A federal grand jury indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations on Friday, accusing the individuals and organizations of conspiring to interfere with the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
According to the indictment released by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, a Russian organization operating under the name Internet Research Agency waged “information warfare” in the U.S. throughout the election season. The organization allegedly used a variety of tactics, including using fictitious American online personas and social media profiles to spread disinformation.
Mueller’s office said the group was operating long before the election, having been initially set up in 2014, but engaged heavily in online efforts “supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump … and disparaging Hillary Clinton” as the election season carried on.
“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.
The group also allegedly attempted to dupe members of the Trump campaign team, according to 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.”
Five of the defendants are charged with aggravated identity theft and three with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud. All of the defendants are charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States.