Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 17, 2018

Mueller Indictment - The "Russian Influence" Is A Commercial Marketing Scheme

Yesterday the U.S. Justice Department indicted the Russian Internet Research Agency on some dubious legal grounds. It covers thirteen Russian people and three Russian legal entities. The main count of the indictment is an alleged "Conspiracy to Defraud the United States".

The published indictment gives support to our long held believe that there was no "Russian influence" campaign during the U.S. election. What is described and denounced as such was instead a commercial marketing scheme which ran click-bait websites to generate advertisement revenue and created online crowds around virtual persona to promote whatever its commercial customers wanted to promote. The size of the operation was tiny when compared to the hundreds of millions in campaign expenditures. It had no influence on the election outcome.

The indictment is fodder for the public to prove that the Mueller investigation is "doing something". It distracts from further questioning  the origin of the Steele dossier. It is full of unproven assertions and assumptions. It is a sham in that none of the Russian persons or companies indicted will ever come in front of a U.S. court. That is bad because the indictment is build on the theory of a new crime which, unless a court throws it out, can be used to incriminate other people in other cases and might even apply to this blog. The later part of this post will refer to that.

In the early 1990s some dude in St.Petersburg made a good business selling hot dogs. He opened a colorful restaurant. Local celebrities and politicians were invited to gain notoriety while the restaurant served cheap food for too high prices. It was a good business. A few years later he moved to Moscow and gained contracts to cater to schools and to the military. The food he served was still substandard.

But catering bad food as school lunches gave him, by chance, the idea for a new business:

Parents were soon up in arms. Their children wouldn’t eat the food, saying it smelled rotten.

As the bad publicity mounted, Mr. Prigozhin’s company, Concord Catering, launched a counterattack, a former colleague said. He hired young men and women to overwhelm the internet with comments and blog posts praising the food and dismissing the parents’ protests.

“In five minutes, pages were drowning in comments,” said Andrei Ilin, whose website serves as a discussion board about public schools. “And all the trolls were supporting Concord.”

The trick worked beyond expectations. Prigozhin had found a new business. He hired some IT staff and low paid temps to populate various message boards, social networks and the general internet with whatever his customers asked him for.

You have a bad online reputation? Prigozhin can help. His internet company will fill the net with positive stories and remarks about you. Your old and bad reputation will be drowned by the new and good one. Want to promote a product or service? Prigozhin's online marketeers can address the right crowds.

Pic: A Russian influencer

To achieve those results the few temps who worked on such projects needed to multiply their online personalities. It is better to have fifty people vouch for you online than just five. No one cares if these are real people or just virtual ones. The internet makes it easy to create such sock-puppets. The virtual crowd can then be used to push personalities, products or political opinions. Such schemes are nothing new or special. Every decent "western" public relations and marketing company will offer a similar service and has done so for years.

While it is relatively easy to have sock-puppets swamp the comment threads of such sites as this blog, it is more difficult to have a real effect on social networks. These depend on multiplier effects. To gain many real "likes", "re-tweets" or "followers" an online persona needs a certain history and reputation. Real people need to feel attached to it. It takes some time and effort to build such a multiplier personality, be it real or virtual.

At some point Prigozhin, or whoever by then owned the internet marketing company, decided to expand into the lucrative English speaking market. This would require to build many English language online persona and to give those some history and time to gain crowds of followers and a credible reputation. The company sent a few of its staff to the U.S. to gain some impressions, pictures and experience of the surroundings. They would later use these to impersonate as U.S. locals. It was a medium size, long-term investment of maybe a hundred-thousand bucks over two or three years.

The U.S. election provided an excellent environment to build reputable online persona with large followings of people with discriminable mindsets. The political affinity was not important. The personalities only had to be very engaged and stick to their issue - be it left or right or whatever. The sole point was to gain as many followers as possible who could be segmented along social-political lines and marketed to the companies customers.

Again - there is nothing new to this. It is something hundreds, if not thousands of companies are doing as their daily business. The Russian company hoped to enter the business with a cost advantage. Even its mid-ranking managers were paid as little as $1,200 per month. The students and other temporary workers who would 'work' the virtual personas as puppeteers would earn even less. Any U.S. company in a similar business would have higher costs.

In parallel to building virtual online persona the company also built some click-bait websites and groups and promoted these through mini Facebook advertisements. These were the "Russian influence ads" on Facebook the U.S. media were so enraged about. They included the promotion of a Facebook page about cute puppies. Back in October we described how those "Russian influence" ads (most of which were shown after the election or were not seen at all) were simply part of a commercial scheme:

The pages described and the ads leading to them are typical click-bait, not part of a political influence op.
One builds pages with "hot" stuff that hopefully attracts lots of viewers. One creates ad-space on these pages and fills it with Google ads. One attracts viewers and promotes the spiked pages by buying $3 Facebook mini-ads for them. The mini-ads are targeted at the most susceptible groups.

