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A dozen Russian intelligence officers are facing new U.S. federal grand jury indictments alleging they hacked into American computers with the explicit intention of interfering with the 2016 presidential election.
Hillary Clinton's campaign organization and the Democratic National Committee were targeted, including Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, but Rosenstein declined to identify him specifically.
He also said the Russian defendants infiltrated computers at U.S. state boards of election and secretaries of state, plus software suppliers whose products help election officials verify voter registration data.
Computer records related to at least 500,000 voters were stolen, but no evidence has emerged that the election itself was compromised or that the result was affected.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced on Friday that the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking into U.S. computers with the intention of influencing the 2016 presidential election
Hillary Clinton's campaign was targeted – her campaign chairman John Podesta's emails were hacked – along with the Democratic National Committee
Russian President Vladimir Putin is a former colonel in the KGB; he is scheduled to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday in Finland
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told reporters Friday that the defendants worked for the GRU, Russia's premier military intelligence agency.
One group of officers were tasked with infiltrating computers and stealing data, while another worked to distribute it through anonymous channels in the U.S.
Rosenstein said President Trump had already been briefed about the contents of the indictment, but did not say when that occurred.
The Podesta case involved the theft of a massive tranche of emails related to the Clinton campaign, all of which ended up on a website hosted by the anti-privacy group WikiLeaks.
That organization has refused to say where the emails came from.
Rosenstein said Friday that Russians provided their digital spoils to an 'unnamed other organization,' and had discussions about timing the material's relase to have an impact on the election.
President Trump told reporters a few hours before Rosenstein spoke that he plans to bring up Russia's election interference campaign Monday with President Vladimir Putin when they meet in Helsinki, Finland.
Rosenstein denied that the Justice Department filed its indictment and briefed the press on Friday because that meeting was on the horizon.
In October 2016 Wikileaks published emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, material now known to have been stolen by the Russian hackers
The Podesta email scandal provided anti-Clinton advocates with anear-endless supply of private information, secret conversations and back-channel strategizing, and kept Clinton from controlling one news cycle after another
Trump has repeatedly criticized and dismissed Mueller's Russia probe as a 'witch hunt' and vented his anger at Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.
With Sessions on the sidelines, Rosenstein took control and appointed Mueller to search for links between Russia and Trump's presidential campaign.
The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Putin personally demanded a Russian program that would undermine 'public faith in the U.S. democratic process.' They say he aimed to see Trump prevail over Clinton.
White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in a statement after the indictment was made public that the criminal charges 'include no allegations of knowing involvement by anyone on the campaign and no allegations that the alleged hacking affected the election result. This is consistent with what we have been saying all along.'
Walters underscored the lack of any 'allegation that the conspiracy changed the vote count or affected any election result.'
She also reinforced that the indictment doesn't accuse any Americans of breaking the law.
Former Trump adviser Roger Stone is known to have communicated with 'Guccifer 2.0' but insists he didn't know it was a Russian intelligence front
During Friday's joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump pledged that he would raise the election interference issue directly with Putin, who is himself a former KGB colonel.
'I will absolutely bring that up. I don't think he'll have any "Gee, I did it, I did it, you got me",' he said.
Then he joked that 'there won't be a Perry Mason here, I don't think. But you never know what happens.'
Asked at the end of the press conference whether he would tell Putin to stay out of U.S. elections, Trump responded: 'Yes.'
The Fox News Channel is also scheduled to speak with Putin in a televised interview on Monday.
Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, among the U.S. Senate's most vocal Trump opponents, said Friday that the president 'should know that Putin is going to lie to his face and deny any involvement in attacking our democracy.'
'Our President should take the word of our dedicated national security and law enforcement officers over that of a former KGB officer,' he declared.
Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, suggested in a statement that Trump will handle Putin with kid gloves.
'Will he insist that Putin immediately turn over these Russians to be tried in the courts of the United States for their attacks against our nation? Or will President Trump continue to give Putin every conceivable gift – from lifting sanctions to blessing the illegal Crimea annexation to threatening the very foundations of NATO? And will he continue to demonize the United States law enforcement authorities who are battling against these Russian attacks?' he asked.
The GRU agents indicted Friday, Rosenstein said, used the alias 'Guccifer 2.0' and a website called 'DCleaks' to disseminate the stolen information, presenting them as fronts for American and Romanian hackers.
They corresponded with 'several Americans,' he said, but the DOJ is not alleging that any of them knew they were talking with Russian agents.
One, former longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone, has acknowledged communicating with the 'Guccifer 2.0' entity in private messages on Twitter, but has said consistently that he had no idea he was chatting with Russian agents.
Trump's political opponents have accused him of being part of a plot to release material on WikiLeaks, pointing to statements he made in August 2016 suggesting he knew in advance what would appear on the website.
Mueller's team is reportedly interested in whether Stone, his social media aide and his personal driver knew anything about hacked emails before they surfaced publicly.
The new indictment names Viktor Borisovich Netyksho, Boris Alekseyevich Antonov, Dmitriy Sergeyevich Badin, Ivan Sergeyevich Yermakov, Aleksey Viktorovich Lukashev, Sergey Aleksandrovich Morgachev, Nikolay Yuryevich Kozachek, Pavel Vyacheslavovich Yershov, Artem Andreyevich Malyshev, Aleksandr Vladimirovich Osadchuk, Aleksey Aleksandrovich Potemkin and Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev as defendants.
Mueller's team is reportedly interested in whether Stone, his social media aide and his personal driver knew anything about hacked emails before they surfaced publiclya.
'The Internet allows foreign adversaries to attack America in new and unexpected ways,' Rosenstein said.
'Free and fair elections are hard-fought and contentious, and there will always be adversaries who work to exacerbate domestic differences and try to confuse, divide, and conquer us.'
In a book scheduled for release this month, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer claims that the Department of Homeland Security privately told Trump and his advisers in October 2016 that Russia was incapable of manipulating the election, and asked the campaign to stop claiming it would be 'rigged.'