Justice Department Charged a Russian With Meddling in the Midterm Elections

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Posted: Oct 22, 2018 2:10 PM
Justice Department Charged a Russian With Meddling in the Midterm Elections

The Department of Justice on Friday charged 44-year-old Russian Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova of meddling in the United States' midterm elections. Khusyaynova allegedly oversaw the finances of “Project Lakhta,”an international influence operation geared at causing commotion on social media.

"Project Lakhta" pushed "arguments and misinformation online about a host of divisive political issues, including immigration, the Confederate flag, gun control and National Football League protests during the national anthem," the Washington Post reported. The efforts also focused heavily on mass shootings that took place in Charleston, Las Vegas and Charlottesville, CNN reported. 

"The conspiracy has a strategic goal, which continues to this day, to sow division and discord in the US political system, including by creating social and political polarization, undermining faith in democratic institutions, and influencing US elections, including the upcoming 2018 midterm election," the criminal complaint in the Eastern District of Virginia said Friday.

"Project Lakhta" had a budget of $35 million and was one of Internet Research Agency's projects. They're the same group who meddled in the 2016 presidential elections, the Telegraph reported. 

Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is said to be behind the two companies, Concord Management and Consulting LLC,  and Concord Catering, who started the project, CBS News reported.

The funding Khusyaynova obtained allegedly went to social media efforts to cause disruption. The group would promote posts on various social media websites, purchase domain names and coordinate political rallies and protests throughout the United States. 

The group even had information on how to target specific groups.

"Colored LGBT are less sophisticated than white; therefore, complicated phrases and messages do not work," the guidance said, Business Insider reported. "Be careful dealing with racial content. Just like ordinary Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans, colored LGBT people are very sensitive toward #whiteprivilege and they react to posts and pictures that favor white people."

"Project Lakhta" had various departments dedicated to specific tasks. Some of the departments included finance, search engine optimization, analytics, graphic design and IT, CBS News reported.

According to CNN, the Russians focused heavily on negatively branding the Republican Party's most prominent figures, like John McCain, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell. 

The Justice Department's complaint against Khusyaynova was 38 pages long and included screen captures of Facebook posts that were pro-Trump. Although she's being charged with meddling in next month's elections, the charges were not part of the Muller probe. He's looking solely at the 2016 elections and not the current election cycle.