Rod Rosenstein

Press Statement Announcing Indictment of 12 Russian Officers for U.S. Election Interference Conspiracy

delivered 13 July 2018, Washington, D.C.

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[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Good afternoon.

Today, a federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment presented by the Special Counsel’s Office. The indictment charges twelve Russian military officers by name for conspiring to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

Eleven of the defendants are charged with conspiring to hack into computers, steal documents, and release those documents with the intent to interfere in the election.

One of those defendants, and a twelfth Russian military officer, are charged with conspiring to infiltrate computers of organizations involved in administering elections, including state boards of election, secretaries of state, and companies that supply software used to administer elections.

According to the allegations in the indictment, the defendants worked for two units of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian General Staff, known as the GRU. The units engaged in active cyber operations to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. There was one [GRU unit] engaged in active cyber operations by stealing information, and a different unit that was responsible for disseminating the stolen information.

The defendants used two techniques to steal information. First, they used a scheme known as “spearphishing,” which involves sending misleading email messages and tricking the users into disclosing their passwords and security information. Second, the defendants hacked into computer networks and installed malicious software that allowed them to spy on users and capture keystrokes, take screenshots, and exfiltrate or remove data from those computers.

The defendants accessed email accounts of volunteers and employees of a U.S. presidential campaign, including the campaign chairman, starting in March of 2016. They also hacked into the computer networks of a congressional campaign committee and a national political committee. The defendants covertly monitored the computers, implanted hundreds of files containing malicious computer code, and stole emails and other documents.

The conspirators created fictitious online personas, including “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer 2.0,” and they used those personas to release information, thousands of stolen emails and other documents, beginning in June of 2016. The defendants falsely claimed that DCLeaks was a group of American hackers and that Guccifer 2.0 was a lone Romanian hacker. In fact, both were created and controlled by the Russian GRU.

In addition to releasing documents directly to the public, the defendants transferred stolen documents to another organization, that is not identified by name in the indictment, and they used that organization as as pass-through to release the documents. They discussed the timing of the release in an attempt to enhance the impact on the election.

In an effort to conceal their connections to Russia, the defendants used a network of computers around the world, and they paid for it using cryptocurrencies.

The conspirators corresponded with several Americans during the course of the conspiracy through the internet. There's no allegation in this indictment that the Americans knew they were corresponding with Russian intelligence officers.

In a second, related conspiracy, Russian GRU officers hacked the website of a state election board and stole information about 500,000 voters. They also hacked into computers of a company that supplied software used to verify voter registration information; they targeted state and local offices responsible for administering elections; and they sent spearphishing emails to people involved in administering elections, including attaching malicious software.

The indictment includes eleven criminal allegations and a forfeiture allegation.

Count One charges eleven defendants for conspiring to access computers without authorization, and to damage to those computers, in connection with efforts to interfere with the presidential election.

Counts Two through Nine charge those eleven defendants with aggravated identity theft by employing the usernames and passwords of victims in order to commit computer fraud.

Count Ten charges those eleven defendants with money laundering for transferring cryptocurrencies through a web of transactions in order to purchase computer servers, register domains, and make other payments in furtherance of their hacking activities, while trying to conceal their connections to Russia.

Count Eleven charges two defendants for a separate conspiracy to access computers without authorization, and to damage those computers, in connection with efforts to infiltrate computers used to administer elections.

Finally, the indictment seeks the forfeiture of property involved in the criminal activity.

There is no allegation in this indictment that any American citizen committed a crime. There's no allegation that the conspiracy changed the vote count or affected any election result.

The Special Counsel's investigation is ongoing, and there will be no comments by the Special Counsel at this time.

Assistant Attorney General John Demers is here with me today because we intend to transition responsibility for this indictment to the Justice Department's National Security Division while we await the apprehension of the defendants.

Principal Deputy Associate General Ed O'Callaghan is also with me and he's been assisting in managing the Special Counsel investigation.

I want to caution you that people who speculate about federal investigations usually do not know all of the relevant facts. We do not try cases on television or in congressional hearings. Most anonymous leaks are not from the government officials who are actually conducting these investigations.

