Russia's former ambassador to the United States is dismissing detailed allegations of attempted Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election as "fantasies" rooted in domestic politics. He pleaded guilty on February 12, according to court documents.
Thirteen Russians have been charged with interfering in the USA 2016 election, in a major development in the FBI investigation.
The other individual defendant, Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, funded the conspiracy through companies known as Concord Management and Consulting LLC, Concord Catering, and many subsidiaries and affiliates.
The indictment goes on to say the specialists were instructed to write about topics on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram specifically related to USA foreign policy and economic issues.
He also said that "there is no allegation in the indictment of any effect on the outcome of the election".
The prosecutors, however, have not accused the Russian government of any involvement in this campaign or said that the campaign successfully swayed votes. Greg Sargent of the Washington Post explains what this means for the broader Russian Federation investigation.
To charge an American with conspiracy, legal experts said, Mueller would need to show that person was aware the Russians were trying to interfere in the election and knowingly aided them. Leah Litman, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine, said that meant the Russian government was extremely unlikely to turn over any of its nationals for US prosecution. But Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion - including in a tweet on Friday after the DOJ announced the indictments.
In November, Trump even said he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin's denials that the Kremlin interfered in the US presidential election - despite a "high confidence" assessment from the USA intelligence community saying that Russia did, indeed, interfere in the election.
MCEVERS: The question of whether Russian Federation influenced the outcome of the election has been a tricky one for the Trump administration, yeah?
Two other members of the Trump campaign - chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy Rick Gates - have been charged with a variety of financial crimes by Mueller.
"It has been clear to everyone (except Donald Trump) that Russian Federation was deeply involved in the 2016 election and intends to be involved in 2018", Sanders wrote.
During the 2016 campaign, the Russian operatives posted "derogatory information" about a number of presidential candidates.
"The Russians ... posed as Americans and communicated with unwitting people associated with the Trump campaign to try to coordinate political activities".
The indictment further alleges that employees of the Internet Research Agency committed identity theft to obtain PayPal accounts that were used to purchase advertisements on social media sites, and to pay for expenses including buttons, banners and flags at the rallies.
The Russians tried to cover their tracks after the election by deleting or destroying data including emails and the bogus social-media accounts they'd set up, according to the indictment. They bought stolen bank account numbers online as well, using them to bypass PayPal's security system and open accounts, with which they bought Facebook ads.