 300 people affiliated with Clinton’s campaign and Democratic political organizations, including the Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta.
  • Once inside the Democratic computers, they searched for keywords like “Hillary,” (then-GOP candidate Ted) “Cruz,” “Trump” and “Benghazi investigations” so they could steal the most damaging files. They wanted opposition research, campaign field operations and voter data, the indictment alleges.
  • From Twitter and Facebook to WordPress, the hackers used the online services most ingrained in American society for posts that spread their illicit information.
  • Even bitcoin, the electronic cash that’s kept Silicon Valley abuzz, played a key role in the Russians’ efforts to build their hacking infrastructure.
  • The hacking tools included emails disguised as Google security alerts containing bogus links and malware deposited on servers.
  • They stole passwords, tracked keystrokes, took screenshots and watched banking information, the indictment said.
  • And then, to spread the documents they collected, the Russians lied about their identity.
  • The Russian military intelligence hackers snooped around online presences for state board of elections and county offices in Florida, Georgia and Iowa.
  • They stole personal information like names, addresses, partial social security numbers and drivers’ license numbers for about 500,000 voters.

Former CIA director: I "would not be surprised" if future indictments were of Americans

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden anticipates many more indictments — including those of Americans — to come in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

Hayden said today’s indictments against 12 Russian officers are not the end.

“The richer in detail we get, the more I begin to believe that we’re probably going to be seeing a widening circle (of indictments) here,” Hayden told CNN on Friday.

Hayden, who was CIA director under President George W. Bush, added that he “would not be surprised” if future indictments were of Americans, citing the seemingly deliberate move to not explicitly deny American involvement in today’s indictment.

RNC chairwoman: It's time to end "investigations into non-existent collusion"

Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel issued a statement about today’s indictments, saying it’s clear “that there was no collusion by the Trump campaign.”

McDaniel blasted the Russians for attacking the US electoral system and said they were “ultimately unsuccessful in altering the results of the election.”

“The American people have watched the President’s political opponents desperately search for evidence of collusion for years now,” she said. “While it’s important that we do all we can to safeguard our future elections, it’s long past time for investigations into non-existent collusion to end.”

In the same statement, McDaniel urged Americans to come together to prevent an attack from happening again.

Intelligence captured some of the defendants congratulating each other, source says

Intelligence gathered by US officials captured some of the Russians accused in today’s indictments congratulating each other and celebrating the success of their operation during the campaign, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

They were also captured celebrating President Trump’s victory. The source said the intelligence was gathered both before and after the 2016 presidential election.

Watch more:

Nancy Pelosi calls on Trump to cancel summit with Putin

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi took to Twitter today to call on President Trump to cancel his meeting next week with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland.

She tweeted:

Earlier today, Pelosi slammed Republicans for “sham hearings” and called on Trump to “stand up” to Putin, noting that if he didn’t, it would be a “profound betrayal of the Constitution and our democracy.”

Russia says "bogus" indictments aim to "spoil" Trump-Putin meeting

Russia’s foreign ministry said there is no evidence that the 12 Russian officers indicted Friday in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation were involved in the hacking of Democratic Party emails during the 2016 US presidential election.

The ministry said in a statement the “bogus story” aimed to “spoil the atmosphere” before Monday’s meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Trump in Helsinki, Finland.

“It is regrettable that the duplication of false information in Washington has become the norm, and criminal cases are worked up for obvious political reasons. The question remains: how long will they continue to break this shameful comedy that disgraces the US?” the ministry said. 

White House says Trump-Putin summit is not being canceled

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the summit with Russian President Putin is not being canceled.

That follows calls from some members for the president not to hold the meeting following the indictments.

John McCain: Trump must show strength in meeting with Putin

Republican Sen. John McCain, in a statement on today’s indictments, said President Trump must confront Russian President Vladimir Putin from “a position of strength.”

McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said today’s charges confirms that the Kremlin attacked the 2016 election and worked to “sow chaos and dissension among the American electorate, and undermine faith in our democracy.”

“President Trump must be willing to confront Putin from a position of strength and demonstrate that there will be a serious price to pay for his ongoing aggression towards the United States and democracies around the world,” the Arizona lawmaker said.

