The Trump administration has charged a Russian national in a sweeping plot to sow distrust in the American political process and imposed sanctions against a Russia-linked Ukrainian lawmaker accused of interfering in the US presidential election. Those actions on Thursday, combined with a Microsoft announcement on hacking attempts targeting US political campaigns, parties, and consultants, underscore the extent to which the same cyber intrusions and foreign influence operations that defined the 2016 White House race remain a persistent concern today, the AP reports. In the case of the sanctions, officials denounced audio recordings that had been released by the Ukrainian parliamentarian and promoted by Trump on Twitter.
The criminal charges accuse Artem Mikhaylovich Lifshits of serving as a translation manager in a Russian effort that since at least 2014 has tried to disrupt the political system in the US and other countries. Members of the initiative, known as Project Lakhta, traveled to the US to collect intelligence and operated bogus social media accounts that could pump out messaging to millions of Americans on divisive social issues. The goal of the department where Lifshits worked was to sow discord, incite civil unrest, and polarize Americans with social media posts that touched on hot-button topics including gun rights and race relations, prosecutors say. The Justice Department complaint does not accuse Lifshits or other Project Lakhta members of promoting a particular presidential candidate in the 2020 race.
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