SEVERE WX : Special Weather Statement View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

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.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 581335

Reported Deaths: 7267
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1206301710
Ramsey50221865
Dakota44921441
Anoka40688432
Washington26275278
Stearns21864220
St. Louis17475302
Scott16941123
Wright15685135
Olmsted1308297
Sherburne1136784
Carver1029545
Clay806892
Rice7920104
Blue Earth736041
Crow Wing650687
Kandiyohi646681
Chisago579751
Otter Tail565877
Benton558897
Goodhue469972
Mower459432
Douglas458774
Winona447350
McLeod416558
Itasca416253
Morrison412660
Isanti407062
Nobles406348
Beltrami386258
Steele379115
Polk378567
Becker374049
Lyon356850
Carlton340152
Freeborn338929
Pine323321
Nicollet320243
Brown302740
Mille Lacs297252
Le Sueur284722
Todd277131
Cass264828
Meeker249638
Waseca234821
Martin227131
Roseau204519
Wabasha20293
Hubbard182941
Dodge18073
Renville177543
Redwood170636
Houston166915
Cottonwood161921
Fillmore153710
Pennington153219
Wadena152121
Chippewa151238
Faribault149419
Kanabec141824
Sibley140610
Aitkin132836
Watonwan12979
Rock126819
Jackson120911
Pipestone113626
Yellow Medicine113420
Pope10766
Murray10529
Swift103818
Stevens88011
Marshall87417
Clearwater85416
Koochiching80914
Lake80519
Wilkin79612
Lac qui Parle74822
Big Stone5924
Lincoln5723
Grant5638
Mahnomen5408
Norman5369
Unassigned51793
Kittson48222
Red Lake3947
Traverse3675
Lake of the Woods3173
Cook1550

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 364143

Reported Deaths: 5900
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57127619
Linn20675333
Scott19714239
Black Hawk15734307
Woodbury15078228
Johnson1438283
Dubuque13308207
Dallas1108797
Pottawattamie11021166
Story1052948
Warren571488
Clinton550792
Cerro Gordo534689
Sioux511674
Webster510892
Marshall480775
Muscatine472999
Des Moines450366
Wapello4278122
Buena Vista423940
Jasper412770
Plymouth399979
Lee371955
Marion360075
Jones296457
Henry290237
Carroll284352
Bremer282360
Crawford264140
Boone262334
Benton254955
Washington252250
Dickinson247343
Mahaska228850
Jackson220642
Clay214625
Kossuth214564
Tama208871
Delaware208040
Winneshiek196333
Page191921
Buchanan190331
Cedar188623
Hardin184443
Fayette184341
Wright183136
Harrison179073
Hamilton178949
Clayton168456
Butler163734
Mills161321
Madison159719
Floyd159442
Cherokee158338
Lyon157541
Poweshiek154533
Allamakee150251
Iowa147924
Hancock146534
Winnebago140631
Cass137654
Grundy136032
Calhoun135313
Emmet133040
Jefferson132135
Shelby130337
Sac129819
Appanoose127847
Louisa127849
Union127332
Mitchell125642
Chickasaw123515
Guthrie120629
Humboldt118726
Franklin116221
Palo Alto112123
Howard104122
Montgomery102437
Unassigned9990
Clarke99324
Keokuk95431
Monroe95028
Ida90234
Adair86032
Pocahontas85422
Monona82830
Davis81324
Osceola77716
Greene77310
Lucas76823
Worth7338
Taylor65612
Fremont6209
Decatur6059
Van Buren55618
Ringgold54424
Wayne53123
Audubon5009
Adams3374
Rochester
Cloudy
49° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 47°
Mason City
Cloudy
57° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 57°
Albert Lea
Mostly Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 40°
Austin
Partly Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 59° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 52°
Charles City
Mostly Cloudy
° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: °
Rain for Wednesday afternoon
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events