Monday, February 19, 2018

Mueller Investigation Continues: Russians Indicted

The big news from last Friday is that the US Justice Department has charged 13 Russians and 3 companies in an indictment for conspiring to interfere in US electoral and political processes, including the 2016 election.

The full indictment can be read here, but here are some highlights of the charges:
  • One of the Defendants, the Internet Research Agency, registered as Russian corporation in 2013, occupied an office in St. Petersburg, Russia, and sought to conduct "information warfare against the United States of America" via false social media personas on social media platforms and the Internet.
  • The Defendants posed as U.S. persons on social media sites addressing "divisive U.S. political and social issues." These sites "reached significant numbers of Americans." For instance, one fake "Tennessee GOP" Twitter account obtained over 100,000 followers. And, I have a question about that right away: did the real Tennessee GOP not realize that someone had co-opted their Twitter presence? How does that happen?
  • Defendants and their co-conspirators used their fake personas to post content focusing on U.S. politics "and to 'use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump - we support them).'" Now, with respect to that, I think it's somewhat obvious why Russia would favor Trump: he's incompetent and they possibly have compromising information on him. But, why would they have supported Bernie Sanders? Did they support him primarily to undermine Hillary? Did they believe that, had he won, he would have been a weak/ineffective leader? How much of Bernie's oft-discussed "stunning" primary run was attributable to Russian interference? The mainstream media needs to pursue these answers, particularly if Sanders is planning a 2020 run.
  • Defendants communicated with and distributed materials to "unwitting" members of the Trump Campaign.
  • Defendants, via their social media personas, began alleging voter fraud on the part of the Democratic Party. Here I'll note that Donald Trump repeatedly claimed that the 2016 election was being "rigged" against, or "stolen from," him. Bernie Sanders, for his part, has done little to disabuse the American public of the notion that the Democratic Primary was stolen from him, even though evidence to support that claim is lacking.
  • Some of the Defendants traveled to the U.S. to collect intelligence and meet with real U.S. persons.
  • After the election, the Defendants organized both pro- and anti-Trump political rallies. The aim with respect to these rallies seems to be to sow discord.
  • Defendants and their co-conspirators opened fraudulent bank and PayPal accounts to send money into and out of the United States to promote Internet Research Agency's operations and for enrichment.
In response, Donald Trump has stated on Twitter that that his campaign did nothing wrong.

Now, unless there's been a drastic change in legal procedure that I'm not aware of wherein Cadet Bone Spurs' Twitter denials automatically halt an investigation, Mueller's work will continue, for now.

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