By Miriam Raftery
February 16, 2018 (Washington D.C.) – It’s official: Russia actively worked to sabotage American democracy and put Donald Trump in the White House.
Today, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller released copies of indictments filed against 13 Russians and three Russian entities on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and other charges ranging from bank fraud to identity theft in their quest to violate laws that prohibit foreigners from spending money to influence U.S. elections. Read the full indictment here.
The indictment language is damning, documenting how the Russian organization Internet Research Agency plotted “information warfare against the U.S.” paid for in Russian rubles at a budget of $1.25 million a month.
Russians posing as Americans used social media to post positive information on Trump and negative information, much of it false, disparaging other candidates opposing Trump including Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton. They also organized pro-Trump and anti-Clinton marches and rallies in the U.S.
They were aided by at least 100 U.S. citizens and and communicated with members of the Trump campaign, the indictment makes clear, and funneled illegal contributions into electing Trump. At least some of those contacts were "unwitting."
The Russian operation began in 2014, shortly after Trump visited Russia for the Miss World competition, and by 2016 and narrowed its focus to blatantly supporting Trump and disparaging his general election rival, Hillary Clinton.
The Russian operatives formed fake organizations to deceive U.S. voters, such as “Army of Jesus,” “Secured Borders” and “Blacktivist,” the indictement states. They promoted a “March for Trump” and a “Down with Hillary” rallies. They created Twitter tags such as #Hillary4Prison and Facebook groups such as “Trumpsters United,” posting messages on social media such as “We cannot trust Hillary to take care of our veterans.”
These operatives visited at least eight states including California and were advised by an unnamed American in Texas to focus their efforts on battleground states such as Florida, Colorado and Virginia. They also actively worked to suppress minority turnout, the investigation revealed.
They also destroyed evidence to impede the investigation, the indictment states, and stole identities of Americans to set up false identities and bank accounts to fund their illegal operations.
The indictment papers also reveal that Mueller has cut a deal with one person on identity theft charges, likely to obtain information and testimony against other conspirators.
No Russians have been arrested and those charged may be overseas, but being wanted by the U.S. government will make it difficult for them to travel or conduct international business, the New York Times reports.
The recent indictments add fuel to the Mueller investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Previous indictments and guilty pleas have included Trump campaign and Trump administration officials.
Trump tweeted on the Russian indictments, “My campaign did nothing wrong, no collusion.”