(by John Schoppert, Colorado Law 3L)
On Friday, February 16th, Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced the indictment of 13 Russian nationals on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States. The announcement serves as the latest development in Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential election. More concretely, it provides further evidence that Russian operatives played a critical role in disrupting the 2016 election atop near-unanimous consensus among American intelligence agencies.
The indictments track the work of a so-called “troll factory” located in St. Petersburg, which designed and deployed divisive content over social media platforms to encourage collaboration within extreme groups online. More specifically, Russian operatives stole the identities of American citizens, posed as political activists, created posts affiliated with extreme ideologies and paid individuals to locally organize protests and rallies. While many debate over whether the Russians pushed for any one candidate over the other—as opposed to creating chaos more generally—based on internal documents, it appears that disruptive efforts were aimed at supporting the campaigns of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, and undermining that of Hillary Clinton.