Russian national charged with interfering in U.S. political system, 2018 elections

Russian woman charged with political interference in next month's midterm elections

Russian woman charged with political interference in next month's midterm elections

A Russian national was charged by the USA for allegedly being one of the masterminds behind a conspiracy to interfere in both the 2016 and 2018 elections, marking the first charges related to next month's congressional midterm vote.

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. 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. The feds charged a 44-year-old Russian woman, Elena Khusyaynova, with conspiracy to defraud the United States, reports the Washington Post.

US intelligence officials say they're concerned about "ongoing campaigns" by Russia, China, Iran and other countries to undermine confidence in American democracy.

The prosecution of Khusyaynova is being handled by the U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria, Virginia, rather than by Robert Mueller, the special counsel who continues to investigate Russia's attack on the election in 2016.

In a statement, the Director of National Intelligence said officials "do not have any evidence of a compromise or disruption of infrastructure that would enable adversaries to prevent voting, change vote counts or disrupt our ability to tally votes in the midterm elections".

A new Department of Justice court indictment reveals detailed tactics that Russian operatives allegedly used to influence American opinion ahead of the upcoming 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. "These accounts also were used to advocate for the election or electoral defeat of particular candidates in the 2016 and 2018 USA elections". And, by using the "thousands of social media and email accounts" that were generated, they allegedly tried "to create and amplify divisive social and political content targeting USA audiences", the news release said.

In July, Mueller's office also indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers who were accused of hacking Democratic computer networks as part of Russian meddling in the 2016 USA election.

The officials have cited largely public steps taken by China, such as aiming tariffs at politically important states and pressuring US businesses to speak out against the Trump administration. Senior officials have said that while foreign actors continue to engage in activities targeting social media and election systems, they have not seen the level of activity that they witnessed in 2016.

The issue is a particularly fraught one for federal prosecutors.

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