WASHINGTON -- Russian operatives were told by an unnamed person in the U.S. they should focus their activities in Colorado and other purple states in a plot to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, prosecutors said Friday.
Thirteen Russians and three Russian entities were charged Friday with an elaborate plot to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, federal prosecutors announced Friday.
The indictment , brought by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller, alleges that Russians used bogus social media postings and advertisements fraudulently purchased in the name of Americans to sway political opinion during the race between Republican Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent.
The charges are the most direct allegation to date of illegal Russian meddling in the election.
The goal, the indictment says, was to "sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 presidential election."
"In order to collect additional intelligence, Defendants and their co-conspirators posed as U.S. persons and contacted U.S. political and social activists," according to the indictment.
"For example, starting in or around June 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators, posing online as U.S. persons, communicated with a real U.S. person affiliated with a Texas-based grassroots organization.
"During the exchange, Defendants and their co-conspirators learned from the real U.S. person that they should focus their activities on purple states like Colorado, Virginia & Florida.
"After that exchange, Defendants and their co-conspirators commonly referred to targeting 'purple states' in directing their efforts."
Charges include conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.
The charges arise from Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the election and whether there was improper coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.