SPECIAL REPORT: Special counsel indicts 13 Russian nationals in Russia investigation

The Justice Department indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian groups of violating criminal laws with the intent to interfere "with U.S. elections and political processes."
15:57 | 02/16/18

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Transcript for SPECIAL REPORT: Special counsel indicts 13 Russian nationals in Russia investigation
And grand jury in the District of Columbia today returned an indictment presented by the special counsel's office. Indictment charges thirteen Russian nationals. And three Russian companies. For committing federal crimes. While seeking to interfere. In the United States political system. Including the twice sixteen presidential election. The defendants allegedly conducted what they called. Information warfare. Against the United States. With the stated goal. Of spreading this trust. Towards the candidates. And political system. In general. According to the allegations in the indictment. Twelve of the individual defendants. Worked at various times for a company called Internet research agency LLC. A Russian company based in Saint Petersburg. The other individual defendant. Yeah of Jenny Victor of rich Rosen. Funded the conspiracy through companies known as Concord management and consulting LLC. Concord catering. And many affiliates and subsidiaries. The conspiracy. Was part of a larger operation. Called project locked up. Project locked up included multiple components. Some involving domestic audiences within the Russian Federation. And others targeting foreign audiences. In multiple countries. Internet research agency allegedly operated through Russian shell companies it employed hundreds of people. In its online operations. Ranging from creators of fictitious persona is too technical and administrative support personnel. When annual budget of millions of dollars. Internet research agency was a structured organization. Headed by a management group. And arranged in two departments. Including graphics search engine optimization. Information technology and finance departments. In 2014. The company established a translator project focused on the United States. In July according sixteen. More than eighty employees were assigned to the translator project. Two of the defendants allegedly traveled to the United States and 2014. To collect intelligence for their American influence operations. In order to hide the Russian origins of their activities. The defendants allegedly purchased space and computer servers located here in the United States in order to set up they virtual private network. The defendants allegedly used that infrastructure. To establish hundreds of accounts on social media networks. Such as FaceBook needs to Graham and Twitter. Making it appear that those accounts controlled by persons located in the United States. The use stolen or fictitious American identities. Fraudulent bank accounts and false identification documents. The defendants posed as politically and socially active Americans. Advocating for and against particular candidates. They establish social media pages and groups to communicate with unwitting Americans. They also purchase political advertisements. On social media networks. Russians also recruited and paid real Americans. To engage in political activities. Promote political campaigns. And stage political rallies. The defendants and their co conspirators pretended. To be grassroots activists. According the indictment the Americans did not know there are communicating with the Russians. After the election the defendants allegedly stage rallies to support the president elect. While simultaneously. Staging rallies to protest. His election. For example. The defense organize one rally to support the president elect and another rally to impose to oppose him both in New York on the same day. On September 13 and 2017. Soon after the news media reported that the special counsel's office was investigating evidence that Russian operatives had use social media. To interfere with the 2016 election. One defendant allegedly wrote quote. We had a slight crisis here at work. The FBI busted our activity. So I got preoccupied with covering tracks. Together with my colleagues. And quote. The indictment includes eight criminal counts. Count one alleges a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States but all of the defendants. The defendants allegedly conspired to defraud America by impairing the lawful functions. Of the Federal Election Commission. The United States department of justice. And the department state. Those. Organizations of the US government. A responsible for administering federal requirements. For disclosure. Of foreign involvement. In certain domestic activities. Count two charges conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud by Internet research agency and to the individual defendants. Counts three through eight chart aggravated identity theft. By Internet research agency and for individuals. There is no allegation. In this indictment that any American lives and knowing participant. In this illegal activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct Alter the outcome. Of the 2016 election. When a caution you that everyone charged with a crime. Is presumed innocent unless and until. Proven guilty in court. At trial prosecutors must introduce credible evidence that is sufficient to prove each defendant guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. To be unanimous. Jury. Special counsel's investigation is ongoing. There will be no comments from the special counsel at this time. This indictment serves as a reminder. The people are not always who they appear to be. The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators. Went to promote this court in the United States. And undermined public confidence. In democracy. We must not allow them to succeed. The Department of Justice will continue to work cooperatively. With other law enforcement and intelligence agencies. And with the congress. To defend our nation against similar current and future efforts. I want to thank the federal agents and prosecutors. Who are working on this case. For their exceptional service. And we have to take a few questions. Entry that is. The allegations in the indictment there's no allegation the indictment. Many effect on the outcome of the election. Just. Hateful or. Paragraph that. Saying that the bank. It's our wreck. Not right. And no out. Allocation in this indictment. That any American had any knowledge. And the nature of the scheme was that the defendants took extraordinary steps to make it appear that they were ordinary American political activists even gone so far as to. Base their activities are on a virtual private network here in the united states of anybody Trace it back to their first jump. They appear to be Americans captors. No communication with the Russians about this wolf all the ordinary. Process. Seeking cooperation. And extradition. There you have it. Deputy attorney general rob rose and themes saying that they just from ministries the indictments of thirteen Russian nationals for conspiracy to defraud the United States meddling. In our election in this indictment says was for the purpose of supporting Donald Trump disparaging Hillary Clinton though the deputy attorney general is very careful to say there. That there is nothing in this in this indictment alleging that. The Russian meddling. Change the outcome of that you want to talk to our analysts our correspondent faster and Cecilia Vega at the White House president