by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The special counsel indictment of Russian election meddling reveals new details of the operation indicating the covert “information warfare” operation was targeted at preventing the election of Hillary Clinton.
The 13 Russians and a front company charged in the federal grand jury indictment were part of a sophisticated covert influence campaign aimed at the 2016 presidential election and sowing political discord in the United States.
The Russians, along with two funding entities and the internet troll group called Internet Research Agency, were charged with eight criminal counts under four federal laws, including conspiracy, in seeking to disrupt the U.S. political system, including the 2016 presidential election.
The indictment, however, did not provide new intelligence linking the Moscow government to an organization behind the coordinated scheme called Operation Lakhta, which used American social media and other outlets for political influence activities.
The indictment revealed that intelligence and law enforcement agencies first learned of the election meddling plans in the summer of 2014—two years earlier than the claims of a recent U.S. intelligence assessment.
The indictment outlining the sophisticated election meddling plan contrasts with the January 2017 intelligence assessment produced by the CIA, FBI, and National Security Agency.
That assessment differs slightly from the indictment in stating clearly that the influence operation was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2016.
Regarding Russian backing of Trump, the assessment said the Russians wanted to help Trump to win by discrediting Clinton in her bid for the White House, a judgment the CIA and FBI voiced high confidence in, but the NSA gauged with only moderate confidence.