More than a dozen Russian nationals and three Russian entities have been indicted by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller on charges stemming from their interference in the 2016 presidential election. The charges brought against them range from conspiracy to defraud the United States to bank fraud.
According to the 37 page indictment, thirteen Russian individuals and three entities participated in a conspiracy to manipulate and disrupt the democratic process leading up to America’s recent presidential election. The statement claims those under indictment adopted false identities online to in order to broaden the reach of divisive messages intended to sow discord in the American political process. The documents goes on to cite instances where these individuals traveled to the United States to collect intelligence, and even to stage political rallies posing as American citizens.
Russia’s Internet Research Agency “had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” the indictment states.
In keeping with the most frequently discussed elements of the Russian effort to meddle with the U.S. election, the indictment also goes on to claim, “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.”
A number of the findings laid out within the indictment echo those already released by a U.S. intelligence community assessment in January of last year. President Trump has been briefed on the indictment according to White House Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, but has not made any formal comments thus far.
While the indictment does discuss efforts to support President Donald Trump’s campaign, it does not overtly suggest collusion between the businessman turned president and the Russians cited in the document. It also suggests that Russia’s influence campaign was not limited to the presidential election, rather saying specifically that the strategic goal was to “sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.”
That language seems to suggest an understood intent that extends beyond support for a political party or candidate, and rather a concerted effort to disrupt the way in which American politics are conducted and perceived by the American people. Facebook recently released a report showing that Russian actors organized both demonstrations and counter demonstrations in the same locations on the same dates, seemingly with the intent to create conflict within the already tense American political atmosphere, supporting that assertion.
Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence under President Trump said recently that there is already evidence to suggest Russian meddling efforts in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections.
We expect Russia to continue using propaganda social media, false flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen and other means to influence to try to build on its wide range of operations and exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States,” he said.
“There should be no doubt that Russia perceives that its past efforts as successful and views the 2018 US midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.”
You can read the full indictment here.
Image courtesy of the Associated Press