A federal grand jury on Friday indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies for allegedly interfering in the 2016 presidential elections, in a case brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that detailed a sophisticated plot to wage “data warfare” against the U.S.
The Russian nationals are accused of placing a “strategic goal to sow discord from the U.S. political system, such as the 2016 presidential elections. ”
The indictment — the first registered against Russian nationals as part of Mueller’s — efficiently returns attention to the meddling activities from Russia from the run-up to the 2016 election, after a string of charges relating to the activities of Trump partners.
Further, the DOJ made clear that the indictment doesn’t allege that the results of the race changed.
“there’s no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal action. There’s no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the results of the 2016 election,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the counsel probe, said in a Friday press conference.
President Trump responded by seizing on Rosenstein’s remark that the election results weren’t impacted by the Russians’ action.
“Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I declared that I’d run for President,” Trump tweeted. “The outcome of the election weren’t impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”
The indictment said the actions detailed by prosecutors back to 2014.
The defendants are accused of spreading derogatory information regarding Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, denigrating Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz to candidates — and encouraging then-Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.
“There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the results of the 2016 election. ”
It says the defendants by & ldquo; early to mid-2016 & rdquo; supported Trump & rsquo campaign and spread information that is derogatory about different candidates.
Rosenstein said that the team worked to his election and also in resistance to stage rallies in favour of President-elect Trump.
A performance was explained by rosenstein on Friday . He said the strategy involved setting up hundreds of social media reports using false or stolen identities to make it look as the accounts were controlled by individuals in the U.S.. He explained the defendants recruited & ldquo; rdquo & real Americans; take part in activities and to stage rallies and posed as politically active Americans.
But Rosenstein said those Americans did not know they communicated with Russians.
“We’ve understood that Russians meddled in the election, however, those indictments detail the degree of the subterfuge,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said. “All these Russians engaged in a systematic and menacing assault on our governmental system. It was a conspiracy to subvert the procedure, and also take aim at democracy itself. ”
By continuing to suggest that individuals correlated with his campaign or Trump might have been involved in Russia’s meddling democrats on Capitol Hill responded.
“It is imperative that the Special Counsel investigation be allowed to continue to follow along with the facts on the Trump-Russia scandal, unhindered by the White House or Republicans in Congress,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “The American men and women have to know the scope of rsquo & Russia;s hindrance in our election and also the participation of Trump officials. ”
As he left the White House for Florida on Friday afternoon, the president ignored shouted questions.
But in a statement released by the White House, ” Trump saidldquo;We cannot permit those seeking to sow confusion, discord, and rancor to be successful.”
“It’s time we stop the eccentric partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and interrogate notions, which merely serve to further the agendas of both evil actors, like Russia, and do nothing to safeguard the fundamentals of our institutions,” he explained. “We have to unite as Americans to safeguard the integrity of our democracy and our elections. ”
According to the counsel, the indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy to defraud the United States to commit bank fraud and wire fraud along with five defendants with identity theft.
The three entities are Internet Research Agency LLC, Concord Management and Consulting LLC and Concord Catering.
The 13 Russians charged are: Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin; Mikhail Ivanovich Bystrov; Mikhail Leonidovich Burchik; Aleksandra Yuryevna Krylova; Anna Vladislavovna Bogacheva; Sergey Pavlovich Polozov; Maria Anatolyrvna Bovda; Robert Sergetevich Bovda; Dzheykhun Nasimi Ogly; Vadim Vladimirovich Podkopaev; Gleb Igorevich Vasilchenko; Irina Viktorovna Kaverzina and Vladimir Venkov.
Internet Research Agency registered as a corporate entity in 2013 with the government is said by the indictment. It used hundreds of individuals for its online operations and had an annual budget equaling countless U.S. bucks, the filing said.
Prosecutors accuse the Russians of communicating with an actual U.S. person connected with a Texas-based grassroots organization. They learned from this individual to concentrate their activities on “purple states like Colorado, Virginia and Florida,” the indictment says.
It says the group&rsquo workers — known as “rdquo & experts; — created media reports to seem like Americans worked them. They created group pages on Facebook and Instagram with names like “Secured Borders,” “Blacktivist” (to promote the Black Lives Matter movement), “United Muslims of America,” “Army of Jesus,” “South United” and “Heart of Texas. ”
Numerous Twitter accounts were also created and controlled by them, like one named “Tennessee GOP&rdquo.
According to the indictment, the experts were educated to post content online that criticized “Hillary and the remainder (except Sanders and Trump — we support them).”
It said they used pro-Trump, anti-Clinton hashtags online like “#Trump2016,” “#TrumpTrain,” “#MAGA,” “#IWontProtectHillary,” and “Hillary4Prison. ”
It says the defendants, about the latter half 2016, encouraged minority groups not to vote in the election or vote for a third party candidate. An Instagram account they controlled called “Woke Blacks” posted a message on Oct. 16, 2016 that read: “We cannot resort to the lesser of two devils. Then rsquo & we;d surely be better off without voting AT ALL. ”
The special counselor’s office also said Friday that an American, Richard Pinedo, 28, of Santa Paula, Calif., pleaded guilty Feb. 12 to identity fraud as part of its investigation. An filing from prosecutors said Pinedo sold bank account numbers.
Fox News’ Jake Gibson contributed to this report.
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