BY: TANNER KENNEY
At 12:05pm EST on Friday, July 13th, 2018, United States Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced that a grand jury had returned a bevy of indictments issued by Special Counsel Robert Mueller III charging 12 Russians military intelligence officers with meddling in the 2016 elections. More specifically, the indictments allege that the Russian agents are primarily responsible for hacking the email servers of the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
Speaking at the Department of Justice, DAG Rosenstein stated that these individuals are also alleged to have conspired to release potentially harmful information contained on those servers. Within the emails contained, therein, via intermediaries utilizing the false identity of Guccifer 2.0 – an individual hacker claiming to be unaffiliated with the Russian government – attempted to damage the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton and benefit then-candidate Donald Trump’s bid for the White House.
In the documents, Special Counsel Mueller’s team outlined the role of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff (GRU) in illegally accessing the information possessed by numerous individuals and organizations associated with both campaigns. More worryingly, the GRU also targeted the election offices of all 50 American states in addition to the companies that provide(d) software and/or support to facilitate elections throughout the U.S.
While the indictments allege no knowledge of meddling on the part of American citizens, the complaint is the first to directly implicate the Russian government. It details the information-gathering and disinformation-spreading campaigns created by the GRU to utilize social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter in order to sew discord amongst the American populous whilst casting doubt on the legitimacy of American democratic processes.
A primary target of the attacks was John Podesta, formerly the Chairman of the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign, in addition to several others. And perhaps most interesting about these indictments are their timing – not only did their announcement come just days before President Trump is scheduled to meet one-on-one with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, the initial attack against the Clinton Campaign detailed in the grand jury’s returned complaint took place mere hours after Trump begged the Russian government to do just that.
Moreover, Rosenstein told reporters gathered at the Department of Justice today that he had informed President Trump of the then-unannounced indictments earlier in the week, bringing into question the validity of Trump’s claim that Mueller is leading a “witch hunt[.]” And since the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections began, political advisor Roger Stone’s name has arisen on numerous occasions, including his discussions with Guccifer 2.0 and Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, regarding the very same subject. For his role in the investigation, Stone claims these conversations were “benign[.]”
In political circles, the reaction to Mueller’s allegations has been swift and strong, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calling on President Trump to cancel his meeting with Putin immediately. In response to the allegations, foreign affairs advisor Yuri Ushakov stated the Russian government “has never interfered and has no intention of interfering in the U.S. elections[.]”
However, and as the de-facto leader of the Russia investigation, Rosenstein urged caution, moving forward, and requested that all Americans assess the indictments with clear, unbiased minds, unfettered by partisan political beliefs, in order to fully understand the scope of Russian meddling in order to secure our nation’s democracy.
Tanner Kenney is an energy and media professional with a background in journalism and received his M.S. in Global Affairs, Environment & Energy Policy from NYU’s Center for Global Affairs. Recently, Tanner has focused on the advocacy of sustainable development through renewable energy technologies, transportation efficiency, and inclusive public policy.
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