U.S. brings first charge for meddling in 2018 midterm elections

The Justice Department has brought its first criminal case over alleged Russian interference in the 2018 midterm elections.

Elena Khusyaynova, 44, a St. Petersburg, Russia-based accountant, was charged in a criminal complaint with conspiracy to defraud the United States for taking part in a scheme to spend in excess of $10 million since the beginning of the year on targeted social media ads and web postings intended “to sow division and discord in the U.S. political system.”

Khusyaynova, who is not in U.S. custody, allegedly works for Concord, a Russia-based firm that special counsel Robert Mueller's office indicted in February for alleged interference in the 2016 election.

The unsealing of the new charge Friday appears to signal that U.S. law enforcement is not letting up in its efforts to investigate, deter and publicize alleged Russian interference in U.S. politics. The release was coordinated with a statement from President Donald Trump’s top national security leaders warning about the foreign interference efforts from Russia, China and Iran.

These “ongoing campaigns” seek to “undermine confidence in democratic institutions and influence public sentiment and government policies,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and the heads of the FBI and the departments of Justice and Homeland Security said in a joint statement. They added that the activities are an attempt to sway voter opinions and decisions about the upcoming election as well as ahead of the 2020 presidential vote.

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