nine writers put this infernal piece of shit together for the (((demagog))) gang

Mueller Accuses Russians of Pro-Trump, Anti-Clinton Meddling
David Voreacos, Steven Dennis, Jeffrey Grocott, Erik Larson, Andrew Harris, Christian Berthelsen, Tom Schoenberg,
Xenia Galouchko, Greg Farrell, Bloomberg ‘News’, Feb 16 2018

Robert Mueller unveiled the details of a widespread and coordinated campaign by Russians to influence the 2016 Pindo presidential election in favor of Donald Trump. In an indictment announced Friday, Mueller described a years-long multi-million dollar conspiracy by hundreds of Russians aimed at criticizing Clinton and supporting Sanders and Trump. Mueller charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities and accused them of defrauding the Pindo government by interfering with the political process. Prosecutors provided a remarkably detailed picture of how Russians used social media, fake rallies and secretive operatives in Pindostan to create “political intensity” by backing radical groups, opposition social movements and disaffected voters. The outreach from the Russians included direct contact with over 100 Pindos. This information warfare by the Russians didn’t affect the outcome of the presidential election, Deputy AG Rosenstein told reporters. The indictment cites no instances of Russians coordinating directly with the Trump campaign. Still, the accusations detail unprecedented foreign attempts to influence the outcome of a Pindo election, including the manipulation of accounts at Facebook, Twitter, PayPal and Instagram. Those companies will continue to face pressure to clamp down on fraudulent accounts or risk a government crackdown, as intelligence officials have warned that Russians are already engaged in influencing the 2018 mid-term elections. All of the people and companies charged in Friday’s indictment were connected in some way to the Internet Research Agency. The company and 12 of its current or former executives and employees were charged. They began working in 2014 to interfere in Pindo elections. Their operations included contact with “unwitting” Trump campaign officials with the goal of “impairing, obstructing and defeating lawful government functions” including the election. They used false personae and social media while also staging political rallies and communicating with “unwitting individuals” associated with the Trump campaign. Two years before the election, the Russians began monitoring groups that use social media sites to influence Pindo politics and social issues, tracking the size of groups and how popular they were with their audiences. In a Feb 10 2016 planning memo, the Russians were instructed:

Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest, except for Sanders and Trump. We support them.

They bought advertisements on Pindo social media and created numerous Twitter accounts designed to appear as if they were Pindo groups or people. One fake account, @TEN_GOP account, attracted more than 100,000 online followers. They spent thousands of dollars a month to buy advertisements on social media groups, while carefully tracking the metrics of their effort in reports, and budgeted for their efforts. Some traveled to Pindostan to gather intelligence for the surreptitious campaign. They used stolen Pindo identities, including fake drivers licenses, and contacted news media outlets to promote their activities. In Sep 2016, the group ordered one worker to “intensify criticizing Hillary Clinton” after a review found insufficient anti-Clinton activity. Several Russians traveled around Pindostan to gather intelligence for their operation. They used clandestine methods to communicate and gather information, employing special cameras, drop phones and evacuation scenarios to ensure security. They set up Facebook and Instagram groups with names that targeted such issues as immigration, religion and the Black Lives Matter movement. They also controlled numerous Twitter groups that appeared to be controlled by Pindo people, such as “Tennessee GOP.” They went well beyond social media, organizing rallies for Trump and paying Pindos to participate in them or perform tasks at them. One Pindo was paid to build a cage on a flatbed truck. Another was paid to portray Clinton in a prison uniform. Rallies were promoted with Facebook ads. Paid ads included this one on Oct 19 2016:

Hillary is a Satan, and her crimes and lies prove just how evil she is!

