A federal grand jury has indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for alleged interference in the 2016 presidential elections, during which they boosted the candidacy of Donald Trump, special counsel Robert Mueller‘s office said Friday.
The indictment says that a Russian organization called the Internet Research Agency sought to wage “information warfare” against the United States by using fictitious American personas and social media platforms and other Internet-based media.
While that effort was launched in 2014, by early to mid-2016 the defendants were “supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump … and disparaging Hillary Clinton,” the indictment charges.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said the defendants created hundreds of accounts using fake personas on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to advance their scheme.
The White House had no immediate comment on the indictment.
Under U.S law, foreign nationals generally are barred from federal election efforts.
The indictment said that the Internet Research Agency was registered with the Russian government as a corporate entity in 2013.
“By in or around May 2014, the organization’s strategy included interfering with the 2016 U.S. presidential election, with the stated goal of “spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general,” the indictment said.
An announcement from Mueller’s office said that the government accuses all the defendants of conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Three defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.
Five defendants are charged with aggravated identity theft.
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.