13 Suspects Indicted; Manafort Associate Is Reported Close to a Plea Deal
Busted. The Justice Department announced the indictment Friday of a notorious Russian troll farm—naming more than a dozen individual suspects who allegedly worked there—as part of the special counsel’s investigation into criminal interference with the 2016 election.
The Internet Research Agency was named in the indictment, which officials plan to announce at Justice Department headquarters Friday afternoon.
“From in or around 2014 to the present, defendants knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other (and with persons known and unknown to the grand jury) to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016,’’ the indictment states.
The indictment charges that some of the suspects traveled to the United States to gather information to help in the scheme, and that they also impersonated Americans online in order to try to sway voters’ opinions.
The suspects are charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
Gates flipped. Former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates is finalizing a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, indicating he’s poised to cooperate in the investigation, CNN reports. Gates has already spoken to Mueller’s team about his case and has been in plea negotiations for about a month.
Once a plea deal is in place, Gates would become the third known cooperator in Mueller’s sprawling probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. It would also increase the pressure to cooperate on Gates’ co-defendant Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman.
Gates and Manafort face charges including conspiracy to launder money, conspiracy to defraud the United States and failure to register as foreign agents in connection with their political work for a pro-Russia Ukrainian party. Both pleaded not guilty on Oct. 30.
Former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos previously pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI after he lied about his interactions with foreign officials close to the Russian government.
Mike Flynn, who served as Trump’s national security adviser, was the first former presidential aide to plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians.
FBI miss. A tipster alerted the FBI in September to a disturbing comment that had been left beneath an online video. “I’m going to be a professional school shooter,” read the comment, posted by YouTube user “nikolas cruz.” Two FBI agents interviewed the caller, Mississippi bail bondsman Ben Bennight, the next day. The bureau checked public and law enforcement databases for anyone by Cruz’s name who might be of concern, the FBI said, but could not identify the person who left the comment. Five months later, police say, Nikolas Cruz, 19, walked into the Florida high school from which he had been expelled and opened fire, killing 17 people in one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.
ICE ID fraud. The top lawyer for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office in Seattle has been charged with trying to steal the identities of seven people who were in immigration proceedings. The ICE chief counsel, Raphael A. Sanchez, was charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft, according to court documents filed on Monday in United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. He allegedly used the personal information “to obtain money and property by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses” when their cases were under review by ICE, the charging document said.
Nest of spies. The Pentagon says it has suspended its plans to build an intelligence facility in a small British village northwest of London. For years, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (D-Calif.), has vocally opposed the village of Croughton as the site for this facility. Instead, he has pushed hard for the Pentagon to build the new intelligence center on a tiny, out-of-the-way Portuguese island in the Azores that just happens to be one of his favorite vacation spots. Maj. Audricia Harris, a spokesperson for the Defense Department, told The Daily Beast that the Pentagon is reassessing the decision—made in 2012—to build a Joint Intelligence Analysis Complex in the small village. That means plans to build a NATO intelligence fusion center in the same village are also now on hold. Those two projects will be built together. Harris added that the Pentagon is looking at other sites in the United Kingdom for the center.
Featured photo: Campaign aide Rick Gates with Trump during preparations for his speech to the Republican National Convention, Thursday, July 21, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP)