The office of Robert Mueller, the special counsel, announced Friday that 13 Russian nationals have been criminally charged for interfering in the 2016 presidential election to help Donald Trump’s campaign while damaging his opponents’ campaigns. Three Russian entities were also indicted, including an infamous government-backed “troll farm” called the Internet Research Agency, which repeatedly engaged in operations to interfere with elections and political processes.
“The United States of America, through its departments and agencies, regulates the activities of foreign individuals and entities in and affecting the United States in order to prevent, disclose, and counteract improper foreign influence on U.S. elections and on the U.S. political system,” the indictment read. “U.S. law bans foreign nationals from making certain expenditures or financial disbursements for the purpose of influencing federal elections. U.S. law also bars agents of any foreign entity from engaging in political activities within the United States without first registering with the Attorney General. And U.S. law requires certain foreign nationals seeking entry to the United States to obtain a visa by providing truthful and accurate information to the government.”
According to the indictment, most of the defendants worked at Internet Research Agency while intentionally conspiring with each other to defraud the U.S. by posing as Americans or using the stolen identities of real Americans in order to hijack their social media accounts and incite online turmoil. Starting in 2014, Yevgeniy Prigozhin allegedly assisted in financing these operations with funds from companies he controlled, including Concord Catering and Concord Management and Consulting.
The indictment also alleged, “Defendants posted derogatory information about a number of candidates, and by early to mid-2016, Defendants’ operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton. Defendants made various expenditures to carry out those activities, including buying political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities. Defendants also staged political rallies inside the United States, and while posing as U.S. grassroots entities and U.S. persons, and without revealing their Russian identities and organization affiliation, solicited and compensated real U.S. persons to promote or disparage candidates. 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.”
On Friday, Mikhail Ivanovich Bystrov, Mikhail Leonidovich Burchik, Aleksandra Yuryevna Krylova, Anna Vladislavovna Bogacheva, Sergey Pavlovich Polozov, Maria Anatolyevna Bovda, Robert Sergeyevich Bovda, Dzheykhun Nasimi Ogly, Vadim Vladimirovich Podkopaev, Gleb Igorevitch Vasilchenko, Irina Viktorovna Kaverzina, Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin, and Vladimir Venkov were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Three defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five defendants were charged with aggravated identity theft.
On Friday, Rep. Ted Lieu of California took to Twitter and wrote, “Dear @realDonaldTrump: The DOJ indicted 13 Russian nationals at the Internet Research Agency for violating federal criminal law to help your campaign and hurt other campaigns.
“Still think this Russia thing is a hoax and a witch hunt? Because a lot of witches just got indicted.”