Federal grand jury indicts 16 Russian defendants for interfering in US election News
Federal grand jury indicts 16 Russian defendants for interfering in US election

[JURIST] A federal grand jury in Washington, DC, indicted [indictment, PDF] 13 Russian citizens and three Russian organizations for interfering in the 2016 US presidential election.

The indictment alleges that the citizens were working with the organizations. All 16 defendants were charged with conspiracy to defraud the US. The indictment reads:

From in or around 2014 to the present, in the District of Columbia and elsewhere, Defendants … knowingly and intentionally conspired to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of State in administering federal requirements for disclosure of foreign involvement in certain domestic activities.

The indictment alleges that the defendants created fake social media accounts where they pretended to be Americans, in some cases, stealing the identities of actual American citizens. The accounts were created to influence American voters. The defendants posted material that supported Donald Trump while discrediting Hillary Clinton. The indictment also reads, “Some Defendants, posing as US. 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.”

Federal law prohibits foreign entities from participating in political activity within the United States without approval from the Attorney General. Foreign nationals are also prohibited making from certain financial payments to influence federal elections.

Three defendants are also charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five defendants are additionally charged with aggravated identity theft.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller [Britannica biography] selected the jury.

In January, Paul Manafort, who had been indicted on money laundering charges, sued [JURIST report] the Department of Justice and Mueller, challenging the DOJ’s appointment of Mueller and the scope of Mueller’s investigations. In December, former national security advisor Michael Flynn plead guilty [JURIST report] to lying to the FBI after Mueller brought charges. Mueller was appointed [JURIST report] as special counsel last May.