"He's been very nice to me the times I've met him", Trump said of Putin at an impromptu news conference Thursday after the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit.
CNN's Russia investigation reporter Marshall Cohen said, by CNN's count, that Mueller has filed "191 criminal charges against 35 defendants", including "112 new charges brought today against a dozen Russian operatives for hacking". 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.
Roger Stone, a longtime ally of President Donald Trump, has previously acknowledged he communicated with a Twitter persona known as Guccifer 2.0, but has said the interactions were limited and entirely benign.
A Justice Department news release said that officers of Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU, "in their official capacities engaged in a sustained effort to hack into the computer networks of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee and the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton and released that information on the internet under the names DCLeaks and Gufficer 2.0".
Evidence of this includes the mention of state election boards and other non-federal institutions in the document, and its scope, which in essence is a legal attempt to hold the Russian state accountable for wide-ranging intelligence activities.
The indictment says the Russians used "spearphishing" - a technique used to steal passwords or otherwise gain access to computers - throughout the summer of 2016 to hack individuals associated with the Clinton campaign.
"It was important for the president to know what information we've uncovered because he's got to make very important decisions for the country", Rosenstein said. That put Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in charge, and he promptly appointed former FBI Director Mueller as special counsel.
Thirty-two people have so far been indicted as part of the probe into election interference, which started months after Trump's inauguration in January 2017 and repeatedly described by the president as a "witch-hunt". By the time Trump made his speech, the Russians had already successfully hacked the emails of John Podesta, the campaign chairman. One of those 11, along with a twelfth Russian officer, are charged with conspiring to infiltrate computers of organizations responsible for administering elections, including state boards of election, secretaries of state, and companies that supply software and other technology used to administer elections.
Meanwhile, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein called for a unified approach to countering foreign meddling.
"Free and fair elections are hard-fought and contentious, and there will always be adversaries who work to exacerbate domestic differences and try to confuse, divide and conquer us", Rosenstein said in the release.
The charges include conspiracy to commit an offense against the US, aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to launder money. The indictment adds county offices - specifically in Georgia, Florida and Iowa - to the list of election administration sites they allegedly visited "to identify vulnerabilities".