Following the recent indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for attempting to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election, new details have emerged indicating that the covert “information warfare” operation was focused on preventing the election of Hillary Clinton.
According to The Washington Free Beacon, the Russians charged in the the case were “part of a sophisticated covert influence campaign aimed at the 2016 presidential election and sowing political discord in the United States.”
Eight criminal counts were levied against the Russian nationals, along with two funding entities and the internet troll group, Internet Research Agency. The charges included conspiracy to disrupt the U.S. political process, including the 2016 presidential election.
The indictment revealed that American authorities first learned about the influence operation around June 2014.
Regarding the Internet Research Agency, the 37-page indictment states, “The organization sought, in part, to conduct what it called ‘information warfare against the United States of America’ through fictitious U.S. personas on social media platforms and other internet-based media.”
Details in the indictment suggest that the operation was apparently aimed at “thwarting Clinton’s election more than backing the long-shot candidacy of Republican nominee Donald Trump,” the Beacon reported. The Russians operated covertly to build support for Clinton’s primary opponents, Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein, as well as for Trump.
Russia’s opposition to Clinton was also evident due to their backing of Trump during the later stages of the 2016 campaign. Their operation against Clinton was combined with an overall information warfare strategy against the U.S. political system.
The Russians “engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump,” according to the indictment.
Last week, White House National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster said that the indictment is significant for exposing the Russian operations he characterized as “disinformation, subversion,” and “espionage.”
Moscow denied the charges in the indictment.
On Monday, Dmitri Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, said that the Russian government has “yet to see any substantive evidence that someone interfered in [U.S.] internal affairs.”
Peskov argued that the indictment charges Russian nationals. “Yet we have heard statements from Washington alleging the interference of the Russian state, the Kremlin, and the Russian government. There are no indications that the Russian state could have been involved. There are no such and there cannot be any,” he said.