WASHINGTON • Sen. Roy Blunt said Friday that the Department of Justice's indictment of 12 Russian operatives for meddling in the United States elections should be no surprise, since "it's no secret that Russia has a history of interfering in elections."
Blunt, R-Mo., is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee that has been conducting its own, largely secret, investigation into potential Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
"We're looking at everything that needs to be looked at to reach a conclusion," Blunt said, adding: "I'll be interested in looking at these indictments to see what more we can learn about Russia's activities."
The indictment of the dozen alleged hackers were announced Friday morning by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is often criticized by President Donald Trump for his role in establishing the independent investigation of Robert Mueller.
Those indicted are accused of hacking computer systems at the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the campaign of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and then posting them on the internet as the 2016 campaign between Trump and Clinton raged.
Trump sparked a political firestorm July 27, 2016 when he encouraged Russian operatives to release purloined Clinton emails.
“I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said at a news conference in Florida. “I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
The indictments were announced Friday by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein as part of the ongoing special counsel probe into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Democrats downplayed the indictments, saying it's unlikely any of those charged will ever face prosecution because they are not in the United States and are unlikely to ever travel here.
"That's just telling 12 people they can't go to Disneyland," Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told FOX News.
Trump's White House tried to distance his 2016 campaign from the indictments.
"Today’s charges include no allegations of knowing involvement by anyone on the campaign and no allegations that the alleged hacking affected the election result," White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said. "This is consistent with what we have been saying all along.”