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Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller indicts 13 Russians, 3 entities with meddling in 2016 Presidential election

February 16, 2018  |  Posted by: Michael Falzarano
Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller indicts 13 Russians, 3 entities with meddling in 2016 Presidential election

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13 Russian nationals indicted by Robert Mueller for interfering in US elections

The office of special counsel Robert Mueller unsealed an indictment Friday charging thirteen Russians and three Russian business entities Friday with an elaborate plot to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Prosecutors say the co-conspirators of using propaganda posted on social media aimed at helping Republican Donald Trump and harming the prospects of Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent.

The actions by special prosecutor Robert Mueller outlines the most direct allegation to date of illegal Russian meddling during the election.

The indictment accuses the Russian suspects of creating sham Internet postings, acting as American political activists and fraudulently purchased advertisements — all with the purpose of influencing political opinion during the harshly contested race.

Internet Research Agency Indictment by Gersh Kuntzman on Scribd

The indictment says the intent of the interference, was aimed at “sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 presidential election.”

Friday’s actions stem from Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the election and whether there was improper communication between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

The charges echo the assessment reached by U.S. intelligence community, which concluded following the election that there was a deliberate effort by the Russian government effort to interfere in the election on behalf of President Trump.

Court documents indicate that by early-to-mid 2016, efforts “included” supporting Trump’s campaign and deride Hillary Clinton.

The charges say that Russians also communicated with “unwitting individuals” associated with the Trump campaign and other political activists to coordinate activities, The Associated Press reported.

Trump himself has been reluctant to acknowledge the meddling. His spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said Friday that Trump had been briefed on the indictment but there was no other immediate comment.

The charges are the latest allegations arising from Mueller’s probe and represent the first criminal case against Russians. Before Friday, four people, including Trump’s former national security adviser and former campaign chairman, had been charged.

According to the indictment, the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm, started interfering as early as 2014 in U.S. politics, extending to the 2016 presidential election. The defendants, “posing as U.S. persons and creating false U.S. personas,” operated social media groups designed to attract U.S. audiences by stealing U.S. identities and falsely claiming to be U.S. activists.

“Over time, these social media accounts became defendants’ means to reach significant numbers of Americans for purposes of interfering with the U.S. political system,” the indictment reads.

The defendants are charged with conspiring “to obstruct the lawful functions of the United States government through fraud and deceit,” including by making expenditures in connection with the 2016 election, failing to register as foreign agents carrying out political activities and obtaining visas through false and fraudulent statements.

Some of the Russians traveled to the United States “under false pretenses” to collect intelligence, and they also used computer infrastructure based partly in the United States to hide the Russian origins of their work.

The indictment says the Internet Research Agency was funded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a St. Petersburg businessman dubbed “Putin’s chef” because his restaurants and catering businesses once hosted the Kremlin leader’s dinners with foreign dignitaries. It was also funded by companies he controlled, according to the indictment.


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