Jul 13, 2018

Go deeper: Mueller indictment turns to DNC election hacking

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty

A federal grand jury has indicted 12 Russian military officers working for the Russian intelligence directorate — known as the GRU — for running an active cyber operation in 2016 to steal and disseminate information with the intent to interfere in the U.S. election.

Why it matters: These are the first charges from the Mueller probe that directly accuse the Russian government of meddling in the 2016 election, and come just days before President Trump is set to have a one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump has said he will bring up election meddling with Putin, and has been briefed on the indictment, per Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

The 29-page indictment details allegations that the Russians targeted state election boards, secretaries of state, and election software companies, in addition to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC,) the Democratic National Committee (DNC,) and Hillary Clinton's campaign.

The details: 11 officers, who are named in the indictment, are charged with conspiring to hack into computers, steal documents, and release them with the intent to interfere in the election.

  • A 12th military officer, also named in the document, is charged with trying to infiltrate computers involved in administering elections, including companies that supply software used to administer elections and verify voter registration information.
  • There are 8 counts of aggravated identity theft, in the cases where the Russians used usernames and passwords to commit computer fraud.
  • 11 defendants have each been charged with money laundering for using cryptocurrencies to make payments to further their hacking activities and to try to conceal their connection to Russia.
  • The indictment seeks the forfeiture of property involved in criminal activity.

The defendants used spear phishing as a way to trick people into exposing security information, such as passwords, and hacked into computer networks to install malware, allowing them to spy and exfiltrate information. The conspirators created false online personas to advance the release of this information.

  • Axios' Joe Uchill explains how the indictment appears to confirm earlier reporting and research on how Podesta was phished, down to the specific email that ensnared him.
    • That reporting also hinges on Russian hackers' usage of a URL shortening service, and a tragic typo. Podesta's team originally found the phishing email suspicious and asked an IT staffer to evaluate if it should be trusted. According to the IT staffer, he said the email appeared "legitimate," meaning to type "illegitimate."

Notable: On July 27, 2016, Trump said: "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing." The indictment explains how, on that night, Russian operatives targeted Clinton campaign emails "for the first time."

Yes, but: There is no allegation in this indictment that these efforts changed the vote count or affected the election result. There is also no allegation that Americans knew they were corresponding with Russian intelligence officers, as also explained in Mueller's February indictment of 13 Russian nationals and entities.

The big picture: To date, 79 criminal charges have been brought forth against 20 people and 3 Russian companies. 5 people have pleaded guilty to charges and 1 has been sentenced.

Go deeper: Everyone caught up in the Mueller investigation

Go deeper

Updated 40 mins ago - Politics & Policy

St. John's clergy: Trump used church as prop, Bible as symbol of division

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Clergy of the historic St. John's Episcopal Church expressed furor and confusion over President Trump's visit on Monday, which he claimed was to honor the establishment after George Floyd protestors sparked a small fire on the property Sunday night.

The big picture: Park rangers and military police deployed tear gas and physical force to disperse peaceful protestors from Lafayette Park, which surrounds the White House, so Trump could walk to "pay respects" to the church — and a St. John's rector on the scene revealed in a Facebook post that she was left "coughing" from the tear gas.

Updates: George Floyd protests nationwide

Police officers wearing riot gear push back demonstrators outside of the White House on Monday. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

Protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people continued for a seventh day across the U.S., with President Trump threatening on Monday to deploy the military if the unrest continues.

The latest: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted early Tuesday that he'd just left the Bronx and the police commissioner was sending additional assistance to problem areas. Protesters were "overwhelmingly peaceful" Monday, he said. "But some people tonight had nothing to do with the cause + stole + damaged instead," he added.

3 hours ago - Technology

Civil rights leaders blast Facebook after meeting with Zuckerberg

Screenshot of an image some Facebook employees used as part of their virtual walkout on Monday.

A trio of civil rights leaders issued a blistering statement Monday following a meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other top executives to discuss the social network's decision to leave up comments from President Trump they say amount to calls for violence and voter suppression.

Why it matters: While Twitter has flagged two of the president's Tweets, one for being potentially misleading about mail-in ballot procedures and another for glorifying violence, Facebook has left those and other posts up, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg saying he doesn't want to be the "arbiter of truth."