The United States Grand Jury’s special councilman, Robert Mueller, has officially charged 12 Russian military intelligence officers with conducting a “large-scale cyber operations to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” This indictment provides in-depth descriptions of the tactics used to perform the alleged Russian cyber attacks against a range of U.S. political targets.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein spoke on the issue at a Washington press conference on July 13. Rosenstein asserted that the spies gathered intel through two primary methods. The first method, called spear-phishing, is a method in which hackers tricked users into revealing their passwords, credit card data and security information. The second method included the intelligence officers hacking into computer networks, and installing malicious software that allowed them to spy on users in order to gather data.
The cyber-attacks began in 2015 when the FBI contacted the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) helpdesk to notify the I.T. department that Russian intelligence officers were successfully hacking their systems. Later in 2016, the Clinton campaign was compromised when Clinton campaign chairman, John Podesta, received a spear-phishing email from Google, notifying him that his account has been compromised. In an effort to re-secure his account, he created a new password, unknowingly giving Russian hackers insight to his personal information.
On June 15, 2016, current U.S. President Donald Trump released a statement on the allegations that he had been working with Russian military intelligence to exhaust the Clinton campaign. According to a statement Trump gave CNN, he suggested that the DNC hacked itself to distract from Clinton’s email scandal and deferred all responsibility from himself and the main military foreign-intelligence service of the Russian Federation.
Though Trump has denied any and all allegations of Russia’s involvement in the aforementioned cyber-attacks since the 2016 election began, he announced that he will be confronting President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia directly, but did not expect Putin to respond to the allegations.
“I don’t think you’ll have any, ‘Gee, I did it, you got me,” President Trump ensured, during a news conference held before the indictment had been announced. Trump claimed to believe that allegations of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election were devised merely to create a divide between Trump and Putin, rather than to seek justice and truth.
During a Friday news conference announcing the indictment, Ronstein stated, “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. So long as we are united in our commitment to the shared values enshrined in the Constitution, they will not succeed.”
Following the indictment, many people, including Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, called on President Trump to cancel his meeting with Putin.
“Further proof of what everyone but the president seems to understand: President Putin is an adversary who interfered in our elections to help President Trump win,” Schumer said in a statement following the indictment announcement. He followed up by adding that, “…glad-handing with Vladimir Putin would be an insult to our democracy.”
Despite controversy over the one-on-one meeting with Putin, President Trump decided to follow through with his prior arrangement and met with Putin just days after the indictment. During a press conference at the meeting, Trump supported Putin and Russia.
“I will say this,” Trump said. “I don’t see any reason why it would be.”
After the controversy erupted, Trump doubled backed on his statement, claiming that it was a “double negative” and that he misspoke. Following their meeting, rumors surfaced of a fall meeting between Trump and Putin, which President Trump confirmed when he tweeted, “I look forward to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed.”