After the election, they organized both pro- and anti-Trump rallies, including a “Trump is NOT my President” rally in New York the week after the election and one in Charlotte, NC, the following week. They had settled on Trump as their favored candidate by at least Apr 2016 and began producing and purchasing ads promoting him to voters and “expressly opposing Clinton.” In Jun 2016, they posed as grassroots activists, using the account @March_for_Trump to contact a volunteer for the Trump campaign in New York. The volunteer agreed to provide signs for their “March for Trump” rally. By August, they were communicating with unwitting Trump campaign staff involved in local community outreach to discuss their fraudulent “Florida Goes Trump” rallies. Prosecutors also charged Yevgeni Prigozhin, a Russian restaurateur and caterer widely known as “Putin’s chef” for hosting his state dinners with foreign dignitaries, and two of his companies. The companies, Concord Catering and Concord Management and Consulting, have Russian government contracts. The special counsel alleges that they provided the financing for the Internet Research Agency’s operations. Prigozhin told RIA Novosti:

Pindos are very impressionable people! They see what they want to see! I have great respect for them! I’m not at all upset that I ended up on this list! If they want to see the devil, let them see it!

Here’s the NYT’s take:

Yevgeny Prigozhin, Russian Oligarch Indicted by Mueller, Is Known as ‘Putin’s Cook’
Neil MacFarquhar, NYT, Feb 16 2018

ST PETERSBURG — Long before he was indicted by Pindostan in a case involving the troll factory that spearheaded Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 Pindo elections, Yevgeny Prigozhin emerged from prison just as the Soviet Union was collapsing and opened a hot-dog stand. Soon, he has said, the rubles were piling up faster than his mother could count them in the kitchen of their modest apartment, and he was set on his improbable career. He earned the slightly mocking nickname of “Putin’s cook.” Despite his humble, troubled youth, he became one of Russia’s richest men, joining a charmed circle whose members often share one particular attribute: their proximity to Pres Putin. The small club of loyalists who gain Putin’s trust often feast, as Prigozhin has, on enormous state contracts. In return, they are expected to provide other, darker services to the Kremlin as needed. On Friday, Prigozhin was one of 13 Russians indicted by a federal grand jury for interfering in the Pindo election. According to the indictment, Prigozhin controlled the entity that financed the troll factory, known as the Internet Research Agency, which waged “information warfare against Pindostan” by creating fictitious social-media personas, spreading falsehoods and promoting messages supportive of Donald Trump and critical of Hillary Clinton. He has denied involvement. RIA Novosti quoted Prigozhin as saying on Friday:

The Pindos are very impressionable people! They see what they want to see! I have a lot of respect for them! I am not upset at all that I ended up on this list! If they want to see the devil, let them see him!

Prigozhin’s critics say he has emerged as Putin’s go-to oligarch for that and a variety of sensitive and often-unsavory missions, like recruiting contract soldiers to fight in Ukraine and Syria. Pindostan imposed sanctions against Prigozhin in Dec 2016, followed by his two main, publicly acknowledged companies, Concord Management and Consulting and Concord Catering. In doing so, the Treasury Dept said he provided extensive support to senior Russian Federation officials, including constructing a military base near Ukraine that was used to deploy Russian troops. The most notorious venture linked to Prigozhin, however, is the troll farm that is accused of attacking opposition figures in Russia and seeking to magnify and aggravate social and political divisions in the West. Despite his frequent denials of any involvement, his critics say he and others like him provide a way for the Kremlin to engage in such activities while maintaining a discreet distance. The indictment on Friday says, among other charges, that Prigozhin frequently met in 2015 and 2016 with Mikhail Bystrov, the top official in the troll factory, which ran a disinformation campaign called Project Lakhta that by Sep 2016 had a monthly budget of $1.2m. Boris Vishnevsky, an opposition member of the city council in St Petersburg, who has called for an official investigation into threats by Prigozhin against journalists, said the Kremlin endorsed projects like the troll farm without directly organizing them. He said:

This is done by somebody who receives large-scale government contracts. The fact that he gets these contracts is a hidden way to pay for his services.

