DOJ announces criminal charges as Russian citizen accused of election interference

DOJ announces criminal charges as Russian citizen accused of election interference


JUDY WOODRUFF: They are the first criminal
charges alleging foreign meddling in next month’s midterm elections. The U.S. Justice Department today disclosed
the complaint against a Russian citizen. A woman there is accused of managing finances
for a social media campaign to spread distrust about American policy debates and candidates. For more details on our top story, let’s turn
to Nina Jankowicz of The Wilson Center. It is a nonpartisan think tank here in Washington. Nina Jankowicz, welcome back to the program. So we have heard again and again the Russians
interfered, succeeded in interfering in 2016. They’re still at it. What’s new in this complaint? NINA JANKOWICZ, The Wilson Center: Well, I
think what’s new is that we have hard evidence now that they’re interfering on all sides
of the issue, all sides of the political spectrum. And I think that’s really important for Americans
to know going into the elections in two weeks, that this is not a partisan issue. It’s an issue about attacking our democracy. And clearly the Justice Department wanted
to put that out there before we go to the polls. JUDY WOODRUFF: Because in a way this can be
confusing. I mean, it was — we were told in 2016 with
the Russians were up to, and the people who’ve been indicted so far by the special counsel,
Robert Mueller, have been people who seem to be working on behalf of President Trump. But this has people, as you say, on all sides
of some of these issues. NINA JANKOWICZ: Yes, exactly. We have seen pro-Robert Mueller tweets and
anti-Robert Mueller tweets. We have seen things that say voter fraud is
a felony. We have also seen organization of rallies
that the Russians have supported, where resistance folks would turn out in front of the White
House for a flash mob on July 4. So these are on all sides of the political
spectrum. And this is exactly the tactic that Russia
has used time and time again, not only here in the United States, but across Eastern Europe. JUDY WOODRUFF: And I want to look, I mean,
just as an example, and I think we have a graphic of this, of voter fraud. This was a tweet about voter fraud. It’s a felony. Hold them accountable. Fight, fight, fight, and then @realDonaldTrump,
POTUS. Now, that is an argument one does hear from
Republicans. NINA JANKOWICZ: Absolutely. But it’s — again, this desire to sow chaos
and dismay is a time — tried and true Russian tactic. And the idea there is just to turn us inward,
to get us to fight amongst each other so that we’re less focused on what Russia is doing
on the international stage. JUDY WOODRUFF: There’s also interesting information
in here, Nina Jankowicz, about the — about the financing of this. This woman appears to be an accountant in
Russia. NINA JANKOWICZ: Yes. JUDY WOODRUFF: It doesn’t appear they will
ever be able to extradite her to the United States to face these charges. NINA JANKOWICZ: Right. It’s extremely interesting to know that, over
three years, they spent at least $35 million advertising, on domains and proxies, on the
payment of actual activists, again, which is a staggering statistic. And if you look at what, for instance, the
Global Engagement Center, the center that’s created to fight disinformation at the State
Department, they had a budget of $60 million for a single year. That was hard for the State Department to
even get their hands on. And that was for countering state propaganda
worldwide. This was directed toward the United States,
the E.U., Ukraine and, interestingly, also within the Russian Federation. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, as you mentioned, you
mentioned that flash mob. People actually showed up for that. Right? NINA JANKOWICZ: Absolutely. And this isn’t the first time we have seen
activists show up to Russian-organized or supported events like this. But I think it’s important to know that this
is — this is not just an abstract social media campaign. This is changing people’s behavior and the
discourse surrounding the election. JUDY WOODRUFF: And you were telling me what
you noted here is how much it says that the special counsel and his office now know about
this. NINA JANKOWICZ: Absolutely. Yes, yes. It’s a staggering level of detail. I don’t know what that means for the future. But I think it’s an important issue for our
democracy heading into the midterms. It’s not a partisan issue. And I would hope that politicians on all sides
of the aisle begin to understand that and advocate for solutions that are nonpartisan
to it as well. JUDY WOODRUFF: Nina Jankowicz with The Wilson
Center, we thank you. NINA JANKOWICZ: Thanks for having me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *