The Justice Department charged 12 Russian intelligence officers with hacking the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and state election systems, as part of the special counsel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Speaking at a press conference, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein detailed an elaborate cyberattack coordinated by the Russian government’s military intelligence service GRU that ranged from sending “spearphishing” emails to staffers to installing malicious software and creating a fake persona called “Guccifer 2.0” to distribute the stolen information.
In his remarks, Rosenstein did not focus on the victims of the attacks, arguing that the entire country was threatened by anti-democratic measures.
“In my remarks, I have not identified the victims,” he said. “When we confront foreign interference in American elections, it is important for us to avoid thinking politically as Republicans or Democrats and instead to think patriotically as Americans. Our response must not depend on who was victimized.”
The charges add to an already substantial list of 19 other people and three companies charged in the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Collectively, the other defendants face more than 75 criminal charges, including lying to the F.B.I., bank fraud and conspiracy against the United States government. Among those charged include former national security advisor Michael Flynn, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates and former campaign foreign policy advisor, George Papadopoulos.
Five of those charged, including Gates, Flynn and Papadopoulos, have pleaded guilty.
Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan was the first defendant to be sentenced after pleading guilty for lying to investigators. Manafort awaits trial in an Alexandria, Virginia jail cell after his bail was revoked for alleged witness tampering.
Trump, who is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin after he finishes a trip to Great Britain, has been critical of Mueller and Rosenstein since the probe began. He regularly calls the investigation a “Witch Hunt” and has called both Mueller and Rosenstein “conflicted.”