- The Washington Times - Friday, March 2, 2018

Special counsel Robert Mueller is building a criminal case against Russians accused of hacking U.S. targets during the 2016 U.S. presidential race and leaking stolen information damaging to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, NBC News reported Thursday.

Mr. Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 election is expected to result in criminal charges being brought within the next weeks or months against suspected Russian hackers, multiple U.S. officials familiar with the probe told NBC News.

Separate from the indictment unsealed last month against Russians accused of using social media to spread misinformation during the 2016 race, the expected charges revolve around the computer intrusions and subsequent leaks endured by victims including the Democratic National Committee and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, NBC reported.

Hackers breached the DNC and Mr. Podesta’s personal email account, among other targets, and later leaked stolen emails and other sensitive data as part of a Kremlin-authorized attempt to meddle in the 2016 election, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Charges being considered by the special counsel’s office may include violations of election law as well as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the federal anti-hacking law typically used to prosecute accused cybercriminals, NBC reported.

A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment, the report said.

While U.S. officials have blamed Russia with the intrusions since 2016, authorities have failed so far to identify anyone by name accused of hacking either the DNC or Mr. Podesta. On the contrary, Mr. Mueller’s office last month unsealed criminal charges against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies accused of using bogus social media accounts to interfere in the 2016 race.

“The Kremlin has used hackers to steal personal communications that Russian operatives then parceled out in targeted leaks, and created fake social media personas and news items on all sides of controversial issues in the hope of stirring discord in the West,” Adm. Mike Rogers, the director of the National Security Administration, told the Senate Armed Forces Committee this week.

Previous reporting has indicated that Mr. Mueller’s office is investigating whether President Trump or members of his campaign had advance knowledge of any of the leaks linked to Russian operatives.

Russia has denied meddling in the 2016 race, and the White House has denied being in cahoots with the Kremlin.

The U.S. lacks an extradition agreement with Russia, meaning any individuals charged by Mr. Mueller’s office stand to avoid trial assuming they avoid traveling to the U.S. or its allies.

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