What Did Mueller Achieve with the Internet Research Agency Indictment?

Back during Nunes Week, Trey Gowdy described the importance of Robert Mueller’s investigation by stating that we were only seeing half of what he was doing. The other half of his work, Gowdy said, was the counterintelligence side, the investigation into what Russia did to the US in 2016.

Friday, Rod Rosenstein rolled out the first glimpse of the other half of that investigation, an indictment of 13 Russians tied to the Internet Research Agency, the Russian troll factory. The indictment accuses IRA of 8 crimes: criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five counts of aggravated identity theft.

In the wake of that indictment, the court unsealed a February 7  plea agreement with Californian Richard Pinedo, for identity theft (basically, selling bank account numbers; the information doesn’t identify the users who purchased the bank account numbers as IRA personnel who used them to set up “American” identities, but that is clearly what happened).

The 13 Russians charged in the IRA indictment — which include Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the close Putin associate who owns the company, those in charge of the operation (which was not limited to US targeting), down to a few of the analysts who did the troll work — will never be extradited to the US, though the most senior among them will surely be sanctioned. Nor will Putin in any way retaliate against them — they were doing work he approved of! Further, by criminalizing “information warfare” (as the Russians admitted they were engaged in, and as we do too, under the same name) we risk our own information warriors being indicted in other countries.

So what purpose did the indictment serve? Here are some thoughts:

Creating a paper trail

Rosenstein and Chris Wray have both said they believe investigators should speak through indictments and other official documents, not through Comeyesque press conferences. Here we have an indictment that serves as a record of what Mueller’s team has found.

We would probably have gotten it in any case, as Jeff Sessions’ DOJ has emphasized bringing more cybersecurity related indictments.

But that we did get it addresses one of the questions we’ve gotten about the Mueller investigation: whether we’ll get to read a report of what he has found.

To the extent that something is indictable, even if that indictment would name Russians or others located overseas, I guess we should expect more of the same.

Establishing bipartisan credibility for the larger investigation

The reason I keep pointing to Gowdy’s statements in support of the investigation in the last several weeks is because his actions seem to reflect one of the most partisan Republicans reacting soberly to an attack on the country, rather than just one party.

And while the details of the indictment — most notably that the trolls affirmatively supported Bernie Sanders as well as Trump — have resurfaced the old primary recriminations, for the most part, the indictment has provided a way for people from both parties to agree to the reality of the attack. Trump said Mueller did a good job with the indictment (admittedly, he may be currying favor). Trump’s National Security Advisor HR McMaster responded to the indictment by declaring the evidence that Russia interfered in the election “incontrovertible.” This indictment offers a way for even self-interested Republicans to start acknowledging the reality of what happened.

The indictment also gave Rod Rosenstein an opportunity to own this investigation with a press conference announcing it. None of the prosecutors tied to the case appeared (since I track these things, know that Jeannie Rhee, Rush Atkinson, and Ryan Dickey are on the docket), just Rosenstein. Hopefully, tying him to this non-offensive indictment will make it harder to fire Rosenstein, and thereby further protect Mueller.

Reiterating the crime of conspiracy to defraud the United States

The most interesting of the three crimes charged in the IRA indictment is the first, the conspiracy to defraud the United States. The indictment describes the conspiracy this way:

U.S. law bans foreign nationals from making certain expenditures or financial disbursements for the purpose of influencing federal elections. U.S. law also bars agents of any foreign entity from engaging in political activities within the United States without first registering with the Attorney General. And U.S. law requires certain foreign nationals seeking entry to the United States to obtain a visa by providing truthful and accurate information to the government.

Effectively, Mueller is saying that it’s not illegal, per se, to engage in political trolling (AKA information warfare), but it is if you don’t but are legally obliged to register before you do so. That’s an important distinction, because much of what these trolls did is accepted behavior in American politics — all sides did this in 2016, including people employed by campaigns and others expressing their own political opinions. Trolling (AKA information warfare) only becomes illegal when you don’t carry out the required transparency or reporting before you do so.

The charge of a conspiracy to defraud the United States has a very important parallel elsewhere in this investigation, in the first charge in the Paul Manafort and Rick Gates indictment. The indictment explains,

It is illegal to act as an agent of a foreign principal engaged in certain United States influence activities without registering the affiliation. Specifically, a person who engages in lobbying or public relations work in the United States (hereafter collectively referred to as lobbying) for a foreign principal such as the Government of Ukraine or the Party of Regions is required to provide a detailed written registration statement to the United States Department of Justice. The filing, made under oath, must disclose the name of the foreign principal, the financial payments to the lobbyist, and the measures undertaken for the foreign principal, among other information. A person required to make such a filing must further make in all lobbying material a “conspicuous statement” that the materials are distributed on behalf of the foreign principal, among other things. The filing thus permits public awareness and evaluation of the activities of a lobbyist who acts as an agent of a foreign power or foreign political party in the United States.

