A Grand Jury convened by Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced 13 Russian nationals have been indicted for tampering with the U.S. political process during 2016 presidential election.
The 37-page indictment outlines in detail a Russian operation charged with influencing the 2016 US presidential election. It focuses on the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-linked Russian troll farm working out of St. Petersburg. Founder of Internet Research Agency (IRA) is Evgeny Prigozhin, a Russian Oligarch and shadowy businessman known as ‘Putin’s chef,’ is among the named defendants. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Prigozhin funded it through two other companies.
The indictment states IRA, “had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system.” By mid 2016, the IRA’s operations “included supporting the presidential campaign of then Donald J. Trump…and disparaging Hillary Clinton.”
Rosenstein detailed the charges in a press conference at the Justice Department. The indictment includes a list of social media ads that the Russians paid for – all containing anti-Clinton and pro-Trump messages.
• ‘Donald wants to defeat terrorism … Hillary wants to sponsor it,’ read one.
• ‘Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote,’ blared another.
• ‘Hillary is a Satan, and her crimes and lies had proved just how evil she is,’ read a third.
The Russians posed as Americans and some even assumed American identities using social security numbers, birth dates, etc.
In his press conference, Rodstien added, “This indictment serves as a reminder that people are not always who they appear to be on the internet.”
Here’s are a few of the key revelations about the IRA, its funders Concord Management and Concord Catering (also indicted), and the individuals associated with these entities:
- Some of the people indicted communicated with “unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign.”
- By September 2016, the monthly budget for the IRA’s operation was about $1.25 million.
- “Starting in or around June 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators, posing online as US persons, communicated with a real US person affiliated with a Texas-based grassroots organization.”
- This person told them to focus on “purple states”—Colorado, Virginia, and Florida—and also suggested that they “use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump—we support them).”
- One of the defendants emailed a family member in September 2017: “We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI busted our activity (not a joke). So, I got preoccupied with covering tracks together with the colleagues.”
Prior to Rosenstein’s press conference, the special counsel’s office released the following statement:
A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment on Feb. 16, 2018, against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities accused of violating U.S. criminal laws in order to interfere with U.S. elections and political processes. The indictment charges all of the defendants with conspiracy to defraud the United States, three defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five defendants with aggravated identity theft.