Special counsel Robert Mueller has just filed a new indictment against 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities. The indictment, which was unsealed today in federal court in Washington, charges all of the named individuals and corporations with interfering in the election, helping Trump win, and lying to investigators about their efforts.
Who is being indicted in the Mueller investigation? And how dangerous is the situation that Mueller and his team of federal prosecutors suddenly find themselves in?
The 13 Russian Nationals
The indictment contains 13 individual counts, but they are all contained within one count. It charges seven Russian nationals and contractors with being involved in a conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election. Two of the Russian nationals are also charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud. A third Russian national is charged with aggravated identity theft.
The details of this alleged conspiracy are complex and disturbing. Prosecutors say that, “From at least June 2016 until the present,” the conspirators used false identities to pose on Facebook as U.S. persons and to manufacture and spread political content disparaging Clinton, the Democratic Party, and the United States. They also allegedly used a web of offshore accounts to transfer money to shell companies that they controlled, which were in turn used to pay for advertisements that promoted their conspiracy. The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators used a variety of technologies to accomplish their objectives and that they created at least 150 different social media fake accounts across various platforms to do so. The indictment does not make clear whether any of these social media accounts were still active as of today.
Three Russian Entities
Three Russian entities — Evro Polis Technologies, Concord Management, and Project Lakanovi — are also named in this indictment. These three are charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States and to commit wire fraud. The indictment alleges that the purpose of this conspiracy was “to provide material support and resources to the [13 Russian national] conspiracy in the form of money, finances, and personnel.”
This support included paying for online advertisements, creating fake social media accounts, and coordinating with individuals in the U.S. to create and spread disinformation about political opponents. It also involved using front companies and offshore accounts to launder the proceeds of the fraud. Project Lakanovi is also charged with aggravated identity theft.
What Does This Indictment Mean?
This is a very serious indictment of 13 Russians and three Russian entities. The details of the alleged conspiracy are shocking and may pose a significant threat to our democracy. But what exactly does it mean?
One line of reasoning is that the indictment means that Mueller’s investigation has shifted to a new phase. It now includes not just the investigation into potential collusion with the Trump campaign, but also a broader probe into interference in the election.
The indictments filed by Mueller in the past have all been for serious crimes. The special counsel has filed charges against 34 individuals and three companies in total. The individuals have generally been associated with Russian intelligence agencies or Putin-linked oligarchs. However, these new indictments appear to be the first to involve a broader range of issues, including the U.S. election. According to the charges, the 13 Russian nationals engaged in a wide-ranging conspiracy to undermine American democracy and interfere in the election using a host of illegal tactics.
Will This Have Any Effect On The Mueller Investigation?
This indictment will have far-reaching consequences, as the special counsel’s investigation now includes not just the election but also a host of other issues. The scope of Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion with the Trump campaign will undoubtedly be impacted by this new development. The details of the alleged conspiracy implicate numerous current and former Trump administration officials in wrongdoing. As a result, Trump and his allies may be faced with the difficult decision of whether to cooperate fully with the investigation or take the risk of receiving a perjury indictment.
Mueller is known to be meticulous and thorough. This new indictment serves as another indicator of just how far he may be willing to go in his quest for justice. Moreover, this is the second indictment filed by the special counsel in less than a week. The first, which named 13 Russian nationals, was unsealed on April 19. The special counsel has now filed two separate sets of indictments in the last seven days — which means he is moving fast to bring his investigation to a close.
What Will Become Of The 13 Russians And 3 Russian Entities?
Today’s indictment is a significant moment for the investigation into Russian interference in the election, but it is not yet the end. The case against the 13 Russians and three Russian entities will now head to trial, where evidence must be presented in court and the individuals will be able to defend themselves. The defense teams for the 13 Russians and three Russian entities named in the indictment will almost certainly raise an insanity defense given the nature of the allegations against these defendants. But the question is whether such an argument will be successful. The question of whether or not these individuals should be prosecuted at all is quite another matter.
The evidence presented in court will undoubtedly be heavily scrutinized by the media, and the individuals being tried will be in the spotlight. Whatever the outcome, this moment will certainly be remembered as a significant one in the history of American democracy. Today, we learned of the existence of a secret society of Trump supporters operating inside the Kremlin, and now we must wait to see the result of Mueller’s investigation. The fate of the individuals named in this indictment will be in the hands of U.S. prosecutors and our country’s judiciary. One thing is for sure: this will be a story that will not go away.