Russian national charged with attempting to interfere in 2018 midterms

A Russian who allegedly worked on funding online propaganda efforts to manipulate voters in the 2016 and 201...

Posted: Oct 20, 2018 2:49 PM
Updated: Oct 20, 2018 2:49 PM

A Russian who allegedly worked on funding online propaganda efforts to manipulate voters in the 2016 and 2018 elections was charged with a federal crime Friday as part of a wider conspiracy to hurt American democracy.

Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, 44, of St. Petersburg, Russia, is charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States for managing the financing of the social media troll operation that included the Internet Research Agency, which special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators charged with crimes earlier this year.

2015 Charleston church shooting

2016 Presidential election

2017 Las Vegas concert shooting

Charleston

Continents and regions

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Crimes against persons

Criminal law

Criminal offenses

Discrimination

Domestic terrorism

Eastern Europe

Elections (by type)

Elections and campaigns

Europe

Government and public administration

Hate crimes

Homicide

International relations and national security

Investigations

Las Vegas

Law and legal system

Mass murder

Murder

National security

Nevada

North America

Political candidates

Politics

Russia

Russia meddling investigation

Shootings

Societal issues

Society

South Carolina

Southeastern United States

Southwestern United States

Terrorism

Terrorism and counter-terrorism

The Americas

United States

Unrest, conflicts and war

US Federal elections

US Presidential elections

Violence in society

2018 Midterm elections

Conspiracy (criminal offense)

Indictments

Midterm elections

Political Figures - US

Robert Mueller

Concord

Internet and WWW

New Hampshire

Northeastern United States

Protests and demonstrations

Social media

Technology

Prosecutors who unsealed the complaint Friday say she aided the Russian effort to "inflame passions" online related to immigration, gun control and the Second Amendment, the Confederate flag, race relations, LGBT issues, the Women's March and the NFL National Anthem debate from December 2016 until May 2018.

The social media efforts specifically focused on the shootings of church members in Charleston, South Carolina, and concert attendees in Las Vegas, Nevada, the Charlottesville "Unite the Right" rally, which left one counterprotester dead, and police shootings of African-American men, the complaint says.

The criminal charge says the Russians' online manipulation effort focused on multiple political viewpoints and candidates, but frequently zeroed in on the Republican Party's most well-known leaders.

In one effort to spread an online news article about the late Sen. John McCain's position on a border wall to stop illegal immigration, an alleged conspirator directed others to "brand McCain as an old geezer." They also attempted to paint House Speaker Paul Ryan as "a complete and absolute nobody incapable of any decisiveness" and as a "two-faced loudmouth."

They aimed other efforts at stories about Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, pushed to "fully support" Donald Trump, and called Mueller "a puppet of the establishment," according to the complaint.

$35 million budget

The effort had an operating budget of $35 million, prosecutors say, and was allegedly funded by Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin and his companies. Prigozhin has not responded to a criminal charge he faces from Mueller for funding the scheme before the 2016 election.

"The conspiracy has a strategic goal, which continues to this day, to sow division and discord in the US political system, including by creating social and political polarization, undermining faith in democratic institutions, and influencing US elections, including the upcoming 2018 midterm election," the criminal complaint in the Eastern District of Virginia said Friday.

The online scheme directed its proponents to "effectively aggravate the conflict between minorities and the rest of the population," prosecutors quoted one member of the effort saying.

Khusyaynova also worked with Concord Management and Catering, another defendant in the Mueller probe, to take in funds. Concord is represented by lawyers in the US and is the only Russian defendant to plead not guilty so far.

Khusyaynova had not been previously charged with a crime.

Federal authorities issued a warrant for her arrest on September 28. But it had been kept secret for the three weeks since then so it would not derail "other government efforts to disrupt foreign influence efforts," a court filing released Friday said. Prosecutors did not elaborate.

Prosecutors say Khusyaynova oversaw the financing, budgeting and expense payments of the corporatized propaganda effort, called "Project Lakhta." The money came in from Concord, which received some of its funding from the Russian government to feed school children and the military, prosecutors allege.

The millions of dollars allowed the Russians to buy social media analytic services, secure server space and domain names, and plant online advertisements and to stage political rallies and protests in the US. Sometimes, the Russians would use fake Americanized names like "Bertha Malone" or "Helen Christopherson" on Facebook, or handles like "@TrumpWithUSA" "@swampdrainer659" or "@UsaUsafortrump" on Twitter. One Twitter account the group ran, @wokeluisa, amassed 55,000 followers in one year, tweeting about Flint, Michigan's drinking water crisis and encouraging voters to register in the 2018 midterm elections.

Project Lakhta's monthly budget frequently approached $2 million in the last three years.

Latest Russian charged in Mueller probe

The new case marks the 27th time a Russian has been charged with a crime related to 2016 election interference or by Mueller, whose mandate is to investigate those crimes.

In another open case, the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian military intelligence officers for hacking the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign and spreading those documents online to influence the election. A 26th Russian national was indicted in June alongside now-convicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort for alleged witness tampering.

Typically, criminal cases against Russian nationals hang in the court system with no progress after the initial charge, because the European nation does not extradite its citizens to the US when they are charged. The cases in effect allow the US to "name and shame" defendants, as court-watchers call the practice. The defendants are unlikely to ever appear in US court.

Russian company Concord Management and Catering's not guilty plea in the election propaganda case was an unusual pushback on these types of indictments. Concord's US-based attorneys are fighting the conspiracy charge and have so far unsuccessfully attempted to use the court to challenge Mueller's work and to gather information about the investigators' tactics.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 68293

Reported Deaths: 1944
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5700119
DeSoto371031
Harrison260136
Madison245569
Jackson231444
Rankin230735
Jones193159
Forrest182656
Washington170142
Lee152142
Lauderdale141592
Neshoba128892
Lamar123115
Bolivar113635
Oktibbeha113339
Warren112535
Lowndes109239
Panola106816
Sunflower105625
Scott101120
Lafayette98719
Copiah96228
Leflore94966
Pike94037
Holmes91049
Grenada85123
Pontotoc8429
Yazoo84113
Lincoln83442
Monroe82155
Simpson80631
Leake79526
Coahoma78113
Wayne78021
Tate74330
Marshall7129
Marion68420
Union66216
Adams63225
Winston62916
Covington62214
George5956
Pearl River55940
Newton54511
Tallahatchie54111
Attala52725
Walthall50221
Chickasaw47619
Noxubee46112
Tishomingo4377
Alcorn4355
Calhoun4259
Prentiss42310
Claiborne40914
Smith40613
Hancock40214
Clay40114
Jasper3949
Itawamba38710
Tippah37414
Tunica3587
Clarke33626
Montgomery3295
Lawrence3238
Yalobusha31610
Humphreys29712
Quitman2691
Carroll26111
Greene25612
Perry2428
Amite2376
Webster23712
Kemper23314
Jefferson Davis2336
Wilkinson21513
Stone2115
Sharkey2045
Jefferson1957
Benton1451
Choctaw1354
Franklin1312
Issaquena272
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 99926

Reported Deaths: 1781
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson13366246
Mobile10581212
Montgomery6825151
Madison546934
Tuscaloosa426979
Unassigned392566
Baldwin367029
Shelby333437
Marshall319438
Lee270847
Morgan241819
Etowah218034
DeKalb183414
Calhoun181918
Elmore176039
Walker154465
Houston142813
Russell13892
St. Clair136320
Limestone135913
Dallas133624
Franklin129722
Cullman123012
Colbert121517
Lauderdale119020
Autauga116222
Escambia108817
Talladega105414
Jackson10264
Tallapoosa87579
Chambers84738
Dale84329
Clarke82610
Chilton8189
Blount8165
Butler77036
Coffee7656
Covington74021
Pike7137
Marion58226
Barbour5796
Lowndes57124
Marengo56616
Hale48526
Bullock48111
Winston45711
Perry4454
Bibb4445
Washington44412
Wilcox43410
Monroe4236
Pickens4089
Randolph40211
Conecuh39310
Sumter36618
Lawrence3542
Macon33914
Crenshaw3326
Choctaw28912
Cherokee2768
Clay2675
Geneva2652
Henry2643
Greene25211
Lamar2302
Fayette2235
Cleburne1291
Coosa1053
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 85°
Columbus
Overcast
79° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 83°
Oxford
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 78°
Starkville
Broken Clouds
77° wxIcon
Hi: 90° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 78°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather