The former director of the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Mueller (pictured above), on Friday charged an infamous group of Russian internet trolls for allegedly attempting to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election. Mueller is heading the investigation, overseen by the Justice Department, into the allegations.
Mueller and his team have levelled accusations against 13 Russians and three companies in an indictment that has brought to the fore a complex network that was designed to subvert the election and support the Trump campaign.
The Russians allegedly stole the identities of US citizens and posed as political activists, using subjects such as immigration, religion and race to manipulate an already divisive election campaign, prosecutors told a federal grand jury in Washington DC. A few of these Russians were reportedly in contact with “unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign”, the prosecutors said.
“The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy,” Deputy Attorney General Rod J Rosenstein, who is overseeing the inquiry, said in a news conference. “We must not allow them to succeed.”
The prosecutors have named the Internet Research Agency, a company based in St Petersburg, of being the hub of this campaign to push Russian propaganda and disinformation into the US political discourse ahead of the election. The campaign began in 2014, according to the prosecutors, when three of the Russian conspirators visited 10 states to collect intelligence about US politics.
The prosecutors, however, have not accused the Russian government of any involvement in this campaign or said that the campaign successfully swayed votes.
President Donald Trump, who has often termed reports of alleged Russian efforts to help his campaign as “fake news”, said he was vindicated. “Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President,” Trump said. “The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong - no collusion!”