US Department of Justice finally released a much-anticipated report on Russian interference in the 2016 US election, prepared by special counsel Robert Mueller. The report also focuses on the role of US President Donald Trump in the interference process and answers the question of whether he has obstructed justice.
A part of the report explains, from the US perspective, how Russia interfered in the presidential elections. Mueller concludes that operatives used cryptocurrency and bitcoin in almost every stage of their efforts. Most notably, almost all hacking efforts were rewarded with payments in bitcoins. Moreover, bitcoin was used for payments of the other supporting websites and services involved in this operation.
Last July, Mueller charged 12 Russian military intelligence officers with computer attacks meant to undermine the US Democratic Party. That report, similarly to the latest one from Mueller, notes that attacks were financed with mining of bitcoins. The indictment notes that bitcoins were used to “buy servers, register Internet domains and make other payments”, while perpetrators used prepaid cards and peer-to-peer exchanges as well, all with an aim to mask their activities and hide behind the screen.
According to CNN, the US investigators managed to access some of the emails used to register on cryptocurrency wallets and exchanges. Some of the accounts were set up with false names, Mueller’s report notes. The report also notes that the UK-based cryptocurrency exchange CEX.io was used to store bitcoins in their wallets.
“Rather than having to search the blockchain for clues, they already had all of the receipts demonstrating which accounts were under the GRU’s [Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate] control,” claims Tim Cotten, a blockchain developer.
In general, Mueller’s report, around 400 pages long, says that it “does not conclude that the President committed a crime, [but] it also does not exonerate him. Special Counsel Mueller says that one of the reasons Trump failed to obstruct justice is the fact that others refused to “carry out orders”.