Indictment: Russians ‘Communicated With Unwitting Individuals Associated With Trump Campaign’

By Terence P. Jeffrey | February 16, 2018 | 3:09pm EST
Robert Mueller (Screen Capture)

( - The indictment released today by the grand jury in the special investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election makes no allegation “that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity” and specifically says that Russians who “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign” posed as Americans and did not reveal their Russian identities.

The indictment is part of the ongoing investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

It charges three Russian corporations and thirteen Russian individuals with committing various federal crimes under U.S. law. The alleged crimes include a conspiracy to defraud the Federal Election Commission, the Department of Justice and the Department of State.

It also included wire and bank fraud charges against one of the Russian companies and two individuals.

The indictment describes a scheme in which a Russian company based in St. Petersburg, Russia, tried to influence the U.S. election through social media posting.

“Defendants, posing as U.S. persons and creating false U.S. personas, operated social medial pages and groups designed to attract U.S. audiences,” says the indictment.

“These groups and pages, which addressed divisive U.S. political and social issues, falsely claimed to be controlled by U.S. activists when, in fact, they were controlled by defendants,” it says.

“Defendants used the stolen identities if real U.S. persons to post on organization-controlled social media accounts,” it says. “Over time, these social media accounts became defendants’ means to reach significant numbers of Americans for purposes of interfering with the U.S. political system, including the presidential election of 2016.”

“Defendants’ operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump (‘Trump Campaign’) and disparaging Hillary Clinton,” it says.

But the indictment goes on to state that the people contacted in the Trump campaign by people involved in the Russian scheme were “unwitting” that they were communicating with Russians.

“Defendants also staged political rallies inside the United States, and while posing as U.S. grassroots entities and U.S. persons, and without revealing their Russian identities and organizations affiliation, solicited and compensated real U.S. persons to promote or disparage candidates,” says the indictment. “Some defendants, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities.”

A statement put out by the Justice Department on Friday with the indictment noted that it makes no allegation against any Americans.

“There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity,” said the DOJ releast.

“There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election,” it said.

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