Special counsel Robert Mueller recently laid down charges against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups for meddling with the 2016 U.S. elections.
The controversial new charges accuse the Russians of constructing false U.S. personas as well as stealing the identities of real U.S. people in order to meddle in the 2016 presidential election, an assessment which was previously reached by U.S. intelligence agencies.
“This indictment serves as a reminder that people are not always who they appear to be on the Internet,” Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein declared at a press briefing after announcing the indictments.
“The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy.”
President Trump, who has done his best to cast doubt on whether or not Russia interfered with the election, has been briefed on the indictments, the White House confirmed.
The meddling, which began back in 2014, was linked to the so-called Internet Research Agency, a mysterious Russian operation based in St. Petersburg that called upon Facebook and other social media platforms to spread divisive messages leading up to the 2016 election.
The indictment claims that the goal of the entities and people indicted was to offer support to President Trump’s campaign and to damage Democrat Hillary Clinton‘s, and that some defendants who were posing as U.S. people at the time communicated with “unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities.”
“Defendants’ operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump (“Trump campaign”) and disparaging Hillary Clinton,” the indictment reads. “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.”