The Manafort indictment then argues that by hiding that the lobbying work they were doing was on behalf of Ukraine’s Party of Regions they, “knowingly and intentionally conspired to defraud the United States by impeding impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful governmental functions of a government agency, namely the Department of Justice and the Department of the Treasury.” I’ll have more to say about this parallel in coming days, but suffice it to say that Mueller is alleging that Manafort is the mirror image of the troll farm, engaging in politics while hiding on whose behalf he’s doing it (he was arguably doing the same in Ukraine). [Update: see this post for more on how this might work.]

In both cases, the indictments substantiate the conspiracy by naming a variety of crimes, like money laundering and identity theft.

I suspect we’ll be seeing more of this structure going forward (and suspect it’s something the numerous appellate specialists on Mueller’s team have been spending a lot of time thinking about).

Laying out how Americans might be involved with or without “colluding”

Much has been made of Rosenstein’s line, “There is no allegation in the indictment that any American was a knowing participant in the alleged unlawful activity.” I don’t read too much into that. Rather, I think Rosenstein included it because the indictment does explicitly and implicitly describe actions many Americans and possible Americans took that were part of this conspiracy. That includes:

Illegal compensated acvitities

  • Richard Pinedo: Selling Russian trolls (and others) bank account numbers they can use to conduct identity fraud
  • Unknown persons: Providing social security numbers and fake US drivers licenses of Americans
  • Unknown persons: Selling stolen credit card information

Presumptively legal compensated activities

  • Unknown Americans: Renting servers in the US to run VPNs to hide their foreign location
  • Yahoo, Gmail, Paypal: Providing email and PayPal accounts the Russians used as the basis for social media accounts
  • Twitter, Instagram, Facebook: Providing those social media accounts
  • Twitter, Instagram, Facebook: Selling advertisements on social media
  • Unknown Trump associates: Paying for IRA rally expenses
  • Paid providers: Building a cage, acquiring a costume, and posing as Hillary in prison stunt at a FL event
  • Unknown US person: Providing posters for a Support Hillary, Save American Muslims rally
  • Unknown American: Holding a sign in front of the White House on May 29, 2016

Uncompensated activities

  • Unknown Americans: Interacting with Aleksandra Krylova and Anna Bogacheva when they traveled to the US sometime between June 4 and June 26, 2014 to conduct reconnaissance and another co-conspirator that November
  • Members of the media: Accepting tips and promoting IRA events
  • A member of a real TX-based Tea Party organization: Advising the conspirators to focus on the purple states “like Colorado, Virginia & Florida”
  • Unwitting members, volunteers, and supporters of the Trump Campaign involved in local community outreach, as well as grassroots groups that supported then-candidate Trump: Distributing IRA materials through existing channels of those groups
  • Administrators of large social media groups focused on U.S. politics: Promoting IRA events
  • Trump volunteer: Providing signs for the March for Trump event and otherwise recruiting for it
  • A Florida-based political activist identified as the “Chair for the Trump Campaign” in a particular Florida county: Advising on more locations and logistics for the Florida Trump event
  • Campaign Officials 1, 2, and 3: discussing the Florida events

Later the indictment describes a database of 100 real US persons whom the trolls treated as recruiting targets, complete with profiling.

On or about August 24, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators updated an internal ORGANIZATION list of over 100 real U.S. persons contacted through ORGANIZATION-controlled false U.S. persona accounts and tracked to monitor recruitment efforts and requests. The list included contact information for the U.S. persons, a summary of their political views, and activities they had been asked to perform by Defendants and their co-conspirators.

Here’s the important thing about all this. While Pinedo pled guilty and faces 12-18 months even with his cooperation agreement (and even there, while the information makes it clear he knew he was dealing with foreigners, his lawyer has made it clear he didn’t know who or what he was dealing with), there are only two other known illegal roles in this conspiracy, and there’s no reason those roles would have had to be carried out by Americans. Perhaps Mueller has others cooperating, perhaps those other criminals are unknown. But as for the rest, they are (as Rosenstein made clear) not guilty of any kind of conspiracy with Russia.

DOJ just rolled out an indictment in which probably 20 Americans can recognize themselves (many of whom were likely interviewed), about as many as all the Trump officials named in one or another plea agreement so far. Yet, as far as Mueller knows, none of these people did anything but conduct business or engage in sincerely held politics. They almost certainly had far less reason to be suspicious of the trolls they were being used by than Facebook and Twitter. Those actions have been tainted now through no fault of their own.

Which is something to remember: I’ve seen Hillary supporters, in the same breath, criticize Bernie or Jill Stein supporters because their preferred candidate was treated favorably by the trolls, yet in the same breath suggesting the black and Muslim activists targeted are innocent victims.

Obviously, Hillary and her supporters are victims. But everyone is, even the Trump volunteers. Because to the extent they had honestly held beliefs, the Russian operation tainted those beliefs, it diminished the weight of their honestly held beliefs. They were used by Russian trolls, most of them without the same profit motive that led Facebook and Twitter to allow themselves to be used. And we should remember that.

Hinting at what the US has

There are, however, a few tactical things this indictment does, starting with hinting at what other evidence the US has. This indictment was relatively easy, in that Adrian Chen (in a June 2015 article that still gets too little attention), Facebook and (to a lesser extent) other social media outlets, the Daily Beast, and SSCI generally have already laid out what IRA did. The indictment slaps some criminal charges on fraudulent behavior that enabled it, and without showing much about any additional evidence Mueller collected, you’ve got a showy indictment.

