Thirteen Russians and three Russian entities were charged Friday with an elaborate plot to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, federal prosecutors announced Friday.
The indictment, brought by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller, alleges that Russians used bogus social media postings and advertisements fraudulently purchased in the name of Americans to sway political opinion during the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, per the AP. The charges are the most direct allegation to date of illegal Russian meddling in the election. As for any links to the Trump campaign: Some of the suspects "interacted with Americans associated with the Trump campaign, but those Trump associates did not realize they were being manipulated," per the Washington Post.
The Post adds that the charges are linked to a "notorious Russian troll farm" known as the Internet Research Agency. “From in or around 2014 to the present, defendants knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other (and with persons known and unknown to the grand jury) to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016,’’ the indictment states. Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein said the goal of those charged Friday was "spreading distrust" of 2016 candidates and the political system. (Read more Robert Mueller stories.)