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Homeland Security

After US Indictments, Russia Denies Election Meddling

By VOA News February 19, 2018

The Kremlin on Monday denied Russian government involvement in interfering with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters the allegations are baseless.

The comments come days after the U.S. special counsel charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities with conducting an illegal "information warfare" campaign to disrupt the election to the benefit of President Donald Trump.

Former FBI Director Robert Mueller's indictment of the Russian interests contended that the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg-based social media company with Kremlin ties, 12 of its employees, and its financial backer orchestrated the effort.

The 37-page charging document alleges that the Russian conspirators sought to coordinate their effort with Trump campaign associates, but it does not accuse anyone on the Trump campaign of colluding with the Russians.

Trump has long insisted that his campaign did not collude with Russia, even as the U.S. intelligence community and now Mueller have concluded that Russia conducted a wide campaign to meddle in the election to help Trump win.

The indictment marks the first time Mueller's office has brought charges against Russians and Russian entities for meddling in the 2016 election.

Trump used a series of Twitter comments Sunday to assail the various investigations by Mueller and congressional committees.

"If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S. then, with all of the Committee Hearings, Investigations and (Republican) Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams," Trump said. "They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!"

Trump was also critical of H.R. McMaster, his national security adviser, who said Saturday there was "incontrovertible" evidence of Russian interference in the election.

"I never said Russia did not meddle in the election, I said 'it may be Russia, or China or another country or group, or it may be a 400 pound genius sitting in bed and playing with his computer,' Trump tweeted. "The Russian 'hoax' was that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia - it never did!"

Trump said McMaster "forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted or changed by the Russians and that the only Collusion was between Russia" and his Democratic opponent, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other Democrats. Trump said McMaster overlooked Democratic funding of political opposition research in a controversial dossier alleging shady Trump links to Russian operatives.

Trump sarcastically praised one of his political opponents, Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, for saying that the administration of former President Barack Obama could have done more to thwart overseas cyberattacks after the 2014 hack into the files of the entertainment company Sony Pictures.

"I think that others around the world watched that and determined that cyber is a cost-free intervention," Schiff said in an interview on NBC.

Trump tweeted, "Finally, Liddle' Adam Schiff, the leakin' monster of no control, is now blaming the Obama Administration for Russian meddling in the 2016 Election. He is finally right about something. Obama was President, knew of the threat, and did nothing. Thank you Adam!"

Trump added, "Now that Adam Schiff is starting to blame President Obama for Russian meddling in the election, he is probably doing so as yet another excuse that the Democrats, led by their fearless leader, Crooked Hillary Clinton, lost the 2016 election. But wasn't a great candidate?

"I've always said Obama should've acted sooner," Schiff responded in his own tweet. "But you won't recognize the truth, impose sanctions or act at all. If McMaster can stand up to Putin, why can't you?"

Mueller's sprawling investigation has led to the indictments of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and associate Rick Gates on money laundering charges in connection with their lobbying efforts in Ukraine that predates Trump's 2016 campaign.

Former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos have pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about their contacts with Russian officials and are cooperating with Mueller's probe.

In addition to investigating the Russian meddling in the election, Mueller is probing whether Trump has in several ways obstructed justice to undermine the investigation, including his firing of former FBI Director James Comey, who was leading the agency's Russia probe at the time Trump ousted him. Mueller, over Trump's objections, was then appointed to take over the Russia probe.

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