The federal indictment brought Friday by USA special counsel Robert Mueller represents the most detailed allegations to date of illegal Russian meddling during the campaign that sent Donald Trump to the White House.
A day after a stunning indictment by the U.S. Justice Department which accused 13 Russians and three Russian companies of meddling in America's 2016 presidential election, Russian and American government officials responded.
In a midafternoon tweet, he wrote that Russian Federation began its operation before he even announced his candidacy and that its efforts did not affect the election results. And with great fanfare, the president declared that the indictment proved, as he has always said, that there was "no collusion" between his campaign and the Russians.
The indictment, released on Friday by the office of US Special Counsel Robert Mueller, said, the accused, through their actions, wanted to "spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general".
Specific Twitter accounts named in Friday's indictment included past account handles provided by Twitter to Congress in a list of known Russian-controlled Twitter handles a year ago, including accounts impersonating Black Lives Matter activists and the Tennessee Republican Party.
McMaster also noted that special counsel Robert Mueller's team had shown that the USA was becoming "more and more adept at tracing the origins of this espionage and subversion".
Trump seized on the indictment to call for an end to "outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories" about the election, asserting they "only serve to further the agendas of bad actors, like Russian Federation, and do nothing to protect the principles of our institutions".
A July 2016 Steele memo quotes a Russian source as saying there was evidence of an "extensive conspiracy between campaign team and Kremlin, sanctioned at highest levels and involving Russian diplomatic staff based in the U.S.". The operation, centered on the now infamous troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency, extended to scores of undercover staff and associates in multiple countries, including the United States, and deployed a range of political gambits. However, as one Russia guru points out to me, "on the "unwitting" Trump campaign officials, we know there was a hell of a lot of 'witting.' That is effectively what the June 9 meeting (at Trump Tower) and (outreach to Russians from) Papadopoulos show".
Russian Federation has repeatedly denied any effort to influence the USA election. "The Trump campaign did nothing wrong - no collusion".
The indictment documents a broad social-media and propaganda campaign operating out of Russian Federation and involving hundreds of people starting in 2014 that "had a strategic goal to sow discord in the US political system".
"It's backed by the Kremlin, and there are ties to (Vladimir) Putin there", CBS News' Jeff Pegues said Friday.
The scheme outlined in the indictment began with fraudulent visa applications for U.S.travel. Someone actually paid Russians to collect this insight.
The group organized pro-Trump rallies in Florida, New York and North Carolina, but much of its work was focused on producing material that was damaging to Clinton and Trump's Republican rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. "Defendants and their co-conspirators did not report their expenditures to the Federal Election Commission, or register as foreign agents with the U.S. Department of Justice, '" watchdog Common Cause said in a statement.
One of the defendants, Irina Kaverzina, wrote in an email to a family member obtained by investigators, "I created all these pictures and posts, and the Americans believed that it was written by their people".