There are two hints, however, of the additional evidence used (which, given that the named conspirators will never face trial, will never need to be disclosed or explained). First, in a passage about how IRA started to cover their tracks after Mueller started focusing on this activity, there’s the reference to Irina Kaverzina.

On or about September 13, 2017, KAVERZINA wrote in an email to a family member: “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 the colleagues.”

Kaverzina was just a low-level troll and this may be nothing more than Section 702 collected email off GMail or Yahoo, or it may be a more formal intercept. But Mueller obtained communications from at least one of the indictees. Emails from more senior people, such as Prigozhin or his more senior managers (or the IT guys buying server space in the US) would be more interesting.

Plus, Mueller likely obtained cooperation from one IRA employee, the unnamed person who traveled to Atlanta in November 2014 for reconnaissance. Had that person not cooperated, he or she would have been named in the indictment.

Nevertheless establishing the political stakes

I said above that none of the hundred-plus Americans who were unknowingly used by trolls should be considered anything but victims. Their chosen political views, loathsome or not, have now been tainted, and not because of anything they’ve done except perhaps show too much trust or credulity.

But there are hints that Mueller is using this indictment to set up a more important point.

For example, the indictment (perhaps because of Mueller’s mandate) focuses on political activities supporting or opposing one or another 2016 candidate. Even where topics (immigration, Muslim religion, race) are not necessarily tied to the election, they’re presented here as such. Unless Facebook’s public reports are wrong, this is a very different emphasis than what Facebook has said the IRA focused on. Which is to say that Mueller’s team are focusing on a subset of the known IRA trolling, the subset that involves the 2016 contest between Trump and Hillary.

And there are several events, in particular, that may one day serve as details in a larger conspiracy. Most interesting, for the timing and location, are the twin anti-Hillary and pro-Trump events in NYC in June and July 2016.

In or around June and July 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the Facebook group “Being Patriotic,” the Twitter account @March_for_Trump, and other ORGANIZATION accounts to organize two political rallies in New York. The first rally was called “March for Trump” and held on June 25, 2016. The second rally was called “Down with Hillary” and held on July 23, 2016.

a. In or around June through July 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators purchased advertisements on Facebook to promote the “March for Trump” and “Down with Hillary” rallies.

b. Defendants and their co-conspirators used false U.S. personas to send individualized messages to real U.S. persons to request that they participate in and help organize the rally. To assist their efforts, Defendants and their co-conspirators, through false U.S. personas, offered money to certain U.S. persons to cover rally expenses.

c. On or about June 5, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators, while posing as a U.S. grassroots activist, used the account @March_for_Trump to contact a volunteer for the Trump Campaign in New York. The volunteer agreed to provide signs for the “March for Trump” rally.

[snip]

On or about July 23, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the email address of a false U.S. persona, [email protected], to send out press releases to over thirty media outlets promoting the “Down With Hillary” rally at Trump Tower in New York City.

The description of a IRA-organized event at Trump Tower the day after WikiLeaks dropped the DNC emails, in particular, suggests the possibility of a great deal of coordination, coordination with people in the US.

Similarly, the extended descriptions of events in Florida may also take on added relevance in the future, particularly coming as they did in tandem with Guccifer 2.0’s release of DCCC data targeting FL. (And this, in turn, should focus even more attention on the FL congressmen like Matt Gaetz and Ron DeSantis who’re leading the pushback on Mueller’s investigation.)

Using the term “co-conspirator” 119 times

Perhaps most interesting, given the tiny nods to what other intelligence Mueller might have, are the 119 uses of the word “co-conspirators.” Almost all of these uses seem to necessarily mean unnamed IRA employees working from the same St. Petersburg location described as trolling. Several times the co-conspirators are clearly described as located in Russia. So it may be that all references to co-conspirators here are just a way to refer to the 70 other people involved in this operation at IRA. But that’s not necessarily the case.

Other uses of “co-conspirator” involve wider knowledge, perhaps an outsider’s knowledge of a go-between role Prigozhin might have had.

But others are things that might have involved a stateside co-conspirator, such as the mention of co-conspirators helping to set up the May 29, 2016 Prigozhin birthday tribute in front of the White House, co-conspirators tracking US social media use, co-conspirators engaged in identity theft, co-conspirators promoting claims of voter fraud, co-conspirators destroying data. Several of those things (such as tracking US social media use or claiming Hillary was going to steal the election) are things we know Trump associates were also doing. Others might be facilitated by someone stateside. So those uses of the term could be people not employed by IRA.

Which is to say, this indictment might be (probably is) intended to address just the activities of those employed by IRA. But that’s not necessarily the case.

Update: added the public indictment part.

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73 replies
  1. pseudonymous in nc says:

    As I said in the Gates thread, the indictment suggests that most of the direct interaction from the troll factory for event planning was with local Joe and Joelle Magahats.

