Thirteen Russian propaganda agents have been charged with illegal visa entry, bank fraud, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy against the United States for scheming to evade election laws, in addition to evading American spying laws.
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Special Counsel Mueller just filed the grand jury indictment (embedded below) against the Internet Research Agency (IRA), based in St. Petersberg, Russia, alleging that they began their 2016 election planning in the spring of 2014. The indictment calls the IRA’s actions to impact U.S. elections a form of self-described “information warfare” against the United States.
Mueller’s indictment also shows how IRA agents posing as activist hit up their American ‘peers’ to get Trump campaign contact information, but oddly it doesn’t detail the campaign’s responses. Crucially, the indictment alleges that Russia’s IRA mounted a massive online influence campaign to hurt Hillary Clinton and to help Donald Trump. Mueller’s indictment alleges:
Mueller’s indictment charges the individuals who ran the agency and also names prominent Putin-linked Russian oligarch Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin as the funder of the operation.
The IRA’s employees traveled to more than ten states assuming false U.S. identities to pose as fake activists to communicate with real American activists.
According to the indictment, Russian agents of the IRA used Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to hide their locations, and fake identities to open numerous bank accounts and PayPal accounts to operate covertly inside the United States.
In addition, the IRA’s agents sent press releases, coordinated events and even provided pay to Americans for providing sick entertainment at Trump campaign rallies.
Having a Hillary impersonator worked so well, that the IRA repeated the tactic.
Following on Trump’s own use of a paid crowd during his campaign launch, the IRA paid to create a March for Trump in New York City, where the President suffers from immense unpopularity in his hometown, outside the racist vandal community.
Russian agents also leveraged that spend by sending out a press release to ensure US media attention for their efforts.
It was Russia’s propagandists who started the Trump campaign’s extensive meme during the summertime alleging voter fraud, which coincidentally only happened literally a couple of times, primarily by Trump supporters caught voting illegally.
Ten days later in Pennsylvania, Trump himself began a very public minority voter suppression and “ballot security” or voter fraud prevention campaign.
Hillary Clinton’s vote share of African-Americans dropped 5% from President Obama’s share, even though it was those African-American voters in the Democratic primaries which gave her the nod over Bernie Sanders.
In the end, the Republican National Committee only last month concluded the litigation over ballot security and voter suppression issues when the court concluded that Trump’s campaign itself wasn’t subject to a 35-year-old court order against the Party, even though the RNC coordinated with his campaign to an unprecedented degree.
But to this day, the Trump Administration maintains claims of voter fraud, even though the sham Commission set up for Republican voter suppression expert Kris Kobach was recently disbanded. Troubling reports after Kobach’s Commission was disbanded say that Trump’s current efforts to find voter fraud are being conducted secretly at the Department of Homeland Security.
IRA propagandists even determined which states might be most important for the electoral college and targeted “purple states” at the instruction of Americans at what could be inferred as the advice Russians obtained from members of a Texas separatist group they infiltrated.
Russian operatives even created “Miners for Trump” in Pennsylvania, a state decided shockingly for Trump by just under 45,000 votes.
Here is a just small sample of the many advertisements purchased by the Russian agency – which operated like a giant SuperPAC for Trump – and attacked Hillary Clinton with ferocity to sway low-information, undecided voters while targeting those “purple states.”
After last fall’s news that Facebook and Twitter had been invaded by Russian bots, trolls, and propagandists, the IRA closed up shop.
But Mueller’s investigators obtained their revealing private conversations that explain precisely the point of fraudulently posing as Americans to advertise for Trump.
While America suffers under the dark reign of the Trump administration, to the newly indicted Russian employees of the IRA, it was seemingly just a really bad day at the office.
Putin’s Internet Research Agency ultimately employed up to 80 full-time staffers in their electioneering efforts to assist Donald Trump.
It’s a federal crime for any foreign person or government to spend money to influence U.S. elections without first registering with the Attorney General; often times foreign spending is outright prohibited.
Mueller’s indictment breaks down in 37 pages exactly how Russians systematically infiltrated America’s election debate – disguised as Americans with fake ID’s and computer equipment that hid their true origins – and spent money campaigning for Donald Trump.
Today’s charges will not necessarily translate into immediate arrests of Russian agents, it will restrict their ability to operate in America or travel to countries with extradition agreements.
Furthermore, revealing the sources and methods of Russian intelligence informs the American public in general against their machinations in future elections and our political parties in particular.
Putin’s paid activists targeted their in real life efforts surgically to generate publicity in swing states to influence public opinion, and their online efforts at sewing doubt against Trump’s foes.
The purpose of exposing Putin’s information war is to keep America’s adversaries from accomplishing again, precisely what Russia has done, to defeat our foreign policy by capturing the office of the presidency.
Just last month, Trump’s administration refused to implement punitive sanctions against Russia, that Congress passed with overwhelming bipartisan support last year.
Our founding father Alexander Hamilton predicted the pernicious threat of foreign influence on the American presidency over 200 years ago:
“Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one [quarter,] but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?”
Sadly, nobody in today’s GOP paid heed to Hamilton’s warning and elected Republicans that do not value their country over their party.
Now, President Trump is so busy kissing up to Putin, that he inspired the conservative US News & World Report calls his administration “collusion in plain sight.”