DOJ: Russian Troll Tweeted ‘If Trump Fires Robert Mueller, We Have to Take to the Streets in Protest’

Terence P. Jeffrey | October 22, 2018 | 5:58pm EDT
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Robert Mueller (Screen Capture)

( - The Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia unsealed a criminal complaint on Friday that is based on an affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent David Holt that alleges that Russian Internet trolls created social media accounts for “U.S. fake personas,” who then advocated either liberal or conservative views about American politics and elections.

“The strategic goal of this alleged conspiracy, which continues to this day, is to sow discord in the U.S. political system and to undermine faith in our democratic institutions,” U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger said in a statement.

The FBI affidavit gives examples of postings made by alleged Russian-controlled accounts. Some—from the liberal side—defend Special Counsel Robert Mueller and even support his indictment of the alleged  Russian operation itself.

Others attack him.

“If Trump fires Robert Mueller, we have to take to the streets in protest. Our democracy is at stake,” said a Tweet posted in December 2017 by a Russian-created “liberal” American persona.

[Above is a screen capture from page 32 of the FBI affidavit attached to the U.S. attorney's criminal complaint that was unsealed on Friday.]

According to the FBI affidavit, a “conservative” Russian-created American persona subsequently reposted a Tweet that said: “Liberals: If Trump fire/removes Mueller, we will take to the streets/protest. (DNC must have sent that talking point out today. Everyone is using the same line). Why would Trump need to remove/fire Mueller. Mueller is doing fine job destroying himself. Keep the implosion coming Mueller.”

[Above is a screen capture from page 32 of the FBI affidavit attached to the U.S. attorney's criminal complaint that was unsealed on Friday.]

On Feb. 16, 2018, when Mueller released an initial indictment of Russians allegedly interfering in U.S. elections, another “liberal” Russian-created American persona reposted a Tweet that celebrated that indictment.

The affidavit released with the new criminal complaint on Friday, quoted that Tweet:

“Dear @realDonald Trump: The DOJ indicted 13 Russian nationals at the Internet Research Agency for violating federal criminal law to help your campaign and hurt other campaigns. Still think this Russia thing is a hoax and a witch hunt? Because a lot of witches just got indicted.”

[Above is a screen capture from page 34 of the FBI affidavit attached to the U.S. attorney's criminal complaint that was unsealed on Friday.]

The U.S. attorney’s criminal complaint targets Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, a Russian national who lives in St. Petersburg, Russia. The affidavit says she “conspired with persons known and unknown to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing and defeating the lawful functions of the U.S Department of Justice and Federal Election Commission in administering federal requirements for disclosure of foreign involvement in certain domestic activities.”

Khusyaynova, the affidavit says, operated as the chief accountant for “Project Lakhta.”

“Since at least 2014,” says the affidavit, “known and unknown individuals, operating as part of a broader Russian effort known as ‘Project Lakhta,’ have engaged in political and electoral interference operations targeting populations within the Russian Federation and in various other countries, including, but not limited to, the United States, members of the European Union, and Ukraine.

“Since at least May 2014,” it says, “Project Lakhta’s stated goal in the United States was to spread distrust towards candidates for political office and the political system in general.

“Beginning in or around mid-2014 and continuing to the present, Project Lakhta obscured its conduct by operating through a number of Russian entities, including the Internet Research Agency,” it said.

The affidavit cited the earlier indictment issued by Mueller.

“Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin is a Russian oligarch who is closely identified with Russian President Vladimir Putin,” it says. “Prigozhin began his career in the food and restaurant business and is sometimes referred to as ‘Putin’s Chef.’ Prigozhin controls Concord, which has been paid by the Russian government to feed school children and the military. Concord and Prigozhin spent significant funds to further the Project Lakhta operations.

“On February 16, 2018,” the complaint notes, “a grand jury in the District of Columbia returned an indictment charging thirteen Russian nationals and three Russian companies, including Prigozhin, the IRA, and Concord, with committing federal crimes while seeking to interfere with U.S. elections and political processes, including the 2016 presidential election.”

The affidavit says the Russians attempted to target what they understood to be both liberal and conservative viewpoints.

“The Conspirators’ activities did not exclusively adopt one ideological viewpoint; they wrote on topics from varied and sometimes opposing perspectives,” it said. “Members of the Conspiracy also developed strategies and guidance to target audiences with conservative and liberal viewpoints, as well as particular social groups.”

In one example of how “Project Lakhta” attempted to target American conservatives, the complaint sites a directive written by a “member of the Conspiracy” advising colleagues on how to use an online article that attacked Mueller. It contrasted sharply from the “Project Lakhta” Tweets that supported Mueller.

“Special prosecutor Mueller is a puppet of the establishment,” the directive said. “List scandals that took place when Mueller headed the FBI. … Summarize with a statement that Mueller is a very dependent and highly politicized figure; therefore, there will be no honest and open results from his investigation. Emphasize that the work of this commission is damaging to the country and is aimed to declare impeachment of Trump. Emphasize that it cannot be allowed, no matter what.”

At the end of this passage, the complaint says: “(Preliminary translation of Russian text.)"

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