    In terms of co-conspirators, though, I’d be looking very closely at people like Posobiec, Cernovich, Flynn Jr and Rage Furby Johnson (along with anonymous chan/subreddit people) operating in the stunt-trolling space and amplifying operations like @TEN_GOP.

    • emptywheel says:

      Definitely the kind of people who might help do a tribute to the troll master, yeah. But I’m also sure there are people we haven’t heard of.

    • Antimony says:

      Actually, I think talking about the CIA’s effect on Iran is instructive, especially for redhats who are still happy to have had russia’s help. The 1953 coup was a big short-term win for the CIA and the US. But the blowback from it not only crushed the CIA’s co-conspirators in country, it also created one of the biggest geopolitical headaches the US has had to deal with. Russia and their local co-conspirators should be concerned about what happens next.

      • Dev Null says:

        Not sure I understand this. Are you referring to the ouster of the Pahlavi regime and the creation of the Islamic Republic?

        Pahlevi’s overthrow occurred a quarter century after the coup that ousted Mossadegh (sp?). Put differently, Pahlevi’s overthrow wasn’t an inevitable downstream consequence of the Mossadegh coup.

        Not sure what “CIA’s co-conspirators” means … unless you’re referring to Pahlevi.

        25-odd years is a long run. I’d think almost anyone would regard a bargain with terms “you get what you want for 25 years … mind how you go, or your run might end after that” as a Good Deal™.

        • Antimony says:

          Sure, the analogy isn’t perfect. But don’t get hung up on the 25-year delay, the institutions of Iran’s new democracy weren’t able to survive the coup, so the response took a long time to build. The US is still a democracy and although our institutions have taken some body blows in recent years, they are still present as a foundation for democratic norms. The blowback from RU involvement here will come much faster.

  2. brightdark says:

    Foreign interference in elections? That means they will be indicting Steele and Vicente Fox any day now.

    • greengiant says:

      Only the naive don’t know that it is perfectly OK for politicians in the US to “hire” or pay for foreign services for their campaign,  assuming FARA is followed where need be.  “Foreigners” donating money or services is illegal and the campaign or PAC knowingly accepting same is a problem.  Anyone know what the lines are between aliens and alien journalists convolved with attending or participating in political events and demonstrations? How many Putin bot views makes an instagram personality a journalist?

  3. dc says:

    The anyone-but-Hillary camp and MAGAers may have been “victims”, but they sure got what they wanted. I am not sure the involvement of Russians in advancing their aims taints or diminishes their beliefs. I think we are in an era of the ends justifying the means, to the infinite power. The price of tax cuts and a humdinger supreme court justice is Donald fricking Trump. What so bad about a little bit of being used by Russians?

  4. SpaceLifeForm says:

    Two other things achieved:

    1. Those that voted may contemplate if they were manipulated via social media, especially those that were on the fence.

    2. Those that failed to vote may contemplate if their failure to vote was due to manipulation on social media.

    Both of the above are important for midterms.

    • cat herder says:

      And now imagine the chaos, real or manufactured (or both), if the midterms are attacked in the same way as ’16 but in reverse: the targets are the R’s and the beneficiaries are the D’s.

  5. Madchen Vapid says:

    30.d. of the indictment: “Another co-conspirator who worked for the ORGANIZATION traveled to Atlanta, Georgia from approximately November 26, 2014 through November 30, 2014. Following the trip, the co-conspirator provided POLOZOV a summary of his trip’s itinerary and expenses.”

    It seems the person who cooperated (and was thus not named) is a man, just in case we ever get a name and face.

    • dc says:

      That was Thanksgiving weekend. Doubt he was attending a conference. Just echoing your when, where and why question….

    • Rayne says:

      LOL check this out, article from May 4, 2016 — the day Trump became presumptive GOP nominee.

      …I’m referring to three movers-and-shakers who have worked with each other in the political arena over the past couple of decades: Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Atlanta businesswoman Rayna Casey and pollster and attorney Matt Towery with Atlanta’s Hall Booth Smith firm.
      […]
      Towery, relying on polling done with his son Matt Jr. of the Atlanta-based Opinion Savvy agency, very early predicted the success of a Trump candidacy. In a Dec. 14, 2014, Creators Syndicate column titled “Why Trump Should Run,” the one-time state legislator from Vinings became the first nationally syndicated columnist to not only encourage Trump, but to predict the nascent political power of the billionaire businessman who is now poised to be the Republican presidential nominee. …

      source: Viewpoint: How three Georgians helped Trump likely win GOP nomination

      Gingrich has clung to Trump like a leech, spouting crap 180 degrees from his own viewpoints. On the face of it he seems suspect. BUT…read the article; Towery’s business and skillset seems like an extremely logical fit, and he was ridiculously confident.

      Amazing what one finds in local business journals — caution, you only get 3 before this site cuts you off and the previous link is your first one. This is an excellent question, asked in February 2016: What happened to the plans for Atlanta Trump Towers?

      The Atlantic Business Chronicle was too bashful (hah) to spell out what happened; they only link to an NBC affiliate and the content there is now conveniently 404.

      But the Chronicle did have an earlier story which said the Trump Towers site was sold to AMLI:

      … AMLI paid about $91 a land square foot, or less than $4 million an acre, to buy the Trump Towers site, according to Databank Inc., a firm that tracks real estate sales across metro Atlanta.

