The U.S. Justice Department just indicted 13 Russia citizens and three Russian groups for violating criminal laws with the intent to interfere with U.S. elections and political processes, according to an ABC News report. The report says that the Russians plan to use social media to sow discord through “fake news” and are probing state election systems to see if it can be infiltrated.
According to the Justice Department, “the indictment charges all of the defendants with conspiracy to defraud the United States, three defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five defendants with aggravated identity theft.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office said in a statement, “A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment on Feb. 16, 2018, against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities accused of violating U.S. criminal laws in order to interfere with U.S. elections and political processes. The indictment charges all of the defendants with conspiracy to defraud the United States, three defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five defendants with aggravated identity theft.”
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is scheduled to hold a press conference Friday afternoon, according to Fox News.
The United States Intelligence agencies believe that the Russian government attempted to interfere with the 2016 U.S. election. This indictment comes at a period when leaders of U.S. intelligence agencies warned on Tuesday that Russia will try to interfere in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections by using social media to spread propaganda and misleading reports, according to a Reuters report. The report says that this was the same method employed in the 2016 election, which saw Donald Trump becoming president.
Dan Coats, the director of National Intelligence, told a congressional committee that Russia and other foreign entities would attack U.S. and European elections this year and beyond. The intelligence chief said that Russia believes their efforts in the 2016 elections successfully undermined U.S. democracy, according to the Reuters report.
This brazen attempt by the Russians to undermine the U.S. election instigated the federal and congressional investigations into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia.
President Trump was briefed this morning by FBI Director Chris Wray and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein on the indictments against 13 Russians and Russian organizations, U.S. officials tell @ABC News. https://t.co/eSwD0TGmuH— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 16, 2018
The indictment states that the defendants “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign” without disclosing their ties to Russia. The indictment by the Justice Department also says that the defendants posted negative information about some candidates during the 2016 election.
“Defendants operations included supporting the presidential campaign on then-candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton,” his Democratic rival, according to the indictment. The president was briefed by FBI Director Chris Wray and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein on the indictments this morning, according to the ABC News.