indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers charged in connection with hacking the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign made it clear that the special counsel team led by Robert Mueller still has a few tricks up its sleeve.
Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, on Friday announced new charges stemming from the ongoing Department of Justice investigation led by Muller, into Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election.
Russia's Foreign Ministry is denouncing the United States' indictment of 12 alleged military intelligence agents accused of hacking into Democratic accounts in the 2016 USA elections.
Before Friday, 20 people and three companies had been charged in the Mueller investigation.
Defendants include four former Trump campaign and White House aides, three of whom have pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate, and 13 Russians accused in a powerful social media campaign to sway USA public opinion in 2016.
The unfolding drama on both sides of the Atlantic reflected how Trump's presidency has been overshadowed by the Mueller probe from its earliest moments and how the investigation frequently tramples the President's attempts to carve out favorable headlines. They released the indictment two days before Mr. Trump is to meet with Mr. Putin, raising the stakes for the meeting and implicitly pressuring Trump to speak directly to his Russian counterpart about the situation.
Three other people, all unnamed in the indictment, also received documents from the Russians: A congressional candidate, who contacted the spies seeking damaging information on an opponent; a lobbyist who got information on Democratic donors; and a reporter who co-ordinated with the Russians on putting out information about Black Lives Matter.
"The Russian state has never interfered and has no intention of interfering in the U.S. elections", Mr Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said.
Mr Rosenstein said the defendants corresponded with several Americans during the alleged conspiracy, but added there is no allegation that any USA citizen committed a crime. But with Mueller still investigating, it's not known whether further indictments are taking shape or will. The indictment says the Russians, posing as Guccifer 2.0, approached Organization 1 to offer them documents stolen from the DNC and transferred that data starting on July 14, 2016. "The Russian state has never interfered and has no intention of interfering in the USA elections", Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said Friday.
Hours before the Justice Department announcement, Trump complained anew that the special counsel's investigation is complicating his efforts to forge a better working relationship with Russian Federation.
"We do have a - a political problem where - you know in the United States we have this stupidity going on", he said. They plan to hold a one-on-one meeting in Helsinki. Indeed, an indictment that directly points to Russian President Vladimir Putin makes it much more hard for critics to dismiss Russia's culpability in election hacking as unproven.
"We have been extremely tough on Russia", Trump said.
After a press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday, Mr. Trump said he would address election meddling with Putin.