Grand Jury Indicts Thirteen Russian Individuals and Three Russian Companies for Scheme to Interfere

Grand Jury Indicts Thirteen Russian Individuals and Three Russian Companies for Scheme to Interfere


MR. ROSENSTEIN: Good afternoon. A grand jury in the District of Columbia today
returned an indictment presented by the Special Counsel’s Office. The indictment charges 13 Russian nationals
and three Russian companies for committing federal crimes while seeking to interfere
in the United States political system, including the 2016 presidential election. The defendants allegedly conducted what they
called information warfare against the United States with the stated goal of spreading distrust
towards the candidates and the political system in general. According to the allegations in the indictment,
12 of the individual defendants worked at various times for a company called Internet
Research Agency LLC, a Russian company based in St. Petersburg. The other individual defendant Yevgeniy Viktorovich
Prigozhin funded the conspiracy through companies known as Concord Management and Consulting,
LLC, Concord Catering, and many affiliates and subsidiaries. The conspiracy was part of a larger operation
called Project Lakhta. Project Lakhta included multiple components
some involving domestic audiences within the Russian Federation and others targeting foreign
audiences in multiple countries. Internet Research Agency allegedly operated
through Russian shell companies. It employed hundreds of people in its online
operations, ranging from creators of fictitious personas to technical and administrative support
personnel with an annual budget of millions of dollars. Internet Research Agency was a structured
organization headed by a management group and arranged into departments, including graphics,
search engine optimization, information technology, and finance departments. In 2014, the company established a translator
project focused on the United States. In July of 2016, more than 80 employees were
assigned to the translator project. Two of the defendants allegedly traveled to
the United States in 2014 to collect intelligence for their American influence operations. In order to hide the Russian origins of their
activities, the defendants allegedly purchased space on computer servers located here in
the United States in order to set up a virtual private network. The defendants allegedly used of that infrastructure
to establish hundreds of accounts on social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram,
and Twitter, making it appear that those accounts were controlled by persons located in the
United States. They used stolen or fictitious American identities,
fraudulent bank accounts, and false identification documents. The defendants posed as politically and socially
active Americans, advocating for and against particular candidates. They established social media pages and groups
to communicate with unwitting Americans. They also purchased political advertisements
on social media networks. The Russians also recruited and paid real
Americans to engage in political activities, promote political campaigns, and stage political
rallies. The defendants and co-conspirators pretended
to be grassroots activists. According to the indictment the Americans
did not know they were communicating with Russians. After the election, the defendants allegedly
staged rallies to support the President-elect while simultaneously staging rallies to protest
his election. For example, the defendants organized one
rally to support the President-elect and another rally to oppose him, both in New York on the
same day. On September 13, 2017, soon after the news
media reported that the Special Counsel’s office was investigating evidence that Russian
operatives had use social media to interfere with the 2016 election, one defendant allegedly
wrote, “we had a slight crisis here at work. The FBI busted our activity, so I got preoccupied
with covering tracks together with my colleagues.” The indictment includes eight criminal counts. Count One alleges a criminal conspiracy to
fraud the United States, by all of the defendants. The defendants allegedly conspired to defraud
America by impairing the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission, the U.S.
Department of Justice, and the Department of State. Those organizations of the U.S. Government are responsible for administering
federal requirements for disclosure of foreign involvement in certain domestic activities. Count Two charges conspiracy to commit wire
fraud and bank fraud by internet research agency and two of the individual defendants. Counts Three through Eight charge aggravated
identity theft by internet research agency and four individuals. There is no allegation in this indictment
that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that
the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election. I want to caution you that everyone charged
with a crime is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court. At trial, prosecutors was introduced credible
evidence sufficient to prove each defendant guilty beyond any reasonable doubt to a unanimous
jury. The Special Counsel’s investigation is ongoing. There will be no comments from the special
counsel at this time. This indictment serves as a reminder that
people are not always who they appear to be on the internet. The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators
want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy. We must not allow them to his exceed. The Department of Justice will continue to
work cooperatively with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies and with the Congress
to defend our nation against similar current and future efforts. I want to thank the federal agents and prosecutors
who are working on this case for their exceptional service. I will be happy to take a few questions. REPORTER: [INAUDIBLE] MR. ROSENSTEIN: What I have identified the allegations
in the indictment. There is no allegation of any effect on the
outcome of the election. REPORTER: On page four, paragraph six, it
specifically talks about the Trump campaign, saying that defendants communicated with unwitting
individuals associated with the trump campaign. My question is later in the indictment, campaign
officials are referenced, not by their name, by campaign official one or two or three. Were campaign officials cooperative or were
they duped? What was the relationship? MR. ROSENSTEIN: There is no allegation in this
indictment that any American had any knowledge. The nature of the scheme was the defendants
took extraordinary steps to make it appear that they were ordinary American political
activists, even so far as to base their activities on a virtual private network here in the united
states if anyone traced it back to that first jump. They appear to be Americans. REPORTER: Did you have any assurances from
the Russians that they will provide these individuals for the prosecution? MR. ROSENSTEIN: No communications with Russians
about this. We will follow the ordinary process of seeking
cooperation and extradition. Thank you very much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *