(Updated 02/17/2018) Russian interference in the 2016 election targeted minority voters and spread false claims in an effort to disrupt Hillary Clinton’s campaign and aid Donald Trump, according to an indictment brought Friday by the Justice Department.
The indictment against 13 Russian individuals alleges that a St. Petersburg-based company called Internet Research Agency LLC worked to “encourage U.S. minority groups not to vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election or to vote for a third-party U.S. presidential candidate.”
FILE – In this Monday, Sept. 20, 2010 file photo, businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, left, shows Russian President Vladimir Putin, around his factory which produces school meals, outside St. Petersburg, Russia. Indicted for alleged U.S. election interference, Prigozhin is a wealthy Russian entrepreneur from St. Petersburg who’s been dubbed “Putin’s chef” by Russian media, with his catering businesses that have hosted the Kremlin leader’s dinners with foreign dignitaries. (Alexei Druzhinin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
Russian groups also promoted false allegations of voter fraud by the Democratic party, purchasing ads on Facebook and using other social media accounts to spread their message.
According to The Hill, Russians used an Instagram account called “Woke Blacks” to post a message reading, “A particular hype and hatred for Trump is misleading the people and forcing Black to vote Killary. We cannot resort to the lesser of two devils. Then we’re surely be better off without voting AT ALL.”
Another Instagram account, “Blacktivist,” encouraged voting for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. Other messages urged Muslims to boycott the election.
The indictment, brought by special counsel Robert Mueller, lays out in exacting detail a three-year plan by Russian operators dating back to 2014 to influence the 2016 election, damage Clinton’s campaign, and boost the candidacy of Trump, Stein, and Bernie Sanders.
President Trump on Friday seized on the indictment as proof that his campaign did not collude with Russian agents.
“Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President,” Trump tweeted Friday, two hours after the indictment was unveiled. “The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong—no collusion.”
However, in announcing the indictment, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein nor Mueller’s office have ruled out any collusion in other plots to disrupt the election, according to the AP, and Muller’s investigation appears poised to continue.