President Trump can no longer claim that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a hoax after Friday’s indictments against 13 Russians.
On Friday, a grand jury convened by Special Counsel Robert Mueller — who is heading the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign — indicted the Internet Research Agency, 13 Russians working for the company, and organizational co-conspirators for various crimes dating back to 2014. The Internet Research Agency (IRA) is a Russian company based in St. Petersburg that spent approximately $2.3 million influencing elections in the U.S. on behalf of the Kremlin, and has been referred to in the media as a “troll farm.”
The 37-page indictment makes the case for the defendants to be indicted on counts of Conspiracy to Defraud the United States, Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud and Bank Fraud, and five additional counts of Aggravated Identity Theft. Some of the evidence Mueller gathered to support the indictments includes dates of specific paid political advertisements the IRA ran during the 2016 election, paid for via PayPal with Russian bank accounts and credit cards in the names of fictitious Americans:
The contents of the indictment are alarming in describing the level of deception and manipulation the IRA allegedly engaged in during the 2016 election. In the opening paragraphs, Mueller laid out how the IRA enflamed political divisions in the U.S. for the sole purpose of electing Donald Trump to the presidency, and even paid real U.S. citizens to promote Trump and bash Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
“[B]y early to mid-2016, Defendants’ operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump (“Trump Campaign”) 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.”
The defendants include the Internet Research Agency, Concord Management and Consulting, Concord Catering, and 13 Russians affiliated with the IRA. While the defendants enlisted the help of real Americans, that assistance was seen as unwitting, and no Americans have been named in the indictment. Read the full document here.
Jake Shepherd is a freelance writer from Cleveland, Ohio. He enjoys poring through financial disclosure statements, spirited debate, and good scotch. He remains eternally optimistic about the Browns. Email him at jake.d.shepherd.21 (at) hotmail (dot) com.