Russian intelligence officers indicted for hacking into DNC, Clinton campaign

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media captionFBI's Peter Strzok Anti Trump bias claims'deeply destructive

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionFBI's Peter Strzok Anti Trump bias claims'deeply destructive

A dozen Russian intelligence officers have been charged with conspiring to hack Democrats during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to a new indictment in the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller.

A federal grand jury has indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking offences related to the 2016 presidential election, the Justice Department announced on Friday.

Eleven of the 12 Russian operatives are charged with either hacking into or "spearphishing" (sending emails to trick people into providing passwords) the computer networks of Democratic Party officials; spying on network activity and collecting information; and creating fictional personas to spread the information and hide that the source was actually Russian officials with military intelligence agency GRU.

"The Russian state has never interfered and has no intention of interfering in the USA elections", said Russian President Vladimir Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov.

Probe led by U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for efforts to hack Democratic computer networks.

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The charges come just three days before US President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

Rosenstein said "the conspirators corresponded with several Americans during the course of the conspiracy through the internet".

Mr. Rosenstein said the hackers used spear phishing scams and malware to steal emails of Mr. Podesta and other campaign operatives, then injected it into the 2016 political campaign.

"In my remarks, I have not identified the victims", Rosenstein said.

All three worked out plea deals and have pledged to cooperate with the investigation.

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The indictment connects the officers directly to the Russian government, saying they acted in their "official capacity". Trump has called the Mueller investigation a "witch hunt".

The hackers also created false online personas, known as DC Leaks and Guccifer 2.0, to try to disguise the Russian origins of their work, Rosenstein said.

This is all the U.S. Justice Department said in the announcement of the surprise press conference: "Today at 11:45AM ET: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will hold a press conference for a law enforcement announcement".

If the involvement of the GRU officers in the hacking effort is proved, it will shatter the Kremlin denials of the Russian state's involvement in the USA elections. Presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani on Friday tweeted that the indictments are good news - Russians have been nailed, no Americans are involved, and it's time for Mueller to wrap up his "pursuit of the President". Instead it focused on the fact that no Trump campaign officials or Americans were implicated in the new indictment. Rosenstein said there was no evidence that the Americans were aware that they were corresponding with Russian intelligence officers. Although the name of that organization was not named in the indictment, it is widely believed to be Wikileaks.

The inquiry is looking into U.S. intelligence findings if the Russians conspired to favour the election in Trump's victory, and whether any of his campaign associated were involved in the conspiracy.

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