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Queen Elizabeth Welcomes Trump; Muller Indicts 12 Russians; Rosenstein Announces Indictments. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 13, 2018 - 12:00   ET


[12:00:00] MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: She's there in the quadrangle of Buckingham Palace -- of Windsor Castle, rather. This is the private quarters of the castle where the public don't normally get even into see.

So the president will be welcomed. There's a guard of honor there. The national anthem for the United States will be played. And he will be invited to inspect the guard of honor. He can spend as much time as he likes doing that. But don't expect it to be terribly long. And then they'll go inside and they'll go in and have tea, Wolf.

So a big moment for the United Kingdom, but arguably also for the president of the United States because this is the 12th president of the United States that the queen will actually be meeting and greeting. Sometimes in America, sometimes here. But she's a huge historic figure. And we know that he's a big fan.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: He certainly is.

The -- this is a moment, though, a historic moment to be sure, but also a very symbolic moment, underscoring the nature of the U.S./U.K. relationship, right?

FOSTER: It really is because we've had, I have to say, you know, all my colleagues working in U.K. politics right now have had an absolutely torrid day. That article that appeared in "The Sun" today really through a bombshell through U.K. policy, the key policy, the Brexit policy that (INAUDIBLE) --

BLITZER: Hold on a moment. I want to listen -- I want to listen in -- Max, let's listen in, see if we can hear what's going on.



BLITZER: We're going to continue to watch this historic moment unfolding at Windsor Castle.

But right now there's other breaking news we need to get to right away. We'll continue to watch what's going on in England.

But Jake Tapper is with me. Jake, indictments filed just moments ago by the special counsel before

a grand jury. Robert Mueller, part of the Russia investigation, indictments filed against more Russians.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE LEAD": Yes, it's a remarkable turn of events. It comes just hours after President Trump referred to the Mueller probe, again, as a witch hunt, and just a few days before he meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The president has said he will bring up the election meddling of 2016, but he has not said it in a way that many Republicans on Capitol Hill wish it would be more aggressive. He has said it in terms of almost as if he's going to reluctantly bring it up and he's -- he said today he doesn't expect Putin to have -- he doesn't expect there to be a Perry Mason moment where Putin admits doing it.

[12:10:13] We should note, in terms of President Trump calling this a witch hunt, before these new indictments, these new ones of these Russian individuals, Mueller had already brought forward 79 criminal charges against 20 individuals and three companies resulting in five guilty pleas and one sentencing. So that's before this latest news of these individuals from Russia and these new indictments.

BLITZER: And the formal announcement was set to be made almost a half an hour or so ago. Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, is about to make the announcement. It's been delayed about 25 minutes so far. We're standing by for that.

Let's go to Evan Perez. He's over at the Justice Department.

Evan, you have some more details on these indictments.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf, 12 military members, members of the GRU, the military intelligence unit in Russia, are charged in this indictment that's been returned here in federal court in Washington. It says there are 11 counts, and most of them had to do with hacking offenses. According to the indictment, these people were responsible for hacking into the DNC, the DCCC, the Clinton campaign e-mail accounts, and then coordinating the release of embarrassing e-mails through websites like Guccifer and D.C. Leaks.

We expect the deputy attorney general to walk out here just any minute now. Here he comes. But, you know, obviously, the timing here with the president overseas is very, very unusual.

So, here we go.

BLITZER: Hold on, Evan. Let's listen in. The Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.


Today a grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment presented by the special counsel's office. The indictment charges 12 Russian military officers by name for conspiring to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. Eleven of the defendants are charges 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 12th 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 work for two units of the main intelligence directorate of the Russian general staff, known as the GRU. The unit's engaged in active cyber operations to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. There was one unit that 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 spear phishing, which involves sending misleading e-mail 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 key strokes, take screen shots, and exfiltrate (ph) or remove data from those computers. The defendants accessed e-mail 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 and planted hundreds of files containing malicious computer code and stole e-mails and other documents.

The conspirators created fictitious online personas, including D.C. Leaks and Guccifer 2.0, and they used those personas to release information, including thousands of stolen e-mails and other documents beginning in June of 2016. The defendants falsely claimed that D.C. Leaks 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 a 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.

[12:15:25] 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 officials responsible for administering elections, and they sent spear phishing e-mails to people involved in administering elections, including attaching malicious software.

The indictment includes 11 criminal allegations and a forfeiture allegation. Count one charges 11 defendants for conspiring to access computers without authorization and to damage those computers in connection with efforts to interfere with the presidential election. Counts two through nine charge those 11 defendants with aggravated identity theft by employing user names and passwords of victims in order to commit computer fraud. \

Count ten charges those 11 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 11 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's 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 on 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 Associate Deputy Attorney General Ed O'Callaghan is also with me. And he's been assisting in managing the special counsel investigation.

I want to caution you, the 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.

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. 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.

[12:20:13] 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.

A 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 commit 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: A 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?

ROSENSTEIN: The timing, as I mentioned, is a function of the collection of the facts, the evidence, and the law and a determine that it was sufficient to present the indictment at this time. As I mentioned, I did brief the president.

