US indicts 13 Russians over election meddling
A federal grand jury in Washington DC has indicted 13 Russian nationals and a Kremlin-linked internet firm on charges that they meddled in the 2016 US presidential election.
The US government said Russian entities began interfering in US political processes as early as 2014, according to a court document.
The Internet Research Agency allegedly served as a hub from which the defendants and other co-conspirators used social media to "sow discord in the US political system". Some of the defendants, posing as US citizens, also communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign and other political activists, the indictment said.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said the indictment is "a reminder that people are not always who they appear on the Internet. The indictment alleges that the Russian conspirators want to promote social discord in the United States and undermine public confidence in democracy. We must not allow them to succeed."
Mr Rosenstein said there is no indication in the indictment that an American was knowingly involved in US election meddling.
There is also no allegation that meddling affected the election outcome, he said.
The charges - which include conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft - are the most direct allegations to date of illegal Russian meddling in the election. They were brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. His probe is also looking into whether members of Donald Trump's campaign colluded with the Russian government. Mr Trump has denied there was any collusion.
President Trump has frequently cast doubt on Russia's interference in the 2016 election, saying "this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story" by the Democrats to explain away Hillary Clinton's loss.
In a statement, the White House said Mr Trump is "glad to see the Special Counsel's investigation further indicates - that there was NO COLLUSION between the Trump campaign and Russia and that the outcome of the election was not changed or affected."
The US President again expressed the need for American unity. "We cannot allow those seeking to sow confusion, discord, and rancour to be successful," the statement said. "It's time we stop the outlandish partisan attacks, wild and false allegations, and far-fetched theories ... We must unite as Americans."
House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement that Mr Mueller's indictment shows that Russians "engaged in a sinister and systematic attack on our political system". The Democrat leader of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, called on Mr Trump to present a plan to confront the Russians. (© London Independent Service)