United States charges Russian woman with interfering in 2018 midterms

President Trump has often dismissed Robert Mueller’s inquiry into election meddling as a “witch-hunt” but prosecutors have charged a Russian woman with trying to influence next month’s elections

US charges Russian woman with interfering in 2018 midterms

A Russian woman has been charged with interfering in American elections, including next month's midterms, through a vast social media effort aimed at trying to sway American public opinion.

USA law enforcement and intelligence agencies said on Friday they remain concerned about attempts by Russia, China, Iran and other foreign groups to interfere with the November 6 congressional elections, as well as the presidential election in 2020. She allegedly spent millions in an operation called Project Lakhta, buying advertising on social media, acquiring internet domain names, and pushing "news postings on social networks". The feds charged a 44-year-old Russian woman, Elena Khusyaynova, with conspiracy to defraud the USA, reports the Washington Post. Also Friday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence warned that "ongoing campaigns" by Russia, China, and Japan were underway to influence the midterms and the 2020 elections.

Those companies have been indicted in a separate case by special counsel Robert Mueller for allegedly taking part in the massive Russian campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Intelligence officials said previous year that Russian Federation sought to influence the 2016 presidential election through similar means.

A criminal complaint filed against the woman charges that she managed the finances of Project Lakhta, including detailed expenses for activities in the US such as paying for activists, advertisements on social media, registering domain names, the purchase of proxy servers, and promoting news postings on social media. What remains to be seen is how and whether Mueller can connect President Trump or his campaign to those efforts. They used social media platforms to create thousands of social media and email accounts that appeared to be operated by USA persons, and used them to create and amplify divisive social and political content targeting US audiences.

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The officials have cited largely public steps taken by China, such as aiming tariffs at politically important states and pressuring USA businesses to speak out against the Trump administration. They also allegedly focused on events like the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville and specific mass shootings, the complaint alleges.

Christopher Wray, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said in a statement charges against Khusyaynova highlighted "threats to our democracy" from propaganda campaigns.

Other countries are using social media to amplify divisive issues in American society and sponsor content in English-language media, such as Russia's RT and Sputnik news outlets, the security agencies' statement said.

"This effort was not only created to spread distrust towards candidates for USA political office and the US political system in general, but also to defraud the United States by impeding the lawful functions of government agencies in administering relevant federal requirements", the news release said.

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