Russian is first to be charged with meddling in 2018 midterm elections

U.S. Charges Russian for Conspiracy to Interfere in ElectionsMore

The charges come as top USA law enforcement and intelligence agencies warn Americans about ongoing efforts by Russia, China and other foreign actors to interfere in the 2018 midterm and 2020 presidential elections.

Justice Department's criminal complaint says Elena Khusyaynova worked for the same Russian social media troll farm that was indicted in February by special counsel Robert Mueller; chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge reports from Capitol Hill. According to the complaint, between January 2016 and June 2018, the project had a proposed budget of more than $35 million, though not all of that was spent on operations in the U.S. The Russians tried to hide these activities by classifying expenditures for Project Lakhta as software support and development, the complaint alleges.

President Donald Trump has often cast doubt on US intelligence findings that Russian Federation interfered with the 2016 election, as special counsel Robert Mueller investigates potential ties between Russian Federation and Trump's campaign. The social media effort outlined by prosecutors Friday largely mirrors Mueller's criminal case against three Russian companies, including the Internet Research Agency, and 13 Russians, including one is a close ally to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Justice Department, FBI and Department of Homeland Security said they do not have any evidence that anyone went far enough to prevent voting or change vote counts.

"The strategic goal of this alleged conspiracy, which continues to this day, is to sow discord in the US political system and to undermine faith in our democratic institutions", the USA attorney overseeing the case, Zach Terwilliger of the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement. The complaint also does not allege that any American knowingly participated in the Project Lakhta operation.

The Russian organizers of the conspiracy advised that the posts should reflect various viewpoints, and it gave specific instructions to only share articles from certain news websites to correspond to specific political views, prosecutors said.

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.

In his comments, Trump cast blame on his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, who he said, "didn't lift a finger" to stop Russian meddling in 2016, and said that his administration has "done a lot to protect the elections coming up very shortly". "Unlawful foreign interference with these debates debases their democratic integrity, and we will make every effort to disrupt it and hold those involved accountable".

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