Russian conspiracy targeted Charlotte and North Carolina, Mueller indictment says

Russian conspiracy targeted Charlotte and North Carolina, Mueller indictment says

CHARLOTTE, NC (Michael Gordon/The Charlotte Observer) - As the largest city in a pivotal swing state, Charlotte and North Carolina became targets of Russian operatives accused Friday of attempting to disrupt the 2016 presidential election.

Special prosecutor Robert Mueller's 37-page indictment charges more than a dozen Russian nationalists and businesses of attempting to defraud the United States by using "fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral system, including the presidential election of 2016."

Prosecutors say Charlotte and greater North Carolina did not escape the conspiracy. According to the indictment:

  • @Ten_GOP, a Twitter account started by the Russian conspirators, which at one time attracted more than 100,000 online followers, started posting phony allegations in August 2016 that voter-fraud investigations had been launched in North Carolina.
  • After Donald Trump carried the state and was the surprise winner of the November 2016 election, Russian conspirators posing as grass-roots activists helped arrange a Nov. 19 rally in Charlotte called “Charlotte Against Trump.”

The indictment says similar rallies in support of Trump were staged by the group in other U.S. cities. All were designed to foment discontent throughout the country, the indictment says.

  • The conspirators also infiltrated community groups such as Black Lives Matter. A key player in the effort was a St. Petersburg, Russia-based troll farm called Internet Research Agency, a defendant in Mueller’s indictment.

In one instance not mentioned in the document, Internet Research Agency recruited community activists in Raleigh to speak at a political rally following the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police shooting in September 2016 of Keith Lamont Scott, BuzzFeed reported. Scott's death, two months before the presidential election, set off two days of sometimes violent demonstrations in Charlotte.

It was not immediately clear if the FBI and U.S. Attorney's offices in Charlotte participated in the investigation that preceded Mueller's indictment.

Click here to read the indictment

In one instance not mentioned in the document, Internet Research Agency recruited community activists in Raleigh to speak at a political rally following the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police shooting in September 2016 of Keith Lamont Scott, BuzzFeed reported. Scott's death, two months before the presidential election, set off two days of sometimes violent demonstrations in Charlotte.

It was not immediately clear if the FBI and U.S. Attorney's offices in Charlotte participated in the investigation that preceded Mueller's indictment.