      “That’s not a bargain, but it’s a good price by today’s values,” Databank founder Alan Wexler said. …

      So not quite as obviously profitable as selling a house in Florida to a Russian oligarch. Got it.

      Get the date of this piece, AMLI buys former Trump Towers site — December 3, 2013.

      Surely just a coincidence this piece is smack between this:

      November 13, 2013
      In an interview with Forbes, Emin Agalarov said Crocus Group, “may theoretically consider a possibility of building a Trump Tower as one of our skyscrapers

      And this tweet by Ed Krassenstein:

      Oh that’s funny. This tweet was made by @AlferovaYulyaE, a woman with strong connections to the Kremlin in 2014. It just so happens that Russia’s “information warfare” campaign began shortly after this.
      RUSSIA KNEW TRUMP WAS GOING TO RUN FOR PRESIDENT

      Check the photo he’s embedded with that tweet — it’s dated January 22, 2014.

      • Rayne says:

        Now I’m going to be obsessed about that vaporware Trump Towers-Atlanta project.

        He had 100 pre-sales out of 363 units but the project ended up in foreclosure. Somehow GE Credit ended up with the remains and sold it to AMLI.

        Did he keep the cash from the pre-sales? Were the pre-sales like those Fusion’s Simpson mentioned in his testimony before HPSCI? Did somebody offer to make him whole and make good any losses in exchange for certain performance? Or did the pre-sales customers make a deal with him? Who were those pre-sales customers?

        I can’t see anything about the eventual owner AMLI which sets off my hackles; they look squeaky clean.

          • Rayne says:

            Whoa. That second piece raises all kinds of questions. Wonder who/what is behind these corporations?

            However, it is unclear exactly how much Trump has to do with the 48-story condo tower, at 15th and West Peachtree Streets; Atlanta-based Wood Partners, LLC and New York-based Dezer Properties Inc are also named on the paperwork.

            And why the disparity in pre-sales — (100) said the business journal I’d linked, but this one only says (90)?

            Looking further back through the articles, the Piedmont Review covered the development in great detail at the beginning of 2008, when there was still plenty of buzz about how it was going to fill the niche in demand for mid-priced ($400k to $1m) condos in the mid-town areas. It seems that the problem only arose when sales dried up after 90.

            The timing, too — it starts to go pear shaped in 2007. I’ve had a piece backend I can’t quite pull off because I can’t sink the point about Trump and the 2008 crash, yet here’s another piece about his exposure to the market in one form or another which I didn’t have before.

            Thanks, orion!

            EDIT — 1:48 pm EST — You know what? I’m going to screencap that second piece. That’s the kind of article likely to go 404 without warning. ;-)

            If you run across stuff like this, you might want to make sure it’s archived — see this how-to from Internet Archive.

            • Trip says:

              Michael Dezertzov, known as
              Michael Dezer

              In the 1980s, he purchased a number of ocean front plots in Miami and, in partnership with Donald Trump, developed numerous properties including the $900 million Trump Towers, the $600 million Trump Grande Ocean Resort and Residences and the $166 million Trump International Hotel and Tower in Sunny Isles Beach…In May 2017, Brazilian Federal Police launched “Operation Miami Connection” to shut down a money laundering scheme it accused Dezer Properties of being involved in. Dezer Properties is behind the Porsche Design Towers Brava, a luxury condominium to open in 2022 that is being marketed to foreigners in Prai on Santa Catarina Island in Brazil. The Brazilian authorities alleged that a contractor laundered more than R$12 million (US$4 million) through Dezer Properties as “licensing fees” paid to Porsche SE. According to Brazilian media, the FBI and the Brazilian federal police are cooperating on the investigation, which involves three businessmen from the United States and Germany.

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Dezer

  6. Trip says:

    I don’t know if this is interesting enough for you Marcy, but from an article in 2017. Unless the leaker to the press was bluffing:

    “….a Russian military intelligence officer bragged to a colleague that his organization, known as the GRU, was getting ready to pay Clinton back for what President Vladimir Putin believed was an influence operation she had run against him five years earlier as Secretary of State. The GRU, he said, was going to cause chaos in the upcoming U.S. election. What the officer didn’t know, senior intelligence officials tell TIME, was that U.S. spies were listening.”
    http://time.com/4783932/inside-russia-social-media-war-america/

    • Phil Perspective says:

      “… What the officer didn’t know, senior intelligence officials tell TIME, was that U.S. spies were listening.”

       

       

      LOL!  Such bullshit.  They know we’re listening.

  7. Avattoir says:

    If you expect others to believe that you don’t see the difference between the conspirators and their enablers, witting or otherwise, on the one hand, and those such as the former president of Mexico making fully identified public comment on a matter of international concern that impacts his country, or a hired political research type with connections and cred in the intel racket being alarmed by the nature of what he thinks he seeing & seeking to alert public officials of the entity being defrauded, you really need to find a less obviously trollish online name.

