WASHINGTON – An indictment was announced today against a Russian "troll farm" that used social media to prop up Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders while attacking rivals, including Marco Rubio.
The Justice Department's special counsel targets the Internet Research Agency and 13 individuals, who are "accused of violating U.S. criminal laws in order to interfere with U.S. elections and political processes."
The indictment has numerous references to Florida, the key battleground state that Trump narrowly won.
"On or about November 2, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used (a Twitter account, @TEN_GOP) to post allegations of "#VoterFraud by tens of thousands of ineligible mail in Hillary votes being reported in Broward County, Florida."
Russians also used Facebook to try and organize pro-Trump rallies in Florida, as reported last year.
The charges are the most direct allegation to date of illegal Russian meddling in the election. The goal, the indictment says, was to "sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 presidential election."
Charges include conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.
The charges arise from Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the election and whether there was improper coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.
Trump welcomed the development, though the report makes no rulings on alleged collusion, despite what the president wrote on Twitter.
Late Friday, Rubio's office released a statement:
"Today's indictments of 13 Russian nationals by the Department of Justice Special Counsel is a positive first step toward deterring future Russian meddling in our elections. Russian active measures against the U.S. are not new, and their principal purpose is to sow discord in our society. As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I have joined my colleagues in demonstrating through open hearings Russian efforts to use social media and other mechanisms to orchestrate chaos in our political discourse. Today's indictments clearly demonstrates that Vladimir Putin is neither a Democrat nor a Republican – this is not a partisan issue, and we cannot allow a foreign country to actively interfere in our political dialogue and divide us as a nation against each other."
And then there's this:
— Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.