CNN visits Russian 'troll farm' from indictment

CNN's Matthew Chance visits the Russian office named in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's indictment.

Posted: Nov 16, 2018 10:24 AM
Updated: Nov 16, 2018 10:48 AM

A federal judge on Thursday upheld a federal indictment against the Russian troll farm accused of meddling in the 2016 election, handing a victory to special counsel Robert Mueller.

In a 32-page opinion, Judge Dabney Friedrich rejected efforts by Concord Management and Consulting to dismiss the indictment, which accused the Russian company of conspiring to defraud the US government. Mueller's team says the company was involved in a well-funded "troll farm" that pumped out political propaganda to millions of Americans throughout the 2016 presidential campaign.

It was the second time that Friedrich, a Trump appointee, sided with Mueller and let the case proceed. Earlier this year, she rebuffed Concord's arguments that there were constitutional problems with Mueller's appointment and authority. Thursday's ruling centered more on the merits of the indictment.

Concord was charged with conspiring to defraud the US government by hiding its election-related activities and failing to register as a foreign agent trying to influence the US political process. The company wasn't charged with violating these laws, a point Concord made in its arguments.

But in upholding the indictment, Friedrich wrote that "the key question" was not whether Concord violated the underlying US laws that regulate foreign agents and political spending. Instead, she said the threshold to indict Concord on the conspiracy charge was whether the company's actions were "deceptive and intended to frustrate the lawful government functions" of the relevant agencies.

Friedrich concluded that Mueller's team showed "plenty" of evidence that Concord tried to deceive US government agencies, bolstering the decision to indict the Russian firm. She cited parts of the indictment that accused Concord employees of lying to the State Department on visa applications and using virtual private networks to hide the fact that their social media posts originated from Russia.

She also knocked down Concord's argument that the indictment should be dropped because Mueller did not prove that the Russians were aware of the relevant US laws and "knowingly" violated those laws.

But again, Friedrich said Concord was overreaching. While prosecutors usually need to show that defendants "knowingly" violated election and lobbying laws, Concord was not charged with those crimes. They were charged with conspiracy, and that statute does not carry the same requirements.

"Concord goes too far ... a general knowledge that US agencies are tasked with collecting the kinds of information the defendants agreed to withhold and conceal would suffice," Friedrich wrote.

Making his first direct move against Russians, Mueller indicted Concord in February, along with two other companies, a dozen of their so-called "trolls," and their oligarch benefactor, Yevgeny Prigozhin.

But none of the 13 indicted Russians have appeared in US courts, and they are expected to remain in their native Russia, where they are safe from extradition. But Concord hired respected American attorneys who have waged an aggressive-but-unsuccessful fight against Mueller in US courts.

CNN previously reported that some Justice Department lawyers have groused that the Mueller team could have avoided this fight with Concord, and the potential for negative court decisions, but ignoring the Russian companies and focusing their indictments on the Russian citizens who ran the troll farm.

Despite these concerns, Mueller has fared well in the courts. Friedrich is one of four federal judges that have upheld Mueller's appointment and constitutionality amid a barrage of legal challenges. Some of those challenges are still ongoing and have moved beyond district courts to the appellate level.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 32078

Reported Deaths: 2004
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9268539
Lake3320168
Cass15826
Allen130966
St. Joseph120534
Hendricks113067
Hamilton111592
Johnson1086104
Elkhart105728
Madison58258
Porter49021
Bartholomew48133
Clark46138
LaPorte41522
Tippecanoe3753
Jackson3671
Howard36519
Delaware35735
Hancock32127
Shelby31521
Floyd31438
Boone28835
Morgan26224
Vanderburgh2482
Montgomery23117
White2268
Decatur22431
Clinton2221
Grant19121
Noble18921
Harrison18721
Dubois1852
Greene16724
Warrick16426
Dearborn16421
Henry1619
Monroe16011
Vigo1477
Lawrence14423
Miami1391
Putnam1337
Jennings1274
Orange12422
Scott1183
Ripley1126
Franklin1068
Kosciusko941
Carroll922
Daviess8216
Steuben802
Marshall761
Newton7410
Wabash722
Wayne715
Fayette684
LaGrange602
Jasper581
Washington521
Fulton471
Rush452
Jay440
Randolph433
Jefferson411
Whitley402
Pulaski390
Clay391
Owen341
Brown331
Sullivan321
Starke313
DeKalb311
Perry260
Huntington262
Knox250
Tipton251
Benton250
Wells240
Crawford230
Blackford211
Switzerland190
Fountain182
Spencer171
Posey170
Parke170
Gibson142
Ohio130
Warren121
Adams121
Vermillion90
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0154

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 113195

Reported Deaths: 4923
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook738193354
Lake7767250
DuPage7290340
Kane5866153
Will5238258
Winnebago199351
McHenry145268
St. Clair101773
Kankakee80242
Kendall72719
Rock Island63922
Champaign5697
Madison54056
Boone40716
Sangamon33226
DeKalb3313
Randolph2593
Jackson22810
McLean21210
Stephenson1952
Ogle1922
Macon18819
Peoria1858
Clinton17816
Out of IL1771
Union1417
LaSalle14013
Whiteside13310
Iroquois1314
Unassigned1200
Coles1159
Warren1140
Jefferson10116
Knox950
Monroe9211
Grundy892
McDonough835
Lee761
Tazewell683
Cass670
Henry670
Williamson541
Marion500
Jasper457
Adams441
Macoupin421
Perry410
Pulaski400
Montgomery391
Vermilion391
Morgan341
Christian334
Livingston312
Douglas280
Jo Daviess270
Fayette203
Ford201
Jersey201
Washington180
Woodford182
Mason170
Menard170
Shelby161
Bureau151
Hancock150
Mercer150
Carroll132
Franklin120
Piatt120
Crawford110
Fulton110
Bond101
Brown100
Clark100
Cumberland100
Logan100
Moultrie100
Schuyler100
Wayne91
Alexander80
Henderson80
Johnson70
Massac70
Saline70
Effingham61
Greene50
Marshall50
De Witt40
Lawrence40
Richland30
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Hamilton20
Wabash20
White20
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Pike10
Pope10
Putnam10
Edgar00
Terre Haute
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 73°
Robinson
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 72°
Indianapolis
Scattered Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 73°
Rockville
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
Casey
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 71°
Brazil
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 73°
Marshall
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 73°
No Major Changes
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events