Goal is to sow discord
The Russian operation started as early as 2014, with a strategic goal to “sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election.” Note that this is long before Trump announced his presidential campaign on June 16, 2015.
Several defendants even traveled to the States in 2014 to collect intelligence. They also purchased computer system located inside the States to set up virtual private networks (VPN) to hide their Russian origin.
We don’t know yet when FBI noticed their operation, except that they noticed on September 13, 2017 that FBI busted their activity.
Rosenstein pointed out in the news conference that “there is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity. There is no allegation in the indictment that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.”
The indictment document shows that the Russians not only supported Donald Trump, but also supported Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. In addition to opposing Hillary Clinton, they also denigrated other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
Staging political rallies
In addition to purchasing advertisement on social media, the Russians also staged political rallies.
In June 2016, they promoted a rally called “Support Hillary. Save American Muslims”, which was held on July 9, 2016 in DC. And they managed to recruit a real US person to hold a sign depicting Clinton and a quote attributed to her stating “I think Sharia Law will be a powerful new direction of freedom.”
In June and July 2016, they promoted two pro-Trump rallies in New York, which were held on June 25 and July 23, 2016. They also organized a series of coordinated pro-Trump rallies in Florida, which were held on August 20, 2016.
After the election, the Russians organized pro-Trump rallies, while simultaneously organized anti-Trump rallies. For example, they organized both pro and anti-Trump rallies in New York on November 12, 2016. They also organized another anti-Trump rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, which was held in November 19, 2016.
What’s next? Let’s wait and see.