Thirteen Russian nationals have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of interfering in the 2016 presidential election — including supporting Donald Trump’s campaign and “disparaging” Hillary Clinton, special counsel Robert Mueller announced Friday.
The indictments — part of Mueller’s ongoing investigation — are the first tied directly to Russian meddling in the race for the White House.
“Some defendants, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities,” the indictment says.
Mueller indicts Russians for election meddling, but will they be brought to court? 6:27
Some of those charged also “posted derogatory information” about candidates in the GOP primaries, including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio — and, by the time of the general election, the Russians’ efforts included “supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton,” the indictment stated.
Some defendants also traveled to America to collect intelligence and to reach a significant “number of Americans for purposes of interfering with the U.S. political system, including the presidential election of 2016,” Mueller’s office charged.
The indictment charges all of the defendants and three Russian entities with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., three defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five with aggravated identity theft.
“From in or around 2014 to the present, Defendants knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other (and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury) to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016,”
The indictment does not allege that any Americans had knowledge of what the Russians were doing.
A White House official told NBC News that Trump was on Friday morning personally briefed on the indictments by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray.
At a press conference announcing the indictment, Rosenstein said the indictment “is a reminder that people aren’t always who they appear to be on the Internet.