Published: Sat, October 20, 2018
Worldwide | By Sean Reid

Russian charged with conspiring to interfere in US congressional elections

Russian charged with conspiring to interfere in US congressional elections

The prosecution of Khusyaynova is being handled by the United States 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.

The complaint accuses Khusyaynova of helping to control the finances of a Russian effort to use fake social media postings to sow anger and division among American voters.

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.

The concerned about the foreign campaigns "to undermine confidence in democratic institutions and influence public sentiment and government policies", said the statement from national security officials.

It is alleged Ms Khusyaynova was the chief accountant for Project Lakhta, which was funded by Russian businessman Yevgeny Viktorovich Prigozhin and two companies he controls, Concord Management and Consulting LLC and Concord Catering.

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.

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The criminal complaint unsealed on Friday makes Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, 44, the first individual to be indicted for attempting to interfere in the 2018 US elections, according to a government official with knowledge of the matter. They were also told to say that McCain had a "pathological hatred toward Donald Trump and toward all his initiatives".

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.

But Trump recently accused China of meddling in the midterms, and Vice President Mike Pence said in a speech this month that Russia's actions in 2016 pale in comparison to the covert and overt activities by China to interfere in the current elections and counter Trump's tough trade policies against Beijing. What remains to be seen is how and whether Mueller can connect President Trump or his campaign to those efforts.

"This effort was not only created to spread distrust towards candidates for USA political office and the US political system in general, but also to defraud the United States by impeding the lawful functions of government agencies in administering relevant federal requirements", the news release said.

But they said, "Some state and local governments have reported attempts to access their networks, which often include online voter registration databases, using tactics that are available to state and nonstate cyber actors".

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