WASHINGTON (AP) – Thirteen Russians and three Russian entities were charged Friday with an elaborate plot to interfere in the 2016 U.S. 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 Republican Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent.
The charges are the most direct allegation to date of illegal Russian meddling in the election.
The goal, the indictment says, was to “sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 presidential election.”
The charges arise from Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the election and whether there was improper coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
“No collusion.” That’s the reaction of President Donald Trump to the indictment of 13 Russians and three Russian companies for plotting to meddle in the 2016 election.
The president tweeted Friday that the indictment shows, “The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”
The Russians were charged Friday with using social media propaganda aimed at helping Trump and harming the prospects of Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Trump notes that the Russian influence campaign is alleged to have started in 2014, “long before” he declared his candidacy.
He says, “The results of the election were not impacted.”
In fact, while prosecutors have not alleged that meddling altered the election’s outcome, the indictment does not rule it out.
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