When the troll factory was formed in 2013, its basic task was to flood social media with articles and comments that painted Russia under Putin as stable and comfortable compared to the chaotic, morally corrupt West. The trolls soon branched into overseas operations focused on Russian adversaries like Ukraine and Pindostan. Facebook, Twitter and Google have all identified the Internet Research Agency as a prime source of provocative posts on divisive Pindo issues, including race, religion, gun laws and gay rights, particularly during the 2016 presidential election. Facebook found that the agency had posted 80,000 pieces of content that reached more than 126 million Pindos. Last month, Twitter announced it had started emailing more than 677,000 people in the Pindostan who interacted with accounts from the agency during the election. Prigozhin said he was too busy to be interviewed for this article. He issued a denial of the accusations to a recent investigation published by the Russian news magazine RBC, which quoted his spox as saying:

Neither Concord Company nor other structures owned by the businessman are in any way connected with any activities directed toward meddling in the Pindo election.

Dmitri Peskov also denied any Kremlin connection to the Internet Research Agency. Despite his veil of secrecy, limited details about his personal life have emerged, mostly through the Instagram accounts of his two grown children. His daughter Polina posted a picture of the sweeping view from his wooded compound in Gelendzhik, the resort town on the Black Sea. The compound, including a pier for the yacht, was built in an ostensibly protected forest. The day after researchers from the foundation leafed through the Instagram accounts and took multiple screen shots, the accounts went private. The foundation launched a drone over the sprawling family compound outside St Petersburg to photograph what it said were father-daughter mansions and various amenities, including a full basketball court and a helicopter pad. Born in 1961 in Petersburg, Prigozhin was sent to prison in 1981 for robbery and other crimes, according to Meduza, an online investigative publication. When he got out in 1990, he started the hot-dog business, which led to his running a chain of convenience stores and eventually to starting several deluxe if kitschy restaurants in St Petersburg. His patrons “wanted to see something new in their lives and were tired of just eating cutlets with vodka,” he told a magazine called Elite Society. An old rustbucket that he and his soon-to-be-jettisoned partners converted to the floating New Island Restaurant became St Petersburg’s most fashionable dining spot. Eventually, Putin himself showed up, towing Pres Chirac and his wife in 2001, and Pres Bush in 2002. Putin celebrated his own birthday there in 2003. During these glittering occasions, Prigozhin made sure to hover nearby, sometimes even clearing empty plates. He was not a chef himself, despite the “Putin’s cook” moniker. But Putin apparently admired his style. Prigozhin told a St Petersburg magazine:

He saw how I built my business starting from a kiosk. He saw how I was not above serving a plate.

The first significant state contracts began flowing in after Prigozhin founded Concord Catering. Starting with the St Petersburg schools, he moved on to feeding the far more numerous Moscow schools and, finally, most of the Russian military. His trademark became lavish state banquets, including inauguration feasts for both recent presidents. Lately, he has branched out into areas like recruiting contract soldiers to fight overseas and establishing a popular online news service that pushes a nationalist viewpoint, making him even more indispensable to Putin. St Petersburg news site Fontanka recently discovered that in exchange for providing soldiers to protect Syria’s oil fields, companies linked to Prigozhin were awarded a percentage of the oil revenue. Some Russian contract soldiers in Syria were back in the news this month after a Feb 7 clash between Kurdish forces backed by Pindostan and Syrian forces aided by Russian mercenaries. Reports about exactly what happened remain murky, but anywhere from five to 200 Russian soldiers have been reported killed. The Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday confirmed five deaths, but has denied that it has contract soldiers fighting in Syria. State regulators reviewed eight Defense Ministry contracts won by businesses linked to Prigozhin and issued a stern rebuke in May 2017. Russian law mandates that any contract go to the lowest bidder, but the winning tenders were only a fraction lower than the rest. Otherwise the bids were virtually identical, the Anti-Monopoly Service said, calling the 2015 bids fixed. The government announced that it would not press charges. St Petersburg legislator Maxim Reznik said:

We don’t expect him to be punished, given that he is among the president’s closest friends.

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