With regard to the nature of the investigation, I only comment on the evidence. 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 a pass through coordinated with these defendants to enhance the timing of the release and the impact on the election. Can you talk a little bit about what the evidence you have shows in that respect?

ROSENSTEIN: What I've talked about today is what is alleged in the indictment. We know that, according to the allegations of the indictment, the goal of the conspirators was to have an impact on 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 voter information was collected, is there any evidence that -- what the Russians did with that information? And is there any evidence of other states being successfully penetrated by the Russians?

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, of 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 deter 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 of this earlier this week. Did he indicate any -- his support for this action, and what was his reaction?

ROSENSTEIN: I'll let the president to 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.


BLITZER: A major announcement by the deputy attorney general of the United States, Rod Rosenstein. A grand jury here in Washington, D.C., Jake, has just indicted 12 Russian nationals, all members of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency, for interfering in and hacking the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.

TAPPER: Yes, it's stunning for a number of reasons. One of them is the timing, which Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein was quick to point out had to do with the grand jury's timing and not his own.

[12:25:08] But President Trump is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday in this major summit in Helsinki. Obviously, this is a big bombshell and going to be -- will need to be addressed with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But beyond that, first of all, you might remember, throughout the

campaign, and indeed up until this very day, President Trump has referred to the Russia investigation as a witch hunt, and he has cast doubt and said it's a joke, in fact, at one point, the idea that the Russians had hacked the Democratic National Committee or Hillary Clinton's campaign. And, according to his own Justice Department, it's not a joke. It's what happened, exactly. Rosenstein did not specifically refer to which third-party group it was, but it's very clear that WikiLeaks is one of the groups in addition to D.C. Leaks. And I'd like to read --

BLITZER: And Guccifer 2.0.

TAPPER: And Guccifer 2.0, whom we know Roger Stone, one of President Trump's confidant and a former advisers, official adviser, had communications with by his own admission.

I'd like to point out also, at one point, in the indictment it says that the conspirators, meaning these Russian military intelligence agents, posing as Guccifer 2.0, also communicated with U.S. persons about the release of stolen documents on or about August 15, 2016, the conspirators, posing at Guccifer 2.0 wrote to a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump. Thank you for writing back, do you find anything interesting in the documents I posted? That's a quote from it.

There is no allegation in this indictment against any individuals in this country. Although, it is very clear from what Rosenstein said that individuals, Americans were in contact with these Russian intelligence agents, although it's not clear whether or not they knew they were. And here we have a senior individual who was in contact with senior members of the Trump campaign.

BLITZER: And very significantly, not just the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Hillary Clinton campaign. He says that they also managed to penetrate state boards of election and maybe stealing sensitive information from 500,000 or so American voters.

TAPPER: And although he did also say that there's no evidence that any vote tallies were affected, this is chilling information, the idea that the Russian military intelligence agents was able to get voter data information.

Right now I want to bring in Evan Perez, who was at that Justice Department press conference.

Evan, it is a stunning set of indictments and clearly indicates that a lot of what the president and his administration have said about the hacks on Hillary Clinton's campaign and the DNC simply was not true.

PEREZ: That's right, Jake. The thing that the deputy attorney general kept stressing, you heard him saying it a couple of times, is that there's no proof here that any Americans knew that they were talking to or interacting with Russian intelligence agents. And he also stressed that, you know, he briefed the president. It was important for the president to know that this information was coming forward, what evidence they had.

Obviously, this is an investigation that's still ongoing. And, obviously, the attorney -- the deputy attorney general, who is the senior most person here at the Justice Department, who's overseeing this investigation that the president keeps calling a witch hunt and keeps accusing of essentially being rigged and wants it shut down, he is walking a fine line, trying to make sure he's defending the work of his prosecutors, people here at the Justice Department who are now going to be pursuing these charges against these 12 Russian military officers, while also the special counsel, just a few blocks away, continues its work trying to figure out who else might have been involved in this campaign, that according to the intelligence agencies, helped Donald Trump in his election and hurt Hillary Clinton in her campaign.

So, look, the deputy attorney general is walking a fine line in his announcements. You see -- you saw what he was trying to do today. But it's clear that they believe that the focus -- he certainly believes that the focus should be on the Russians and what the Russians were doing, the people who were -- who participated in the hacking, in whatever illegal activities were taking place during the 2016 election.

Obviously there's still a lot more that we do not know. We do not know whether there's any Americans who are still under investigation, who may yet face charges in the special counsel's investigation, which is now going on 14 months. Obviously that's something that very much is still hanging in the air, even after this press conference today.

BLITZER: Yes, the timing, once again, so, so significant on the eve of the president's meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on Monday. All of a sudden 12 Russian military officers, members of the GRU, their military intelligence agency, indicted by this grand jury.

I want to bring in our CNN legal analyst, former special assistant to Robert Mueller, Michael Zeldin.

Michael, give me your analysis.

[12:30:02] MICHAEL ZELDIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's part two of what was part one, the social media campaign. We saw in that indictment Mueller saying that the Russians, through the Internet research agency, interfered with the election. We were all