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US identifies Russian officials behind election hack, report says

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Justice Department knows of at least six Russian government officials involved with hacking the DNC.

Aaron Robinson/CNET

The investigation into Russian meddling has gotten closer to finding the culprits behind a critical hack during the 2016 presidential election.

Justice Department officials have compiled evidence against at least six Russian government officials believed to be responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee's computers, the Wall Street Journal reported.  

Nearly a year after Donald Trump won the presidential election, digital interference from Russia still looms over the White House and Silicon Valley. Just this week, Facebook, Google and Twitter sat through three rounds of heated questions from Congress as lawmakers look into how Russians abused social media to spread propaganda. In May, then-FBI director James Comey warned Congress that Russia would hack the US again in future elections. If Russian government officials are indicted, it'll be the first names tied to the hacks.

A case could be filed as soon as next year, according to the report. The Department of Justice did not respond to a request for comment.

But even if the hackers are charged, it's unlikely the Russian officials will ever see the insides of a US courtroom. Russia protects its hackers from extradition to the US, like the two Russian spies who were charged in connection with a 2014 hack on Yahoo.

A formal indictment from the Justice Department against Russian hackers would go directly against theories from both President Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin about who was behind the election cyberattack. More than 100 days after his inauguration, Trump suggested, even after multiple classified briefings, that it could have been China behind the hacks. As recently as June, he denied Russian involvement in hacking the DNC, calling it a hoax.

Rep. Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California, called out the president's denial, and said it was a potential "obstruction of justice."

"We now publicly know Trump was lying when he said a country other than Russian or a 400 lb hacker in bed attacked the US," Lieu said in a statement. "The Kremlin hacked America last year, and will continue to do so."

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