We follow the rule of law, which means that we follow procedures and we reserve judgment. We complete our investigations and we evaluate all of the relevant evidence before we reach any conclusion. That is how the American people expect their Department of Justice to operate; and that is how our Department is going to operate.1

In our justice system, everyone who's charged with a crime is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. It should go without saying that people who are not charged with a crime also are presumed innocent.

The indictment was returned today because prosecutors determined that the evidence was sufficient to present these allegations to a federal grand jury. Our analysis is based solely on the facts, the law, and Department of Justice policies.

I briefed President Trump about these allegations earlier this week. The President is fully aware of the Department's actions today.

Now, in my remarks I have not identified the victims. When we confront foreign interference in American elections, it's important for us to avoid thinking politically as Republicans or Democrats and instead to think patriotically as Americans. Our response must not depend on which side was victimized.

The Internet allows foreign adversaries to attack America in new and unexpected ways. Free and fair elections are always hard-fought and contentious. There will always be adversaries who seek to exacerbate our divisions and try to confuse, divide, and conquer us. So long as we are united in our commitment to the values enshrined in the Constitution, they will not succeed.

The partisan warfare fueled by modern technology does not fairly reflect the grace, dignity, and unity of the American people.

The blame for election interference belongs to the criminals who committed election interference. We need to work together to hold the perpetrators accountable. And we need to keep moving forward to preserve our values, protect against future interference, and defend America.

I have time to take a few questions.


Question: [Deputy Attorney] General Rosenstein, quick question for you, sir. Number one, the timing today on the eve of the President's meeting with Putin -- can you talk about that? And also, just today the President described the Mueller investigation as a "witch hunt." Your response?

DAG Rosenstein:  The timing, as I mentioned, is a function of the collection of the facts, the evidence, and the law, and a determination that it was sufficient to present the indictment at this time. As I mentioned, I did brief the President. With regard to that nature of the investigation, I only comment on the evidence. And the evidence that reflects -- is reflected in our indictments and in our charges represents a determination by prosecutors and agents, without regard to politics, that we believe the evidence is sufficient to justify the charges.

Question: Yes, Deputy Attorney General, I know you've talked about the fact that, in your view, the evidence doesn't show any votes were changed as a result of this hacking. But you did say that a company used as pass-through coordinated with these defendants to enhance the timing of the release and the impact on the election. Can you talk a little about the evidence you have shows in that respect? 

DAG Rosenstein: So what I've talked about today is what is alleged in the indictment. We know that, according to the allegations in the indictment, the goal of the conspirators was to have an impact in the elections. What impact they may have had or what their motivation may have been independently of what's required [to] prove this offense is a matter of speculation. That's not our responsibility. What I said is there's no allegation in the indictment about it and that's not our charge.  

Question: In terms of the state election information, you said about 500,000 voters' information was collected. Is their any evidence that -- about what the Russians did with that information? And is there any evidence of other states being successfully penetrated by the Russians?

DAG Rosenstein: I think that it's important for you to understand what I've told you are the allegations that are included in the indictment. The FBI and other Intelligence Community agencies are working constantly to defend against cyberattacks in the United States. This case is just about one particular effort that was made during the 2016 election. The efforts of our Department, the Department of Homeland Security, of other federal agencies, and of all of the state election boards throughout the country are ongoing. And those efforts preceded this indictment; and they're going to postdate this indictment. So we have continued to share any relevant intelligence with all of our partners. It would take a longer time to talk about this but there is a concerted and organized effort by the federal government to make sure that we do detour and prevent any sort of cyberattacks on our elections, and that we harden our election systems to prevent against any kind of intrusions.  

Question: Deputy Attorney General, you mentioned that you briefed President Trump on this earlier this week. Did he indicate any -- his support for this action? And what was his reaction?

DAG Rosenstein: I'll let the President speak for himself. Obviously it was important for the President to know what information we've uncovered because he's got to make very important decisions for the country. So he needs to understand what evidence we have of foreign election interference. Thank you very much.

Question: You said that you were hoping the -- Who ordered the attack?

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