Four notable takeaways from Robert Mueller’s latest indictments in the Russia probe
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Friday announced that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team had secured the indictments of 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking into computers used by the Democratic National Committee, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The announcement came days before President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, further raising the stakes for the one-on-one sit-down Monday.
Here are four takeaways from the indictments and the events surrounding them.
Trump has been laudatory to Putin, even after knowing the indictments were imminent
Throughout his trip to Europe for the NATO summit and a working visit to the U.K., Trump has said he wants to get along with Putin and have a relationship with the Russian autocrat.
We now know Trump has been making those overtures even after learning the indictments were imminent.
“He’s been very nice to me the times I’ve met him,” Trump said of Putin at an impromptu news conference Thursday after the NATO summit. “I’ve been nice to him. He’s a competitor. You know, somebody was saying, ‘Is he an enemy?’ No, he’s not my enemy. ’Is he a friend?’ No, I don’t know him well enough. But the couple of times that I’ve gotten to meet him, we got along very well. You saw that.”
Trump sounded noncommittal when asked at the same news conference what he would do if Putin were to deny meddling in the election.
“Well, he may. I mean, look, he may. You know, what am I going to do?” Trump said. “He may deny it. I mean, it’s one of those things. All I can do is say, ‘Did you?’ and ‘Don’t do it again.’ But he may deny it. You’ll be the first to know. OK?”
Trump confidant Roger Stone and Wikileaks likely had direct contact with Russian hackers
Although they are not referred to by name, the Department of Justice’s indictment alleges that Trump ally Roger Stone and Wikileaks had direct contact with Russian hackers — and that Wikileaks was overtly seeking information to hurt Clinton’s presidential bid.
The indictment claims Russians posing as Guccifer 2.0, who presented himself as a lone Romanian hacker, communicated with a “person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump.”
The indictment further alleges that “Organization 1” spoke with the Russian intelligence official posing as Guccifer 2.0 and sought information meant to sow discord between supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Clinton backers at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
Again, the real name of Organization 1 is not listed, but prior reporting suggests the indictment is referring to Wikileaks: It specifies Organization 1 released more than 20,000 emails stolen from the DNC on July 22, 2016 — the same day Wikileaks released those documents.
Russia listened when Trump asked the country to hack Clinton’s emails
Trump shocked the country when he urged Russia to find the emails Clinton deleted from her personal server.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said at a news conference July 27, 2016.
Well, it turns out Russia was listening.
The Department of Justice alleges that “on or about” the same day, Russian hackers “attempted after hours to [spear-phish] for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office.”
Around the same time, the hackers “also targeted 76 email addresses at the domain for the Clinton Campaign,” according to the indictment.
An unnamed candidate for Congress could be in a lot of trouble
According to the indictments, a “candidate for the U.S. Congress” reached out to Guccifer 2.0 for “documents related to the candidate’s opponent.”
In response, Guccifer 2.0 sent “2.5 gigabytes of data stolen from the DCCC to a then-registered state lobbyist and online source of political news.”
It does not identify the candidate or specify whether the individual is a current member of Congress.
However, we do know a super PAC tied to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) used hacked information from Guccifer 2.0 in ads ran in Florida’s 26th District, an area that backed Clinton by a wide margin but is represented by Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo.
In that race, a blogger called HelloFLA!, “run by a former Florida legislative aide turned Republican lobbyist,” asked for and received documents from Guccifer 2.0, according to the New York Times.
Ryan’s office denied knowing the identity of the unnamed candidate, according to Olivier Knox, chief Washington correspondent for SiriusXM.
“We haven’t had any communication with DOJ and don’t know anything beyond what was in the indictment,” Ryan’s office told Knox.