    ***

    You’ve received a lot of praise for this analysis, Ms. W. It’s deserved.
    I think you may be saying at some point that there are places & points in this indictment that could potentially serve as sort of grappling hooks to other indictments, existing and to come. If not, then sorry for over-reading; if you are, then I agree.

    • Trip says:

      Who are you talking to in the first paragraph? (If me) I linked the Time article because Marcy pondered about intercepts. Since the article was in 2017, not 2016, I thought it possible that they were sending a message to Russians via the press. As it was Flynn’s conversation in 2016, it wasn’t listened to in real time. In fact the article goes on to say they had to trace backward to find that the operation had been going on already. My point was that there were likely intercepts as she mentioned. How is that trollish?

    • Trip says:

      Sorry, I think I know who you responded to now. It was hard to tell since you commented directly under mine.

    • Trip says:

      He’s also behind the Wagner Group. Doubt he’s out of Putin’s favor.

      Mercenaries Hurt in U.S. Syria Strikes Are Treated at Russian Defense Hospitals
      Fighters involved in the Feb. 7 assault in Syria were linked to Wagner, two people familiar with the matter said, a shadowy private military contractor which has a training camp at a commando base in southern Russia.
      The U.S. Treasury named Dmitry Utkin as Wagner’s leader last June as it sanctioned him for sending fighters to eastern Ukraine. Utkin was photographed next to President Vladimir Putin at a Kremlin reception in late 2016, held to honor him and others for their service to Russia, for which they have received state awards, according to Peskov.
      Wagner is made up of detachments that may be controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy businessman who’s been dubbed «Putin’s Cook» because his company provides catering services to the Kremlin, according to the Fontanka news service. 
      https://themoscowtimes.com/news/mercenaries-hurt-in-us-syria-strikes-are-treated-at-russian-defense-hospitals-60514

      • Fran of the North says:

        Thanks for that Trip. I had run across the connection btw Wagner and Putin’s caterer last week while reading up on the Syrian events. When the indictment was announced for a catering firm I tried to see if it was Prigozhin but couldn’t find anything.

  8. Madchen Vapid says:

    Does an indictment of this type require such specificity about where these defendants and co-conspirators traveled (Nevada, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Louisiana, Texas, New York, and Georgia), or might these mentions also serve to “establish the political stakes,” i.e., “purple” (swing) states?

    • bmaz says:

      Short answer, no. Is there anything wrong with that, especially where the putative defendants will never see the light of a US courtroom? Hell no.

  9. SpaceLifeForm says:

    On or about September 13, 2017, KAVERZINA wrote in an email to a family member: “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 the colleagues.”

    Was this intententional misinfo?

    It is not like IRA was a secret at that point.
    Was naming FBI a guess? Was it an inadvertent FBI reveal? Was it a leak from someone inside FBI?

  10. Ed Walker says:

    The Trump operation didn’t vet anyone at or near the top. That failure was repeated throughout the entire structure, so that penetration by foreign agents was easy. I’m not sure a quick check by the Trump Campaign Officials would have turned up anything, but they didn’t even try.

    • Rayne says:

      I don’t think what looks like a bug to us is that at all; it’s a feature. Vetting sometimes looks like an accident or pure luck of the draw — like Mike Pence instead of Chris Christie.

  11. K says:

    Two points
    1) Hope Hicks et. al must be reconsidering their idea that “these emails/texts will never get out” If Mueller can cite chapter and verse from internal russian gov. accounts what chance do they have? Queston whether the drumpf group is so arrogant of their ignorance they still beleive this?

    2) It was mentioned in previous posts ( for some reason I could not reply directly to) that the ends never justifies the means. This is a basic founding precept in christianity. All the christianist’s who supported the demented one have shown that pursuit of power is the goal. The only end they seek is power.
    Besides hypocriscy that, within the world view of the delusional, is blasphemy.

    • Phil Perspective says:

      All the christianist’s who supported the demented one have shown that pursuit of power is the goal. The only end they seek is power.

       

      It took you until Cheeto to figure this out?  They’ve been hypocrites going back to Ray-gun, if not before.  Ralph Reed, as one example, started grifting long before anyone knew who Putin was.

      • k says:

        Knew it but it is only since the demented cheeto has the veneer, or 4th wall in theatre terms, been ripped to shreds and any claim otherwise has been shown hollow.

        I agree addled ronnie raygun was used by christianist to promote christofascism ( is there any other form of christianist) but it is in the DNA of any religous organization to be political.

        Look at 3 main western fantasies ( christianity Judaism and Islam) all arose in an hostile desert political environment and were born of ignorance, fear and bigotry and crafted to be used as justification for murder, slaughter, rape and theft.

        Not that any other the other delusional cults are any different they all share being a product of fear and crafted to be used to justify conquest and slaughter.

         

  12. TomA says:

    Since these indictments are unlikely to result in actual prosecutions and convictions (because the named Russians won’t be extradited), what can be done to prevent a repeat in the upcoming 2018 election cycle? Is this about new laws, better enforcement, or something else entirely? Given all communication channels that exist in the modern age, what is to prevent these trolls from merely changing their tactics in order to stay one step ahead? It seems to me that part of the problem is that a large (and growing) fraction of our electorate is gullible more so than thoughtful when it comes to voting.

