Moscow now accused of US election meddling
WASHINGTON (AP) — Twelve Russian military intelligence officers hacked into the Clinton presidential campaign and Democratic Party, releasing tens of thousands of stolen and politically damaging communications, in a sweeping conspiracy by the Kremlin to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election, according to a grand jury indictment announced days before President Donald Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The indictment stands as special counsel Robert Mueller’s first allegation implicating the Russian government directly in criminal behaviour meant to sway the presidential election.
U.S. intelligence agencies have said the meddling was aimed at helping the Trump campaign and harming the election bid of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
The effort also included bogus Facebook ads and social media postings that prosecutors say were aimed at influencing public opinion and sowing discord on hot-button social issues.
The indictment lays out a broad, coordinated effort starting in March 2016 to break into key Democratic email accounts, such as those belonging to the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Among those targeted was John Podesta, the Clinton campaign chairman.
The Kremlin denied that it tried to sway the election.
“The Russian state has never interfered and has no intention of interfering in the U.S. elections,” Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said Friday.
But the indictment identifies the defendants as officers with Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff, also known as GRU.
It accuses them of covertly monitoring the computers of dozens of Democratic officials and volunteers, implanting malicious computer code known as malware and using phishing emails to gain control of the accounts of people associated with the Clinton campaign.