A federal grand jury indicted 13 Russian nationals and a Russian agency for attempting to meddle in the 2016 election, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday. Americans involved with the entities were deemed “unwitting” participants.
The Russians allegedly posed as U.S. citizens, created false personas, and operated on social media in an attempt to grow and influence U.S. audiences. They were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States.
The jury was called by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who has been investigating Russia’s election meddling and whether the Trump campaign might have colluded with the country’s government to win the presidency. The Russian nationals and the Internet Research Agency are accused of building a misleading online presence and staging rallies with the “strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system.” Some of them communicated with unwitting political activists and associates of the Trump campaign.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein noted in the announcement of the charges that no Americans were charged, and that no evidence was found that the Russians succeeded in altering the outcome of the election.
“There is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity,” he said. “There is no allegation in the indictment that the charge conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”
The charges are the first of Mueller’s investigation against Russians.