13 Russian nationals indicted for interfering in US elections

The FBI investigation into Russian interference in the US elections in 2016 has made a major move.

From Fox News: 13 Russian nationals indicted for interfering in US elections

A federal grand jury in the District of Columbia on Friday indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities accused of interfering in U.S. elections, a spokesman for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office said.

According to the special counsel, the indictment charges 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.

Reuters via Twitter:

U.S. says defendants’ operations included supporting ‘Trump… and disparaging Hillary Clinton,’ staging political rallies, buying political advertising while posing as grassroots U.S. groups

Defendants, in communicating with U.S.-based group, were advised to ‘focus their activities on ‘purple states like Colorado, Virginia and Florida’ – indictment.

During 2016 presidential campaign, Russian defendants spread derogatory information about Clinton, Rubio, Cruz and supported Sanders and Trump – court document

U.S. says Russian defendants paid one American to build a cage and a second American to wear a costume portraying Clinton in a prison uniform

Reuters: U.S. grand jury indicts 13 Russian nationals, three entities in alleged election meddling

In a court document, the U.S. government said Russian entities began interfering in U.S. political processes, including the 2016 presidential election, as early as 2014.

Some of the defendants, posing as U.S. persons, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign, the indictment said.

Rod Rosenstein, the U.S. deputy attorney general, will make a law enforcement announcement at 1:15 p.m. (1815 GMT), the Justice Department said on Friday.

Rosenstein:

“The indictment charges 13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian companies for committing federal crimes while seeking to interfere in the United States political system.”

“The stated goal: of spreading distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”

The defendants allegedly conducted, what they called, information warfare against the United State.

They operated through a company that employed hundreds of employees, including recruitment of Americans. The campaigning staged rallies both before and after the 2016 election.

“They used stolen or fictitious American identities… The defendants posed as politically and socially active Americans.”

“There is no allegation in this indictment that any American knowingly participated”. “The Americans did not know that they were communicating with Russians.” The campaign went to great lengths to disguise who was behind it.

The special Counsel’s investigation is ongoing.

There is no indication in the indictment on any affect on the outcome of the 2016 election.

Trump campaign officials charged, Trump protests

The first indictments in the FBI investigation into Russian interference in the US election reveal charges have been laid against three people who worked on the Trump campaign, but Trump insists there was ‘NO COLLUSION!’

Fox News leads with Trump denials: Trump, GOP lawmakers slam Manafort indictment as irrelevant to Russia-collusion probe

The president fired back on Monday in an attempt to distance his White House from the Manafort and Gates indictments, noting their crimes were committed “years” before they worked on the campaign.

Washington Post leads with Three former Trump campaign officials charged in Russia probe

George Papadopoulos, who served as a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign, pleaded guilty earlier this month to making a false statement to FBI investigators who asked about his contacts with a foreigner who claimed to have high-level Russian connection. The agreement was unsealed Monday.

News of the plea came as Manafort and his longtime business partner Rick Gates were charged in a 12-count indictment with conspiracy to launder money, making false statements and other charges related to their work advising a Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine.

Fox News continues with diversion and downplaying Trump:

And also details of the charges:

EXPLAINED: How Paul Manafort is connected to the Trump, Russia investigation

It’s been more than a year since Paul Manafort briefly led President Trump’s quest for the White House and even longer since he worked for a controversial Ukrainian politician.

The opening paragraph downplays the Trump connection.

Manafort and his former business partner Richard Gates, 45, were told to turn themselves into federal authorities Monday morning. First reported by the New York Times, these are reportedly the first charges filed in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 president election.

Manafort and Gates were indicted by a federal grand jury that contains 12 counts: conspiracy against the U.S., conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading [Foreign Agents Registration Act] statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, a spokesperson for the Special Counsel’s Office told Fox News.

Manafort, 68, has been the subject of a longstanding investigation due to his past dealings in Ukraine several years ago – for which he didn’t file as a foreign agent until June 2017. But Mueller has incorporated that investigation into his own probe into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion with Trump associates.

Eventually, Manafort was hired by controversial former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russia politician who was ousted from power twice. After Yanukovych was eventually elected president in 2010, Manafort reportedly stayed on as an adviser and worked with other projects in Eastern Europe, including the Party of Regions political party.

Manafort also worked for Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska. In 2005, Manafort came up with a plan to influence U.S. politics, business dealings and the media in order to “greatly benefit the Putin Government,” according to the Associated Press.

Deripaska, 49, is a close Putin ally and signed a $10 million annual contract with Manafort in 2006. They maintained a business relationship until at least 2009, the Associated Press reported.

Financial records obtained by the New York Times indicated that Manafort was in debt to pro-Russian interests by up to $17 million prior to joining Trump’s campaign.

Along with Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s eldest son, Manafort met with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskay in June 2016. She was said to have damaging information on Trump’s campaign rival, Hillary Clinton, which was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Mueller took over the criminal investigation into Manafort’s financial dealings as he looks into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to win the White House.

Trump and the Russia investigation: What to know

Before he handed over the White House to Trump, former President Barack Obama sanctioned Russia for its alleged involvement in the election – a move that would eventually come back to dismantle one of Trump’s senior aides.

Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr., also got the administration into hot water for his own actions during the campaign. Trump Jr. confirmed in July 2017 that he took a meeting with a Russian lawyer during the campaign as she was supposed to have damaging information about Clinton.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, were at the meeting as well. The two are also being investigated.

Michael Flynn’s tenure as Trump’s national security adviser was short but rife with controversy that still bedevils the administration. But Flynn didn’t come without a warning.

Only a few days after the November election, Obama met with Trump to share his concerns about Flynn, a retired lieutenant general. Flynn had served under Obama as head of military intelligence until he was fired in 2014 following reports of insubordination and questionable management style.

As Obama issued the sanctions on Russia for its involvement in the election, Flynn reportedly called the Russian ambassador to discuss the move. Flynn initially denied speaking to the ambassador, but when intelligence officials revealed proof, he said he just didn’t remember speaking on that topic.

Flynn resigned under harsh scrutiny for misleading the administration, including Vice President Mike Pence, about his ties to and conversations with Russian officials.

He remains under multiple investigations by congressional committees and the Pentagon’s inspector general. Mueller has included Flynn in his probe, and his investigators are reportedly trying to determine if he was secretly paid by the Turkish government during the campaign, the New York Times reported in August.

So this is likely just the first shots fired by the Mueller investigation.

Last word from Trump, in typical trump fashion:

The president led a chorus of critics of the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, noting that the crimes for which Manafort and his aide, Rick Gates, are charged appear to predate the presidential campaign by years.

“Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren’t Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????” Trump tweeted Monday. “….Also, there is NO COLLUSION!”

Perhaps the President doth protest too much.