  13. Abe Vonn says:

    On a side note, I was interested to see an additional charge against Manafort was revealed yesterday. He is accused of fraud for misrepresenting his financial status on a mortgage application.

    Not that this is any kind of game changing revelation, but you have to expect this to be a nice reminder to people with substantial and tangled finances like Kushner, Bannon and the Trump children that Mueller is prepared to go through every piece of paper they’ve filed with banks, the IRS, state tax authorities, and plenty of others looking for any kind of dubious filings.

    Talkingpointsmemo is reporting that Kushner has filed yet another change to his financial disclosure form with more possibly to come — you have to wonder, considering his debt load, how exposed he is to a host of charges of fraud on a level with the Manafort mortgage application.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      It certainly ups the pressure on Manafort to flip.  Mueller is effectively walling off Manafort’s assets, keeping him from using them to pay for bail or his other expenses.  In part, that’s because they’re overvalued or not really his.

      Manafort may be or become the beneficiary of wingnut welfare via a legal defense fund.  But that support would dry up faster than the Cape Town water supply if he appears to flip.  Manafort’s biggest problem, however, apart from his own personality, is that he’s in bed with foreigners who can be unrestrained in how they act to keep their secrets.

  14. Valencia26 says:

    New here to posting but have been reading emptywheel for months.

    My instinct regarding this latest indictment is that it’s intended to protect the Mueller investigation.

    It’s a strategic and timely drop that doesn’t reveal much that wasn’t in the public record already, but it makes it all that much more difficult for Trump to fire Mueller, who is playing a game of poker-chess in the fourth dimension.

    Mueller and his team are revealing as little as possible, but also as much as is necessary.

    • Trip says:

      Yes, it washes away the “hoax’ narrative. It spared no detail in explanation of how the plot and conspiracy went down and by whom. If you noticed, the naysayers have moved on from ‘fake news’ and onto, “So what, everyone does it?”. They have had to accept the interference, and have moved on to different talking points. It’s a foundation on the theme that the Russian involvement in the election was not ‘fake news’. It also highlights that national security needs to act now going into the midterms.

    • Dev Null says:

      That was my reaction too: Mueller protected the investigation.

      The indictments establish “no hoax, Russia interfered, America is under attack.” (er, as Trip says.)

      WaPoop op-eds and straight reportage (e.g. Rucker IIRC) today are amazing: almost to a person, each essay includes some variant of the phrase “we are at war” and some variant of “The CiC is MIA”. Also too the meme “Trump attacked everyone but the Russians” is spreading like wildfire.

      As you (Valencia26) say, firing Mueller just got a lot riskier, seems to me.

  15. Joseph Tracy says:

    As a life long anti-war  and anti-authoritarian activist I despise Trump. But these indictment look like a big fat nothing to me. The internet had hundreds, probably thousands of phony accusations against Hillary, along with some very substantial exposes of her war crimes, dishonesty and anti-democratic conduct in the DNC. Since the election  dozens of journalists and others have made wild accusations of a Putin controlled Trump. Mueller just said they were wrong.
    Didn’t you hear? He said no evidence of campaign collusion.
    Wheeler seems too invested in an outcome to be objective.   The idea that this  changed the election is just silly. We have subverted elections all over the globe far more effectively for years. Before every vote corporations bribe US politicians.  The idea that indicting Russians who will never go to trial is somehow important strategically seems like pretty wishful thinking. The problem  in this election was obvious;  too many people hated Hillary, the media refused proper and deserved coverage to the amazing phenomena of Bernie Sanders’ campaign and we still have a rigged voting system.

    • Trip says:

      We have subverted elections all over the globe far more effectively for years.

      And that somehow negates that it was done here?

      Mueller has said NOTHING about Trump. He hasn’t confirmed either guilt or innocence. He has quietly answered ‘the hoax’ defense, however. Whether or not you like H Clinton is immaterial, since she did not set up a Russian espionage team, who stole identities, and committed bank and wire fraud, for the purpose of sabotaging her own campaign.

      Also indicted: Manafort, Flynn, Papadoupolos, and Gates. People involved in the campaign, in other words. Not specifically related to this indictment, but not to be discarded either.

  16. Michael Keenan says:

    Just to be clear I am Down with Hillary not to be confused with Down With Hillary. I refuse to be duped by a Russian Troll into a co-conspiracy.

  17. Rapier says:

    IRA is a corporation, not the government of the Russian Federation.  This seeming banal observation may get to the heart of this matter as far as any possible liability, criminal or otherwise, for any of the actors involved.

    Trump’s administration, such as it is, can be understood as representing his interests in multiple interlocking corporations. Not the nation, writ large.

    If I was young, smart, and energetic I would perhaps launch a project of books and discussion about what is my crackpot theory of everything. That is that corporations are becoming sovereign or otherwise co opting the functions of government as a way point on the way to sovereignty. Corporations are becoming the primary human organizational model, replacing, and or co opting, government. Corporations being what the powerful are loyal to, over The Nation.

