February 18, 2018
No wonder the Russians celebrated when Trump won the election, they worked hard to make that happen, engaging many operatives, and spending millions of dollars to get the job done. We were duped. On Friday the Federal Grand Jury DC returned an indictment against 13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian entities charging the defendants conspired to defraud the US by impairing, obstructing and defeating the lawful function of the Federal Election Commission, US Dept of Justice and US Dept of State.
The conspiracy began as early as 2014 with Russians developing a corporate entity with the goal of information warfare against the US. The LLC was housed in St Petersburg, Russia, and it employed hundreds of people for their online operation. There was an annual budget of millions of dollars – over a million every month, The Organization had a graphics dept, data analysis dept, SEO dept, IT dept and finance dept. By April of 2014 the so called “translator project” was created – aimed at sowing discord over social media platforms in the US with the goal of spreading distrust towards certain candidates and disrupting our political system.
The boss of the operation was Yevgeney Prigozhin, also referred to as “Putin’s” chef”. He controlled the operation. At one point the Russian spies in the US got an unwitting American to hold a sign up in front of the White House that read “Happy 55th birthday, Dear Boss”. Prigozhin was turning 55 the next day.
They took a picture for the boss to enjoy.
The laws that were broken include FEC prohibition of foreign nationals from making political contributions, etc without reporting to the FEC. The DOJ violation – foreign agents have to register with the DOJ. And State Dept violation – providing false information for visas to the US.
The object of the conspiracy was to “impair, obstruct, defeat the lawful governmental function of the US by dishonest means in order to enable defendants to interfere with US political and electoral process including the 2016 US presidential election.”
What follows in this meticulous indictment is a behind the scenes expose of the activities of these Russian spies. It’s close to a spy novel – the best a Grand Jury can do, I’d say. Watch out for the movie that’s coming. Although, we are not done with the indictments and we will have to wait for the full reveal before this movie gets made.
Among other activities, these Russians must have had a blast getting naive, unwitting Americans to go to rallies that these spies organized and promoted on social media platforms that they created and used a lot of money to promote. Groups they created included “Blacktivist”, “United Muslims of America”, “Army of Jesus”, “Heart of Texas”, “Tennessee GOP” and “Secured Borders” and many others. They grew hundreds to thousands of followers for these groups. They studied, tracked and measured the impact of their efforts by checking the engagement of the Americans who were “liking” “commenting” and sharing their posts.
They worked hard to make the graphics appealing to the readership they developed. They co-ordinated and staged fake political rallies and flash mobs, interacted with REAL members of Trump’s campaign in places like Florida to get the campaign to use their fake propaganda (although the Trump campaign members here were “unwitting” and will not be charged as co-conspirators because their state of mind was not “knowing”) Among other things, they got an unwitting American citizen to dress up as Hillary Clinton in prison garb and they got another American to build a cage on top of a flat bed truck to portray the meme “lock her up” and used these in a rally. Then they got this same dumb American to travel to another state to be in another rally again dressed in this costume. They paid these duped Americans with funds from their organization but went to great lengths to use stolen American identities and bank accounts for the payments. They recruited US citizens to hold signs that had a fake Clinton quote, “I think Sharia Law will be a powerful new direction of freedom.”
What they were pushing was full on anti-Clinton. Their efforts supported Trump but also Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein to hurt Clinton’s numbers. They worked to suppress the black vote and create fear about Muslims. They must have had a romp with all of this.
On September 13, 2017, after the election was over, the FBI busts the Russian operation in St Petersburg. We get a glimpse into some of the vast information that Mueller’s team must have at their disposal. We get to see a personal email from one of the Russian operatives that was intercepted, giving us some insight into the granular knowledge that Mueller’s team has gained from what must be our international partners allied against espionage. This spy writes – “We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI busted our activity (not a joke). So I got preoccupied with covering tracks together with colleagues.” And then she proudly writes: “I created all these pictures and posts and the Americans believed that it was written by their people.” HA! We were played. We were totally had.
What is the effect of this remarkable indictment?
1) Mueller and his team have defined the conspiracy. Think of that as the Christmas tree upon which they will now hang the ornaments, the people who were involved in this conspiracy to obstruct the lawful function of the US government thru fraud and deceit as knowing participants. Because of this clear definition of the laws that were broken it is no longer possible to say there was no crime that was committed. On that, Mr. Trump, game over. This indictment makes it crystal clear that if Republicans allow Trump to get rid of Rosenstein, it is without a doubt a Saturday Night massacre and part of the obstruction of justice. Rosenstein just saved his job from being assaulted by Trump and portrayed by Republicans as unnecessary, I would say. I was heartened to hear that Republican staffers on the Hill reacted to this indictment by saying that Mueller has to finish his job. The fever dream conspiracy theories of Devin Nunes, Sean Hannity and some other Republicans seems to be receding. That is comforting.
2) This indictment is not evidence that there was no additional conspiracy involving the Trump campaign, even if that is what Trump and his cohorts are saying. This indictment is solely focused on the social media portion of the wrongdoing in the run up to the 2016 election and afterwards. There was still the illegal hacking of emails from the DNC. There was still that meeting in Trump Tower with Russian operatives when Trump Jr. said he’d love to get dirt on Hillary. I think Mueller and company dropped this social media indictment bomb now to get Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and our government to get moving to prevent this social media assault from happening again in 2018. Now is the time to act to prevent future harm.
3) There was an additional indictment of Manafort yesterday that has been buried under the news of this larger indictment of Russians. But what it tells me is that Mueller is putting the screws to Manafort to get him to plead and he might be considering putting him in jail pending the trial to get more cooperation. Gates is cooperating with Mueller’s team and because Gates knows so much about what happened in the Trump campaign, including Manafort’s role, that will be additional pressure on Manafort. Mueller now has a nice little group of people who are helping his team understand the truth about what happened to us in this past election.
4) Mueller’s team is doing its work in a highly professional and thorough way. I think this indictment is the wake-up call for the American people who had not yet come to their senses that our country was attacked, to face that sobering reality. In addition, it sets the stage for what is coming next. We have one Christmas tree. There will be others. Now who are the ornaments? And with so many people at the top of the Trump campaign who are next in line for conversations with Mueller – including Jared Kushner, Trump Jr. and Trump himself, and with the knowledge that Mueller’s team now has and is gaining from the grand jury testimony, from Bannon, Flynn, Gates and Papadopoulos as well as others we do not know about, there should be additional indictments from this Grand Jury with the probable focus on different conspiracies carried out in the run up to the 2016 election and the obstruction that followed. I think we will find out is that Trump was a traitor and is a traitor. I am eager to learn the specifics of the deal he has with Putin that will explain what we have been witnessing these past two years and continue to see – Putin is the only one Trump does not disparage. Ever. Trump refuses to impose bipartisan sanctions. Trump blames Obama for the Russian meddling. What is Trump hiding?