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Mueller investigation charges 13 Russians in investigation over 2016 election interference

Sen. Richard Blumenthal next to a poster Mueller investigation charges 13 Russians in investigation over 2016 election interference
Bennie Garza | 16 February, 2018, 21:31

U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller unveiled the details of a widespread and coordinated campaign by Russians to influence the U.S. presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, delivering on his initial mandate by the Justice Department.

The indictment says the Internet Research Agency was funded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a St. Petersburg businessman dubbed "Putin's chef" because his restaurants and catering businesses once hosted the Kremlin leader's dinners with foreign dignitaries.

A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia indicted 13 Russians and three Russian entities and charged them with trying to sway the election in favor of President Trump, according to court documents.

Nor, he said, does it suggest that any Americans knew they were dealing with Russian operatives.

The defendants "primarily meant to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump".

Their organisation had more than eighty employees conducting disinformation operations on social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

The operations also denigrated candidates including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, Trump's rivals in the 2016 Republican primary, the indictment said.

It claims that Russians obtained American identities and used those false identities to carry out the plot.

Following the election of Trump, the defendants organised political rallies in his support, according to the indictment.

In the indictment, Mueller charged that some of the Russians, posing as Americans, "communicated with unwitting individuals" associated with Trump's 2016 campaign "to seek to coordinate political activities".

Despite President Trump dismissing talks of Russian collusion as a "hoax", CNN's chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto said "there has to be read hard proof" in order to pursue indictments like these.

"Over time, these social media accounts became defendants' means to reach significant numbers of Americans for purposes of interfering with the USA political system", the indictment reads. They used stolen USA identities, including fake driver's licenses, and contacted news media outlets to promote their activities.

Mr Rosenstein told reporters that the Department of Justice has had no communications with Russian Federation regarding the indictments or the extradition process.

"Americans are very emotional, let them see the devil", he told the RIA news service.

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