The FBI today revealed the biggest news yet in the ongoing investigation of Donald Trump's alleged ties to Russian agents: A grand jury charged 14 Russian nationals with interfering in the U.S. electoral system beginning in 2013 or earlier.
The FBI says the Russians also wired a Miami pro-Trump activist money to set up a Trump rally September 11, 2016. That activist is not named in the indictment.
"On or about August 2, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the false U.S. persona 'Matt Skiber' Facebook account to send a private message to a real Facebook account, 'Florida for Trump,' set up to assist then-candidate Trump in the state of Florida," the indictment reads.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein today said that the actions alleged in the indictment did not appear to have swung the election for Trump. In any case, the indictment shows that Russian agents had a startling amount of access to Florida political activists.
The information is not technically new: The Daily Beast first reported in September that one since-deleted Russian account in question, called "Being Patriotic," staged "Florida Goes Trump" rallies in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs. (The Palm Beach Post also follow the Daily Beast's reporting and looked into whether "Being Patriotic" had set up rallies in Palm Beach County, too.) The group of trolls belonged to a Russian firm called the "Internet Research Agency" — reporter Adrian Chen profiled the group in June 2015 for the New York Times.
Had to make a quick stop to Donald trump pep rally in Coral Springs pic.twitter.com/1m88lQ6WjG— ti tasso (@3kBeatzz) August 20, 2016
Huge, enthusiastic crowd greeted the Trump RV at Wings Plus in Coral Springs Fl pic.twitter.com/UaGAFS0XU1— Dolly Trevino Rump (@dollytrump) September 1, 2016
The indictment does not say whether Trump campaign officials in Florida knew they were dealing with Russian agents or were simply fooled by their false IDs.
The indictment says the Russian agents also stole the identity of a real person, referenced as simply "T.W." in legal documents, and used that person's identity to contact pro-Trump organizers across the Sunshine State. For most of August 2016, the Russian agents communicated with Trump campaign officials (including one with a "donaldtrump.com" email address) to coordinate the "Florida Goes Trump" flash mobs. The feds say the Russians also bought ads on social media for the rallies.
On September 9, the feds say, the Russian agents wired money to a woman in West Palm Beach who'd been going from rally to rally dressed as Clinton. Like other Americans referenced in the indictment, she is not named.
This is a breaking story. This post will be updated.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.