Special counsel Robert Mueller's report, released Thursday to the public in redacted form, cites substantial evidence showing Russian actors hacked Democratic email accounts and disseminated the thousands of stolen emails via WikiLeaks in 2016.
Thousands of emails were stolen by the Russians from Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and other Democratic staffers and associates.
The Mueller report said Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff, or GRU, stole these emails and then distributed them through two GRU-operated fronts — the DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 websites. Mueller further reports “the GRU units transferred many of the documents they stole from the DNC and the chairman of the Clinton Campaign to WikiLeaks.” DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 were the Russian conduits for communication with WikiLeaks, according to Mueller.
Mueller wrote “GRU officers used both the DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 personas to communicate with WikiLeaks through Twitter private messaging and through encrypted channels, including possibly through WikiLeaks's private communication system.”
WikiLeaks has consistently denied that the thousands of Democratic emails it released throughout the 2016 election came to them by way of Russia, even promoting the conspiracy theory that the emails were provided to them by the now-deceased DNC staffer Seth Rich.
But Mueller’s report lays out evidence WikiLeaks was working with Russian operatives.
“It is clear that the stolen DNC and Podesta documents were transferred from the GRU to WikiLeaks,” Mueller's report said.
Mueller claimed to have identified with specificity the “two military units of the GRU [which] carried out the computer intrusions into the Clinton campaign, DNC, and DCCC: Military Units 26165 and 74455.”
Mueller describes Unit 26165 as a “GRU cyber unit dedicated to targeting military, political, governmental, and non-governmental organizations outside of Russia, including in the United States.” Beginning in March 2016, Mueller said Unit 26165 had the “primary responsibility” of hacking Democratic accounts. This was done by sending hundreds of spearphising emails to accounts associated with the Democratic Party, including Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, which allowed them to gain access to and steal thousands of emails from these accounts. Unit 26165 also used malware and a variety of other cyberattack techniques to purloin these emails.
“Unit 26165 officers appear to have stolen thousands of emails and attachments, which were later released by WikiLeaks in July 2016,” Mueller’s report reads.
Aside from the cyber intrusions and stolen email dissemination carried out by Russia’s GRU, Mueller’s report described how Russian actors carried out another form of election interference through disinformation campaigns on social media. This was done through the Internet Research Agency, a Russian company that “conducted social media operations targeted at large U.S. audiences with the goal of sowing discord in the U.S. political system.”
Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies last year in connection with these disinformation operations. Barr said that these individuals also “remain at large.”
Mueller’s report did not find evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in its election interference efforts, but it did not reach a conclusion on whether the Trump team obstructed justice.
Mueller’s report seems to corroborate the conclusions reached by the U.S. intelligence community more than two years ago related to the culpability of the GRU in the hacking of the DNC and its providing of purloined emails to Wikileaks for dissemination.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released an intelligence assessment on Jan. 6, 2017, that said it had “high confidence that Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlets and relayed material to WikiLeaks.”