U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller charged 13 Russians for using a wide-scale, elaborate but well-hidden social media campaign designed to create distrust in the American government, tarnish the reputation of Democratic front-runner Hillary R. Clinton and influence more votes toward Republican candidate Donald J. Trump.
The federal indictment brought forth by Mueller presented highly detailed allegations on how the Russians orchestrated an online campaign that successful swayed the electorate to put Trump into the White House despite trailing badly in the surveys weeks before Americans actually casted their votes.
Despite the charges, the 13 Russians will not face trial. Indictment “en absentia” generally results in public humiliation and effectively suspends any foreign travel.
According the report, the online campaign was organized by the Internet Research Agency and funded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy businessman from St. Petersburg whom people refer to as “Putin’s Chef” because his restaurants businesses were always hired by the Russian President to cater to the Kremlin’s events.
The Internet Research Agency and three other Russian companies identified in the indictment allegedly operated with a multimillion-dollar budget and a large payroll covering hundreds of workers of various skills and designated to night and day shifts.
The Russian organization concealed its Russian roots by purchasing space on computer servers located in the United States. They also used email accounts from U.S. Internet Service Providers and operated social media pages that focused on divisive issues such as race and religion.
The indictment disclosed that the Russian agency bought ads on social media sites which supported Trump and opposed Clinton but did not report these expenses to the Federal Election Commission as foreign agents:
“They engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.”
However the indictment did not resolve the allegations of collusion which produced four charges against four associates of President Trump. It did not focus on the hacking but on the social media campaign that began in 2014 and continued after Trump was elected 45th President of the United States apparently to sow intrigue and erode public trust in the electoral process.
Shortly after the indictment was announced, President Trump took to Twitter and claimed vindication:
“The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”