Russian officials began to target email addresses associated with Hillary Clinton’s personal and campaign offices “on or around” the same day Donald Trump called on Russia to find emails that were missing from her personal server, according to a new indictment from Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing, I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press,” Trump said in a July 27, 2016 news conference.
On or around that day, according to the indictment, which was announced Friday, Russian actors sent phishing emails to accounts at a domain used by Clinton’s personal office. They also targeted 76 email addresses on the domain used by the Clinton campaign, though the exact timing of both of those efforts is unclear.
Earlier that month, the FBI announced it would not recommend charges against Clinton for her use of a personal email server during her time as secretary of state. Clinton sent about 60,000 emails during her time in the Obama administration, but the FBI did not have access to all of them; her staff deleted about half because they were private. The “missing emails” became a frequent point of attack for Trump and Republicans in the runup to the 2016 election.
After the July, 2016 news conference, critics slammed Trump for apparently encouraging foreign actors to steal information from his opponent. “This has gone from being a matter of curiosity and a matter of politics to being a national security issue,” the Clinton campaign said in a statement after Trump’s remarks.
A senior Trump campaign adviser later told CNBC that Trump “wasn’t calling on anyone to intervene, but instead was pushing anyone who has them to hand them over to authorities.”
Mueller’s indictment details a sophisticated, large-scale hacking effort by 12 Russian officers to interfere with the 2016 elections by stealing documents from private servers and staging their release through fake online personas, such as Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks.
In all, the Russian officials and their co-conspirators targeted more than 300 people associated with the Clinton campaign and other Democratic Party organizations starting in March 2016, the indictment says.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said no Americans knew they were communicating with Russians in this indictment and he had no evidence that the outcome of the election was affected.
Rosenstein said he briefed Trump on the latest indictment earlier this week, as the president embarked on a European tour that included the NATO summit, a visit to the UK and an upcoming meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who Trump said was not his enemy, but his “competitor.” Trump said Friday before the indictment was released that he planned to ask Putin about Russia’s election interference. But Trump also doubled down on his characterization of Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt” that hurts America’s relationship with Russia.
Before Friday’s indictment, Mueller’s team had charged 20 individuals and three companies as part of its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible ties to Trump’s campaign.