NBC News reported Thursday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller might be preparing to indict another group of Russians, this time for hacking and leaking private information designed to hurt Democrats during the 2016 campaign.
The story cites “multiple current and former government officials familiar with the matter,” and that “possible new charges are expected to rely heavily on secret intelligence gathered by the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.” NBC did not explain how former government officials know about a secret investigation involving the most secretive agencies of the U.S. government.
The information Mueller would rely on is solid, they reported, but the public may never see these indictments. Or they might occur without the public ever finding out.
“Sources say he has long had sufficient evidence to make a case, but strategic issues could dictate the timing,” wrote Ken Dilanian, William Arkin and Julia Ainsley. “One U.S. official briefed on the matter said the charges are not imminent, but other knowledgeable sources said they are expected in the next few weeks or months. It’s also possible Mueller could opt not to move forward because of concerns about exposing intelligence or other reasons – or that he files the indictment under seal, so the public doesn’t see it initially.”
The new indictments would “delve into the details of, and the people behind, the Russian intelligence operation that used hackers to penetrate computer networks and steal emails of both the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta,” NBC News wrote.
“The release of embarrassing Democratic emails through WikiLeaks became a prominent feature in the 2016 presidential election, cited at least 145 times by Republican candidate Donald Trump in the final month of the campaign. At one point he publicly urged Russia to find and release emails Trump believed were missing from Democrat Hillary Clinton’s private server.”
Trump was obviously making a joke at Clinton’s expense when he urged Russia to find and release her emails, and it was appropriate to point out their contents during a campaign.
It is far from established that a Russian intelligence operation – or any Russian operation at all – is responsible for the hacks. WikiLeaks, which published the emails, has claimed steadfastly that it did not obtain them from Russians, and Guccifer 2.0, a hacker reportedly from Romania, claims to have hacked the DNC emails and given them to Wikileaks and denies any connection to Russia.
“I read several reports, some experts found out that my proxy IP is hosted at a service that’s somehow connected with Russia and has a version in Russian as well as English,” Guccifer 2.0 wrote to a reporter. “This is their strong evidence,” he said, adding a smiling emoticon.
Some even said there was forensic evidence the emails were copied to a flash drive rather than transmitted over the Internet.
“Trump has done nothing to stop Russia from meddling in the 2018 midterms,” wrote Vox.
“NSA Director Testifies Trump Has So Far Refused to Protect American Democracy,” Slate wrote in a headline.
“It gives you a sense of the level of deception and disinformation coming from the Trump White House that simply stating or confirming what is largely public knowledge at this point is considered a refreshing act of truth-telling,” they wrote.
A Clinton spokesman told the AP that “Trump ‘won’t protect us.’”
“Time will tell us more, but Russia went to great lengths to undermine our democracy & the President won’t protect us,” Nick Merrill, the spokesman, tweeted. “No matter your politics, it’s un-American. We have an adversary that is laughing at us, who will act again.”