August 13, 2020

Special counsel investigation yields 13 indictments

By Jesse Stiller
Staff Writer

A federal grand jury announced the indictments of 13 Russian nationals and three companies on Feb. 15, following the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, according to NBC.

Mueller leads the inquiry into the 2016 election.  (AP Photo)

The Department of Justice unsealed the full 37-page indictment detailing the charges brought against the nationals and entities, according to The New York Times.

The document charges the indictees with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said that the alleged criminals conducted “information warfare,” according to NBC.

“The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy,” Rosenstein said in a news conference reported by NBC. “We must not allow them to succeed.”

Most of the indictments targeted a company based in St. Petersburg, Russia called the “Internet Research Agency,” according to The New York Times.

The company promoted propaganda meant to sway Americans to vote for then-Republican party candidate Donald Trump, according to The Washington Post.

Richard Pinedo, a 28-year-old man from California, pleaded guilty to identity fraud, according to The New York Times.

Some of Pinedo’s clients are targets of the special counsel inquiry. Court documents show that Pinedo is currently cooperating with Robert Mueller, the head of the special counsel leading the investigation, according to The New York Times.

The Internet Research Agency was able to quickly begin operations on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to push content that often incorporated falsified information. One account, posing as the Tennessee Republican Party, had hundreds of thousands of followers, according to The New York Times.

“Russian efforts to disrupt the 2016 U.S. election, in part by abusing social media platforms, go against everything we at Twitter believe,” said a Twitter spokesman, according to The Washington Post. “Any activity of this kind is intolerable, and we all must do more to prevent it.”

President Trump tweeted a response within hours of the indictments, according to The New York Times.

“Russia started their anti-U.S. campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President,” Trump wrote. “The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”

These are the latest indictments stemming from Mueller’s investigation, which has already criminally charged numerous Trump associates including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security advisor Michael T. Flynn.

The special counsel continues to investigate the extent of the Russian outreach before, during and after the 2016 election, according to The New York Times.

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