Thirteen Russians have been charged with interfering in the US 2016 election, in a major development in the FBI investigation, and no ‘American was a knowing participant’.
Three of those named have been accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Five have been accused of aggravated identity theft in the election investigation.
The announcement was made by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating alleged Russian meddling.
“There is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity,” Rosenstein said, adding there “there is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”
Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 16, 2018
President Trump responded with an emphasis on the lack of allegations of any impact on the presidential election.
“Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President,” he tweeted. “The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”
The White House seized on the indictments of Russian individuals and organizations for allegedly interfering with American democracy in the 2016 presidential election to claim they further cleared the president and his campaign of any allegations of wrongdoing.
FBI Director Chris Wray and Rosenstein briefed the President on the indictments at the White House on Friday morning, a White House official said.
“President Donald J. Trump has been fully briefed on this matter. He is glad to see the Special Counsel’s investigation further indicates — that there was NO COLLUSION between the Trump campaign and Russia and that the outcome of the election was not changed or affected,” the White House said in a statement.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said at a press conference Friday that the Russians “allegedly conducted what they called ‘information warfare’ against the United States. They had the goal of “spreading distrust against candidates and the political system in general.”
Charges listed in the 37-page indictment include conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. They are the most direct allegation to date of illegal Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
The full White House statement:
Earlier today, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced indictments against 13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian entities for meddling in the 2016 Presidential election, which began in 2014 before the President declared his candidacy. President Donald J. Trump has been fully briefed on this matter and is glad to see the Special Counsel’s investigation further indicates — that there was NO COLLUSION between the Trump campaign and Russia and that the outcome of the election was not changed or affected.
President Trump says, “it is more important than ever before to come together as Americans. We cannot allow those seeking to sow confusion, discord, and rancor to be successful. It’s time we stop the outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories, which only serve to further the agendas of bad actors, like Russia, and do nothing to protect the principles of our institutions. We must unite as Americans to protect the integrity of our democracy and our elections.”
The indictment claims a group of Russians:
- Posed as Americans, and opened financial accounts in their name
- Spent thousands of dollars a month buying political advertising
- Purchased US server space in an effort to hide their Russian affiliation
- Organized and promoted political rallies within the United States
- Posted political messages on social media accounts that impersonated real US citizens
- Promoted information that disparaged Hillary Clinton
- Received money from clients to post on US social media sites
- Created themed groups on social media on hot-button issues, particularly on Facebook and Instagram
- Operated with a monthly budget of as much as $1.25m (£890,000)
- Financed the building of a cage large enough to hold an actress portraying Hillary Clinton in a prison uniform
The sweeping indictment describes in detail an unprecedented campaign by Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.
According to the indictment, the Russians created an email address, [email protected], to purport to be a US person in order to send out press releases in June 2016 for a “March for Trump” rally to New York media outlets.
The defendants allegedly used a Facebook account belonging to a fictitious person named Matt Skiber, posing as an American to contact a real US citizen to act as a recruiter for the rally, even offering money to print posters and buy a megaphone.
The advertisements weren’t limited to Trump. They also allegedly purchased ads on Facebook to promote “Support Hillary. Save American Muslims” rally to allege Clinton was supporting Islamic law. They also allegedly bought ads to promote a “Down with Hillary” rally.