    A process eagerly adopted by the high court of the US and  in ways big and small. Going forward with this ‘interference with elections’ thing I am sure that while a few individuals may suffer criminal penalties the larger point that government is powerless in the face of corporate power and that in the end this is by choice.

    • Trip says:

      Co-opting the functions of government, or government using private industry as plausible deniability in responsibility? In the case of IRA, there were intercepts that demonstrated Russian intelligence involvement. The Putin “Cook/Chef” (Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhinis) also behind the mercenary combat outlet, The Wagner Group. In an authoritarian government, there is no way that Putin would be unaware of the tentacles in espionage and the war in Syria. No way he isn’t aware of the profits the “chef” makes from Syrian oil, either.

      According to an agreement with the Syrian government, the Evro Polis Company connected to businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, frees up oil facilities in Syria and receives income from the sale of oil, Fontanka online reports

      .
      http://www.uawire.org/news/media-putin-s-chef-profits-from-the-war-in-syria-by-arranging-an-oil-business

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Basically, you describe Fascism (or Corporatism).

      Note that it is practiced by both the US and Russia.

      IRA as a subcontractor for SVR.

      BAH as a subcontractor for CIA.

      Both subs are sucking money from the taxpayers via the government.

      Being involved in the ‘cyberwars’ this way is a great gig. The ‘cyberwars’ will never end (by design), so the subcontracting corporations can keep sucking money.

      More FUD, more clueless bought-off ‘leadership’, more bad decisions, more budget money for IC and the subcontractors, to chase endess ghosts on the internet.

      Eventually, this economic model can only fail.

      Basically, it is proof that Homo Sapiens is easily corrupted by the love of money.

      I.E. it is insanity

  18. R rich says:

    Whether or not you like D Trump is immaterial, since he did not set up a Russian espionage team, who stole identities, and committed bank and wire fraud, for the purpose of sabotaging his own campaign. The trolls started their “operation” before DTrump entered the race and acted largely in support of BSanders. And and and and but but but HClinton received a few million more popular votes than DTrump. The latter undermines the theory that naive American voters fell for Putins scheme. Proof again a crime doesn’t have to be successful for the crime to be worthy of a prosecutor’s indefatigable attention. So, what’s behind the effort to criminalize the term ‘troll’ and place it in the same pejorative lexicon as “conspiracy theorist”? Sounds sort of CIAish. Lecturing down on us average American voters from Mount Olympus may have worked for the chess 12th dimensionalist BObama, but that tactic worked poorly for HClinton. What we’re left with was a sitting president, sitting with a sitting attorney general, sitting down with a sitting FBI director to discuss progress of the FISA approved surveillance of HClinton’s political opponent and a sitting president publicly mocking HClinton’s political opponent for expressing what the BObama administration knew to be legitimate concerns about the security of the upcoming presidential election voting process. So here’s BObama’s virtue signaling diatribe against Trump from 2016, nothing illegal: “It doesn’t really show the kind of leadership and toughness that you’d want out of a president. You start whining before the game’s even over? If whenever things are going badly for you and you lose you start blaming somebody else? Then you don’t have what it takes to be in this job. I have never seen in my lifetime or in modern political history any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place. It’s unprecedented”. Our constitutional scholar former president must have considered the elements of discussion and political meandering which led to his attack on candidate Trump, ie. The Constitutional Convention, The Articles of Confederation, The Three-Fifths Compromise, The Fourteenth Amendment and Bush v Gore 2000. And yet now we know courtesy of DNunes and ASchiff that BObama was publicly deriding a presidential candidate just before the election and his Intelligence Community was surveilling that same presidential campaign under the supervision of his FBI director.

    • bmaz says:

      This is patently disprovable nut job talking point garbage. This is not a good place to wander into with that bunk.

      Also, paragraph breaks are your friend.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Overreaction is usually a sign that this blog is getting close to someone’s sacred cow.  The level of sputum is an indicator of how much the standard scale exceeds the minimum wage.  Lack of sentence and paragraph structure suggests that having anyone read the words might not have been the point of publishing them.

        • Trip says:

          Well that’s good, since I didn’t read it.

          Edvard Munch, the Scream painting.

          In his diary in an entry headed “Nice 22 January 1892”, Munch wrote:

          I was walking along the road with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.

  19. Tony the Wonderhorse says:

    I am pretty sure the “no Americans participated” line is intended to help lull President Gump into a false sense of security

    They are that smart and he is that dumb

  20. Nick says:

    A small but potentially fruitful area of inquiry. Back to 30.d. of the indictment: “Another co-conspirator who worked for the ORGANIZATION traveled to Atlanta, Georgia from approximately November 26, 2014 through November 30, 2014. Following the trip, the co-conspirator provided POLOZOV a summary of his trip’s itinerary and expenses.” Someone (sorry, doing this on a phone sucks) pointed out that this scouting trip to ATL coincided with the Thanksgiving holiday.
    Since a declaration of the purpose for the trip would be needed for the visa, perhaps that co-conspirator claimed to have a (Russian mole) “relative”, living in ATL, whom he was going to visit for Thanksgiving. It would be nice to know what was on that visa application, and what, if anything, came from the SCO investigation re the same.

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