10 Things To Know About The Russia Investigation

Sean Newhouse
Contributing Writer

The special investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election led by former FBI director Robert Mueller charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups on Feb. 16 for knowingly and intentionally conspiring to interfere in the U.S. political process.

There’s been some time to comprehend but there’s a lot to digest. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. All defendants were charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Five defendants were charged with aggravated identity theft and three defendants were indicted for conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud. 
  2. The accused Russian nationals worked on several fronts. Some stole U.S. identities to pose as political activists, traveling throughout battleground states. 
  3. The primary organization charged in the indictment is the Internet Research Agency (IRA), which is based in St. Petersburg, Russia. Investigators say the IRA produced digital media, pretending to be from U.S. grassroots activist groups, to influence political conversation.

  1. According to the indictment, the IRA began targeting the 2016 U.S. presidential election in 2014. In February 2016, IRA employees were explicitly told to criticize Hillary Clinton, but not Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders. 
  2. The IRA had some notable successes. Operatives created posts under the Twitter handle @TEN_GOP, pretending to be the Tennessee Republican Party. They amassed 150,000 followers. Also, a Russian Facebook group using the front Black Matters made a fake protest in New York City the weekend after the election that thousands of people actually attended. 
  3. Facebook estimates about 126 million users were exposed to or followed accounts made by the IRA between January 2015 and August 2017. Here’s an example. While certain details in this propaganda are correct, there is no record of Figueroa being a Black Lives Matter (BLM) activist. 
  4. The IRA, which had a monthly budget of more than $1 million, is an example of Russian “information warfare.” POLITICO magazine published an extensive article, which can be read here, detailing this new kind of warfare and its affect on the U.S., as well as other Western democracies and former USSR countries.

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  1. The New York Times reported it is unlikely any of the 13 defendants in the indictment will be arrested because Russia rarely extradites to the U.S. However, it does make it harder for these individuals and three organizations to operate and travel. 
  2. The indictment says some defendants communicated with individuals associated with the Trump campaign, who were unaware of their association with Russia. This does not prove collusion nor does the indictment state Russia impacted the 2016 election’s outcome. 
  3. U.S. Intelligence Chiefs said in congressional testimony it’s likely Russia will try to influence the U.S. 2018 midterm elections. Here is a link to interviews conducted by Vox with experts on how the U.S. can prevent that from happening. 

If you want to read more of Flyer News’ coverage of the Russia investigation, you can read “General Flynn resigns from Trump Administration” and “Memo mania: A student’s guide to the Nunes memo” in Flyer News’ ninth issue.

Photo Taken From nbcnews.com.