Washington (CNN)The Justice Department announced indictments against 12 Russian nationals as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, accusing them of engaging in a “sustained effort” to hack Democrats’ emails and computer networks.
All 12 defendants are members of the GRU, a Russian federation intelligence agency within the main intelligence directorate of the Russian military, who were acting in “their official capacities.”
The revelations provide more detail on the sophisticated assault on the US election in 2016, including the release of emails designed to damage Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
The indictment was announced at almost exactly the moment that President Donald Trump rolled into the quadrangle of Windsor Castle to meet the awaiting Queen Elizabeth II in the symbolic highpoint of his visit to Britain.
Trump is due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin — who has denied election meddling — in Helsinki on Monday for a summit that includes a one-on-one meeting with only interpreters present. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Friday the summit will not be canceled.
The Justice Department says the hacking targeted Clinton’s campaign, 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.”
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said the indictment does not name any American citizen, but told reporters that defendants “corresponded with several Americans during the course of the conspiracy through the internet.”
“There is no allegation in this indictment that any American citizen committed a crime,” Rosenstein said at a news conference. “There is no allegation that the conspiracy altered the vote count or changed any election result.”
Deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters referenced Rosenstein’s comments and said there is no evidence tying the Trump campaign to hacking attempts.
“Today’s charges include no allegations of knowing involvement by anyone on the campaign and no allegations that the alleged hacking affected the election result,” Walters said in a statement. “This is consistent with what we have been saying all along.”
Trump private attorney Rudy Giuliani in a tweet said the indictments are “good news for all Americans” but called on the special counsel investigation to end.
“The Russians are nailed. No Americans are involved. Time for Mueller to end this pursuit of the President and say President Trump is completely innocent,” he tweeted.
Trump, meanwhile, did not criticize Putin or condemn Russia’s actions in a pair of tweets on Saturday, instead attacking his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, with what has become a familiar claim of his.
“The stories you heard about the 12 Russians yesterday took place during the Obama Administration, not the Trump Administration,” Trump wrote. “Why didn’t they do something about it, especially when it was reported that President Obama was informed by the FBI in September, before the Election?”
“These Russian individuals did their work during the Obama years,” Trump continued in a tweet later Saturday. “Why didn’t Obama do something about it? Because he thought Crooked Hillary Clinton would win, that’s why. Had nothing to do with the Trump Administration, but Fake News doesn’t want to report the truth, as usual!”
Obama, however, personally warned Putin against messing with the election, imposed sanctions on Russian individuals and entities, kicked out 35 Russian diplomats and closed two of the Kremlin’s compounds in the United States.
Rosenstein said he briefed Trump about the allegations in the indictment earlier this week and that “the President is fully aware of the department’s actions today.”
Asked about the timing of the announcement, Rosenstein said it came as “a function of the collection of the facts, the evidence, the law, and a determination that it was sufficient to present the indictment at this time.”
The unfolding drama on both sides of the Atlantic reflected how Trump’s presidency has…