A Russian Internet agency and more than a dozen Russians interfered in the U.S. election campaign from 2014 through 2016 in a multi-pronged effort with the aim of supporting then-businessman Donald Trump and disparaging his rival Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Special Counsel said in an indictment on Friday.
Some of the defendants, posing as U.S. persons, communicated with “unwitting individuals” associated with the Trump campaign, the indictment said. Trump had not yet announced his run for president in 2014 when the Russian interference began.
The 37-page indictment filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller described a conspiracy to disrupt the U.S. election by people who adopted false online personas to push divisive messages; traveled to the United States to collect intelligence; and staged political rallies while posing as Americans.
Russia’s Internet Research Agency “had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” the indictment states.
“Defendants posted derogatory information about a number of candidates, and by early to mid-2016, Defendants’ operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump … and disparaging Hillary Clinton.”
The indictment broadly echoes the conclusions of a January 2017 U.S. intelligence community assessment, which found that Russia had meddled in the election, and that its goals eventually included aiding Trump.
President Trump has been briefed on the indictment announced on Friday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said
Facebook and Twitter both declined to comment on the indictment.
The indictment names the Internet Research Agency, based in St. Petersburg, Russia; 13 Russian nationals; and two other companies.
The 2017 intelligence agency finding has spawned investigations into any ties between Republican Trump’s campaign and Moscow. Russia denies interfering in the election. Trump denies any collusion by his campaign.