Clinton campaign chairman mocks Trump: Mueller "caught the witches"

Hillary Clinton’s former campaign chairman John Podesta, whose emails were hacked and posted online in the run-up to the 2016 election, mocked President Trump for calling the Russian investigation a “witch hunt” by telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer “they’ve caught the witches.”

“This is quite specific. They’ve done the forensics, and obviously they believe they have the proof to prove the charges against these actors,” Podesta said of the indictments announced earlier this afternoon.

“You know,” Podesta added, “the president likes to describe Mueller’s operation as a witch hunt. Well, they’ve caught the witches here, and I hope at some point that they will actually be brought to justice.”

Watch:

Dem senator: Trump must take "forceful but necessary steps" in Putin meeting

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey urged President Trump to be forceful with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their summit Monday.

In a statement, Menendez, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, outlined three steps that Trump must take in his meeting with Putin.

They are:

Demand that Putin turn over all Russian spies indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller. Impose sanctions against the 12 Russian officers indicted today. Demand that Putin “return Crimea to Ukraine, release individuals from Crimea imprisoned by Russia on political grounds, and fulfill his pledge to remove Iran from Syria.”

Read his full statement:

“In light of today’s indictment, and if the President is going to persist in attending a summit with Vladimir Putin, he must take the forceful but necessary steps to stand up for the United States and defend our national security against the Kremlin’s campaign to undermine democracy at home and abroad. First, President Trump must demand that Putin hand over all of the Russian spies indicted by the United States for interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Second, the Treasury Department must immediately impose sanctions mandated by Congress on the Russian intelligence officers indicted today. And third, the President should demand Putin return Crimea to Ukraine, release individuals from Crimea imprisoned by Russia on political grounds, and fulfill his pledge to remove Iran from Syria. The fact that the Trump Administration still refuses to fully impose sanctions on the Russian government as required under the mandatory provisions of CAATSA is unacceptable. Of particular concern today is CAATSA’s Section 231, which requires the imposition of sanctions on those who conduct significant transactions with specific entities in the Russian defense and intelligence sectors. We targeted those sectors when drafting CAATSA precisely because our intelligence community deemed them responsible for the attack on our election in 2016. Today’s indictments are only further affirmation of that. I hope that President Trump will wake up from his willful paralysis and finally address the threats posed by the Russian Government to our country.

Mueller has so far brought 191 criminal charges against 32 individuals and 3 companies

Special counsel Robert Mueller has now brought 191 criminal charges against 32 people and 3 companies as part of his investigation into Russian meddling and related matters. This includes today’s indictment which has 112 new charges against 12 Russian operatives.

Support for the investigation is slipping: Most Americans continue to believe that the Russian effort to influence the 2016 presidential election is a serious matter that should be investigated, but the constant criticism by President Donald Trump of of the “rigged witch hunt” is taking its toll, according to a recent CNN poll

The number of Americans who approve of how Mueller is handling the investigation has dropped from 48% in March to 44% in May to just 41% in June, the lowest it has been in CNN’s polling.

Earlier Friday, just hours before Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the latest round of indictments, President Trump again assailed the investigation as a “rigged witch hunt” and said it “really hurts our country.” He made the remarks knowing the indictments were coming – Rosenstein briefed the President earlier this week.

Indictment alleges scheme to manipulate voting systems and officials

Today’s indictment outlines the Russians’ scheme to manipulate official voting systems and officials, the indictment alleges.

Some of the defendants in July 2016 hacked into the website of an unnamed state’s board of elections and stole information related to approximately 500,000 voters, the indictment alleges, including names, addresses, partial social security numbers, dates of birth, and driver’s license numbers.

Those involved in the scheme, the indictment alleges, also:

  • Targeted other state and county offices responsible for administering the elections, and “visited the websites of certain counties in Georgia, Iowa, and Florida to identify vulnerabilities.”
  • Allegedly hacked into the computers of an American vendor that supplied software used to verify voter registration information in elections, according to the indictment. 
  • Just before the election in November 2016, the defendants used an email account that had been designed to look like an email address from that hacked vendor to send over 100 spear-phishing emails to organizations and personnel involved in administering elections in a number of counties in Florida, the indictment says. 

Manafort judge assigned Russian hacking case

Court records show that DC federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson will handle the Russian hacking case unveiled earlier this afternoon.

Judge Berman Jackson also oversees the criminal case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on