Earlier this year, US intelligence agencies concluded that the Russian government was behind the 2016 hack of Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails that many believe swayed the US election in favour of President Donald Trump. And now the US Justice Department is considering charges against at least six members of the Russian government over the hack.
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The Wall Street Journal, a newspaper that has come under fire recently for being biased in favour of President Trump, is reporting that the US Department of Justice has assembled enough evidence to charge the unnamed Russian officials. If the agency decides to charge them in the email hack, it likely wouldn't happen until next year. It's believe that "dozens" of people were involved in the hack, which was reportedly an order by Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.
There's no question at this point that Putin sought to influence the 2016 US presidential election in favour of Donald Trump to sow division and chaos in the country. And he certainly succeeded. But US intelligence agencies haven't yet provided names for who they believe was specifically behind the attack that used WikiLeaks as a dissemination method for the emails.
President Barack Obama imposed sanctions against Russia after the US election in the wake of the hack, but President Trump has been defiant. Trump has even dragged his feet on implementing new sanctions against Russia that were passed by Congress, allowing a crucial deadline to pass.
President Trump has previously cast doubt on whether the Kremlin was behind the DNC hacks, and right wing pundits such as Sean Hannity have peddled conspiracy theories about people such as former DNC staffer Seth Rich who was murdered in a robbery. People such as Hannity and Julian Assange have tried to get the American public to believe that Rich was actually murdered for being the source of the emails. There's no evidence that this is the case.
Robert Mueller's investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government is ongoing, but the first charges, announced on Tuesday, swept up some of the top people in Trump's orbit. Trump has denied collusion, but evidence made public so far points to at least a desire to collude, even if Trump's cronies weren't successful in doing it.
The question of whether the US Justice Department ultimately brings charges could become another constitutional crisis in the wake of the one that Trump already created by firing former FBI director James Comey. Will President Trump allow DOJ to bring charges against more than six Russian government officials? It seems unlikely, given everything else we know about this president.