While speaking at a press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May earlier this morning, President Trump described the Russian investigation as a "witch hunt," saying it was "rigged" and that it "really hurts our country, and it really hurts our relationship with Russia."
Here's what Trump said:
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 after watching some of the little clips. I didn't get to watch too much, because I'm here, it's a different time zone to, put it mildly. But after watching the people — the man that was testifying yesterday, I 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 — very good relationship with president Putin. I would hope so.
Approximately two hours later back in Washington, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced that the Department of Justice had indicted 12 Russian nationals for hacking into Hillary Clinton's campaign and the DNC in the runup to the 2016 election.
Rosenstein stated that he had briefed Trump earlier this week. This means President Trump knew of the indictment, and still chose to describe the investigation that produced it as a "rigged witch hunt."
"I briefed President Trump about these allegations earlier this week," Rosenstein said. "The President is fully aware of today’s actions by the Department."
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi slammed Republicans for "sham hearings" and called on President Trump to "stand up" to Russian President Vladimir Putin, noting if it he didn't it would be a "profound betrayal of the Constitution and our democracy."
Here's her full statement:
The Russians waged a massive, concerted operation to interfere in our elections, and they will do so again in the fall. Strong, immediate action is needed to secure our state election systems, yet Republicans are wasting the country’s time with sham hearings while refusing to provide a single additional penny to protect our elections.The stakes for the upcoming Trump-Putin meeting could not be higher. President Trump must demand and secure a real, concrete and comprehensive agreement that the Russians will cease their ongoing attacks on our democracy. Failure to stand up to Putin would constitute a profound betrayal of the Constitution and our democracy.Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation has now returned 32 indictments and multiple guilty pleas. This investigation is working, and must be allowed to continue to do its job free from the White House and GOP’s interference. The integrity of our democracy is at stake.
Just hours before the indictment announcement, President Trump said he would ask Russian President Vladimir Putin about Russian election meddling. The two leaders have a summit on Monday.
"I know you'll ask, 'Will we be talking about meddling?'" Trump said to a reporter at a news conference with British prime minister Theresa May this morning. "And I will absolutely bring that up."
However, Trump added, said Putin likely will not admit to meddling.
President Trump is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday.
But in light of the new indictments against 12 Russians for the DNC hack, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, is calling on Trump to abandon that meeting.
Here's what he said in a statement:
“These indictments are further proof of what everyone but the president seems to understand: President Putin is an adversary who interfered in our elections to help President Trump win. President Trump should cancel his meeting with Vladimir Putin until Russia takes demonstrable and transparent steps to prove that they won’t interfere in future elections. Glad-handing with Vladimir Putin on the heels of these indictments would be an insult to our democracy.”
Earlier today, while speaking alongside British Prime Minister Theresa May, President Trump said he would bring up election meddling during his meeting with Putin.
The FBI has released the indictment charging 12 Russian nationals in the hacking of Democratic Party emails during the 2016 election.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said at a press conference that, “in an effort to conceal their connections to Russia, the defendants used a network of computers around the world,” and “the conspirators corresponded with several Americans during the course of the conspiracy through the internet."
However, he added that “there is no allegation in this indictment that the Americans knew they were corresponding with Russian intelligence officers.”
"There is no allegation in this indictment that any American citizen committed a crime. There is no allegation that the conspiracy changed the vote count or affected any election result.”
The defendants worked for two units of the GRU that “engaged in active cyber operations to interfere in the 2016 presidential elections,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said at a news conference.
One unit stole information using spearfishing schemes and hacked into computer networks, where they “installed malicious software that allowed them to spy on users and capture keystrokes, take screenshots and exfiltrate or remove data from those computers,” Rosenstein said.
The Department of Justice said the Russian hacking campaign targeted Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, with the intention to "release that information on the internet under the names DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 and through another entity."
But Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein didn't say who was targeted in his remarks announcing the indictments. Instead, he referred to "a US presidential campaign," "a congressional campaign committee and a national political committee" as victims.
Rosenstein said this was an intentional move to unite the country instead of further divide it.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein handed down 12 indictments just now in the Robert Mueller investigation.
Here's what we know:
- Eleven of the Russians are charged with identity theft, conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to commit computer crimes.
- Two defendants are charged with a conspiracy to commit computer crimes.