Mueller indicts 13 Russian nationals

By: coachemup!



 

Mueller charges 13 Russian nationals with interfering in 2016 election

'Some defendants, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign,' the indictment said.

By LOUIS NELSON

02/16/2018 01:03 PM EST

The office of special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday announced indictments against 13 Russian nationals and a trio of Russian entities on charges related to the Kremlin’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

The dramatic indictment reveals the Russian effort to disrupt the U.S. election was even bolder than previously known. It charges that some Russian nationals entered the U.S. and in some cases paid Americans to assist their alleged political sabotage.

The indictment charges, for instance, that Russians paid an American woman in Florida to dress up as Hillary Clinton in a prison uniform, and paid another American to build a cage large enough to hold her.

Charges in the indictment include conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. The indictment alleges that some of the defendants were in communication with President Donald Trump’s campaign, but not that Trump officials knowingly colluded with Russia.

“Some defendants, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities,” the indictment said.

The 37-page charging document also contains allegations that the two of the indicted Russians traveled to the U.S. in 2014, visiting Nevada, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Louisiana, Texas and New York “to gather intelligence” and that the duo had discussed “evacuation scenarios.”

The defendants also allegedly posed as Americans in online interactions with political and social activists, including one instance outlined by Mueller’s team in which they communicated with a “Texas-based grassroots organization” that advised the Russian nationals to direct their efforts toward “purple states like Colorado, Virginia and Florida.” The indictment alleges that the Russian nationals regularly began using the term “purple states” in subsequent planning.

Trump has denied accusations that his campaign colluded in any way with the Russian government.

The indictment from Mueller’s office also accuses the defendants of deleting emails, social media accounts and other evidence in the wake of media reports about Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.

The St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency has been at the center of the ongoing tensions between congressional investigators and Silicon Valley’s biggest social media companies over whether the tech industry has failed to do its part it fighting off Russian efforts to meddle in U.S. elections.

Ads and posts said to be placed by the IRA were, for example, on prominent display in heated Senate and House intelligence committee hearings in November that saw testimony from executives from Google, Facebook, and Twitter. And the companies have centered on the IRA in their responses to Congress: Twitter, for example, announced last month that they had identified some 3,1000 accounts linked to the ‘troll farm.’

But the indictment offers what is perhaps the first comprehensive roadmap of exactly how the IRA seems to have carried it its digital meddling, including the group’s organizational chart, staffing, and work flow, with divisions dedicated not only to creating compelling graphics but also mastering search-engine optimization, known in Silicon Valley as “SEO.”

The IRA, the indictment concludes, adopted digitally savvy techniques to shape the American political landscape, from assessing the reach of the social-media groups they might infiltrating, having supervisor’s check workers’ posts for authenticity, and using so-called virtual private networks to make it appear as if they were users logging into the targeted internet sites from within the United States.

 

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