trumps a serious consistently called missile which shot. Say it's Democrats looking for an excuse for why they lost the election he is disparage in the past the intelligence agency's findings what does he know about this indictment. Any response so far. No official response from the White House yet though George a source tells me that we can expect a statement to com. Relatively soon we're told also that the president was briefed this morning. By the FBI director and by the deputy attorney general rob rose in Steiner said he is. Up to speed on this but it's our understanding that this very much came as a big surprise to this White House this morning. I mean you said it the president told me right after the election when I asked him that question and one of his very first press conferences. No one on his team had any contacts with the Russians. You know you heard Rosa Stein say right there there were people in the troubled orbit who did have on winning. Connections and and and discussions and contact with the Russians however I do think going forward what we will look at what what we can probably expect to hear from the trump administration. Is to hone in on that word on weeding. Are unwitting dialogue unwitting contact they will say this proves. There is no collusion but what it also proves something that president trump has been very very reluctant to talk about. Russian involvement in this election there was indeed contact. They played a huge role here his own intelligence community has been saying this for months and he has been reluctant to admit that that's the case it's going to be hard for him to do that now. Let's bring extra legal and us now sorting when Dan Abrams on the phone. And then they felt like the fairly sophisticated operation going back a couple of years as far back as 2014. Increasing in work in 2016 even in the 2017. After the election. That's right and and but the but I think that what you heard the you know mr. Rosen Stein beat out. Was a crucial part of this indictment. He pointed out that there is nothing in the indictment to say that it. Necessarily impacted the election but of course that wouldn't be for an indictment write an indictment would lay out. Cure the policy impacts of the practical impact. Necessarily what they're talking about it what would the crimes that were committed not what would necessarily be impact of those. It and so when you have been saying that that gave that that Donald Trump. When we reach section actually through the relevant section it says. Defend its operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then candidate Donald. He left that part out that's a critical part of this indictment that was the entire purpose as it shifted in mid 2016. That became the focus. Of this entire organization. And that's important. When evaluating. Russian meddling in the 2016. Campaign. And organizations spanning about a million dollars a month the court in the indictment also wanna go to former government muted New Jersey Chris Christie also former. Prosecutor govern thanks for joining us today. As well there deputy attorney general several times saying. Nothing in this indictment stressing in this indictment shows any knowledge or winning participation by the charm campaign. Well sure and that's an important point. And that dentist from apple wants to that they didn't talk about his comment to what's. They also talked about supporting Bernie Sanders so I think with the real intent of this group by the four corners the indictment. Was to disparage Hillary Clinton was to make sure Hillary Clinton was not going to be elected -- the United States they want to make that effort because not only. We're day supporting chop and disparaging Clinton but they were also supporting Sanders and that's in the indictment as well neither do your thing. To know here now is I think this is the evidence that supports the idea that the Russians were involved from the indictment this appears to be a very sophisticated operation. That was well funded. Well financed well thought out any and and just wanted to disrupt the entire US political system so distrust in the entire political system. Interesting detail he laid out there after the election they supported rallies both supporting president elect trump. And supporting the protests of Hillary Clinton. On the and that's my point Georgia's I think. To just focus on the support of trump obviously that says so in the indictment in their word activities and rallies in favor of the president. While he was a candidate. But what you also see is that these guys just wanted to make a mess of this whole thing. And then that's why they also supported Sanders and disparaged Clinton. They wanted to so we'll discontent in the United States and even more anger during this election. And then you can see from some of the messages that are deep field in the indictment that's what they want to do they acted as if they were activists were black lives matter in certain instances and other types of activist groups even falsely impersonating the Tennessee Republican Party. Which what are handle that was at TN GOP. These are guys and women who were attempting to really wreak Havoc on our political system. And and and how much it would seem to be focused on making sure that Hillary Clinton was not going to be president. And you could argue certainly that exceeded wreaking Havoc with our political just want to bring in Dan Harris well because Dan for most Americans wearing for the first time in this indictment about a rush organization. Called the Internet research agency this is a group you visited Russia. Yet they have ever run reasonably nondescript. Residents there where they where they work out have been in the outskirts of Petersburg Russia. An office building we try to go in and we're very quickly in and really. Expelled from the building we were able however to defeat them undercover video allegedly shot inside where you'd be roads and roads. Trolls busily typing away. And there's pretty heavy security within. So within the building as well were all able to talk to a woman who worked in their and she told us stories of they're coming in and being told create a fake persona and to send out messages. In favor of the of the Kremlin overwork was. Largely. Aimed at Russians that there was another former troll who within the special unit that was. You know eight at the United States and he talked about spending time creating up creating multiple online persona. All designed to. Further amp discord within the American political discourse. Again our thanks commercial and official for the senior just correspond against Pierre Thomas appear comes who got. Two indictments of senior trump campaign officials back in October cooperating witness from the tip. From the trump campaign and the trump transition the former national security advisor. Michael Flynn and George pop it up list and now the indictments of thirteen Russian nationals by special counsel Robert Mueller of course the Justice Department led by. It turned deputy attorney general rod Rosen Stein what we see here is Robert Mueller working on many fronts. Many fronts storage and and to be clear this operation did does not lay out any allegations. Of intentional collusion. But I think it's fair to say and we need to point out that that investigation is still very very much underway torch they think he'll very much full report tonight on world news tonight David Muir. Have a good afternoon. This has been a special. From BBC.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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