Special counsel Robert Mueller is assembling a case for criminal charges against Russians who carried out the hacking and leaking of private information designed to hurt Democrats in the 2016 election, multiple current and former government officials familiar with the matter told NBC News.
Much like the indictment Mueller filed last month charging a different group of Russians in a social media trolling and illegal-ad-buying scheme, the possible new charges are expected to rely heavily on secret intelligence gathered by the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security, several of the officials said.
Mueller's consideration of charges accusing Russians in the hacking case has not been reported previously. Sources say he has long had sufficient evidence to make a case, but strategic issues could dictate the timing. A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment.
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On Wednesday, NBC News reported that Mueller's team is asking witnesses pointed questions about whether President Donald Trump was aware that Democratic emails had been stolen before that was publicly known, and whether he was involved in their strategic release, according to multiple people familiar with the probe.
Trump has repeatedly denied collusion and has called the Mueller investigation a "witch hunt."