United States says Russia, China, Iran seek to disrupt elections
21 October, 2018, 00:52 | Author: Ted Wilson
The US government has charged a Russian national with playing a key financial role in a Kremlin-backed plan to conduct "information warfare" against the United States, including to influence next month's congressional elections.
A new complaint unsealed Friday by the Justice Department against the alleged accountant who helped manage Russia's election-meddling activities on social media offered new details on how the Internet troll farm was financed.
They allegedly focused on such topics as immigration, gun control and the Second Amendment, the Confederate flag, race relations, LGBT issues, the Women's March, and the NFL national anthem debate.
Khusyaynova, who is a resident of St. Petersburg, Russia, and is not in United States custody, billed Prigozhin and his companies to pay for advertisements on Facebook, bloggers, and for "development accounts" on Twitter, the complaint says. Khusyaynova served as the bookkeeper for the operation, codenamed "Project Lakhta", managing payments for rent, buying proxy servers, and the registering of domain names.
On Friday, the Justice Department, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security released a joint statement ahead of the announcement of Khusyaynova's indictment that said "foreign interference in USA elections is a threat to our democracy and preventing this interference is a top priority of the Federal Government". She is not now in US custody.
Khusyaynova's case is the first federal case alleging foreign interference in the 2018 midterm elections. She is the first individual to be indicted for attempting to interfere in the 2018 USA elections, according to a government official with knowledge of the matter. The case is not being brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team.
"The conspirators allegedly took extraordinary steps to make it appear that they were ordinary American political activists", by setting up thousands of accounts made to appear to be owned by Americans, the Justice Department said.
The proposed operating budget for "Project Lahtka" that Khusyaynova billed between January 2016 and June 2018, according to the complaint, was $35 million; $10 million was billed just between January 2018 and June 2018.
The indictment does not allege that any American knowingly worked with the Russians.
"We are concerned about ongoing campaigns by Russia, China and other foreign actors, including Iran, to undermine confidence in democratic institutions and influence public sentiment and government policies", said the statement, issued in conjunction with the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and Justice Department. The statement, which provided no details about any such efforts, said, "These activities also may seek to influence voter perceptions and decision-making in the 2018 and 2020 US elections".
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