A few thousand users will come and look at such pages. Some will 'like' the puppy pictures or the rant for or against LGBT and further spread them. Some will click the Google ads. Money then flows into the pockets of the page creator. One can rinse and repeat this scheme forever. Each such page is a small effort for a small revenue. But the scheme is highly scaleable and parts of it can be automatized.

Because of the myriad of U.S. sanctions against Russia the monetization of these business schemes required some creativity. One can easily find the name of a real U.S. person together with the assigned social security number and its date of birth. Those data are enough to open, for example, a Paypal account under a U.S. name. A U.S. customer of the cloaked Russian Internet company could then pay to the Paypal account and the money could be transferred from there to Moscow. These accounts could also be used to buy advertisement on Facebook. The person who's data was used to create the account would never learn of it and would have no loss or other damage. Another scheme is to simply pay some U.S. person to open a U.S. bank account and to then hand over the 'keys' to that account.

The Justice Department indictment is quite long and detailed. It must have been expensive. If you read it do so with the above in mind. Skip over the assumptions and claims of political interference and digest only the facts. All that is left is, as explained, a commercial marketing scheme.

I will not go into all its detail of the indictment but here are some points that support the above description.

Point 4:

Defendants, posing as US. persons and creating false U.S. personas, operated social media pages and groups designed to attract U.S. audiences. These groups and pages, which addressed divisive US. political and social issues, falsely claimed to be controlled by US. activists when, in fact, they were controlled by Defendants. Defendants also used the stolen identities of real U.S. persons to post on social media accounts. Over time, these social media accounts became Defendants' means to reach significant numbers of Americans ...

Point 10d:

By in or around April 2014, the ORGANIZATION formed a department that went by various names but was at times referred to as the "translator project." This project focused on the US. population and conducted operations on social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. By approximately July 2016, more than eighty ORGANIZATION employees were assigned to the translator project.

(Some U.S. media today made the false claim that $1.25 million per month were spend by the company for its U.S. campaign. But Point 11 of the indictment says that the company ran a number of such projects directed at a Russian audience while only the one described in 10d above is aimed at an U.S. audience. All these projects together had a monthly budget of $1.25 million.)

(Point 17, 18 and 19 indict individual persons who have worked for the "translator" project" "to at least in and around [some month] 2014". It is completely unclear how these persons, who seem to have left the company two years before the U.S. election, are supposed to have anything to do with the claimed "Russian influence" on the U.S. election and the indictment.)

Point 32:

Defendants and their co-conspirators, through fraud and deceit, created hundreds of social media accounts and used them to develop certain fictitious U.S. personas into "leader[s] of public opinion" in the United States.

The indictment then goes on and on describing the "political activities" of the sock-puppet personas. Some posted pro-Hillary slogans, some anti-Hillary stuff, some were pro-Trump, some anti-everyone, some urged not to vote, others to vote for third party candidates. The sock-puppets did not create or post fake news. They posted mainstream media stories.

Some of the persona called for going to anti-Islam rallies while others promoted pro-Islam rallies. The Mueller indictment lists a total of eight rallies. Most of these did not take place at all. No one joined the "Miners For Trump" rallies in Philly and Pittsburgh. A "Charlotte against Trump" march on November 19 - after the election - was attended by one hundred people. Eight people came for a pro-Trump rally in Fort Myers. 

The sock-puppets called for rallies to establish themselves as  'activist' and 'leadership' persona, to generated more online traffic and additional followers. There was in fact no overall political trend in what the sock-puppets did. The sole point of all such activities was to create a large total following by having multiple personas which together covered all potential social-political strata.

At Point 86 the indictment turns to Count Two - "Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud and Bank Fraud". The puppeteers opened, as explained above, various Paypal accounts using 'borrowed' data.

Then comes the point which confirms the commercial marketing story as laid out above:

Point 95:

Defendants and their co-conspirators also used the accounts to receive money from real U.S. persons in exchange for posting promotions and advertisements on the ORGANIZATION-controlled social media pages. Defendants and their co-conspirators typically charged certain U.S. merchants and U.S. social media sites between 25 and 50 U.S. dollars per post for promotional content on their popular false U.S. persona accounts, including Being Patriotic, Defend the 2nd, and Blacktivist.

There you have it. There was no political point to what the Russian company did. Whatever political slogans one of the company's sock-puppets posted had only one aim: to increase the number of followers for that sock-puppet. The sole point of creating a diverse army of sock-puppets with large following crowds was to sell the 'eyeballs' of the followers to the paying customers of the marketing company.

There were, according to the indictment, eighty people working on the "translator project". These controlled "hundreds" of sock-puppets online accounts each with a distinct "political" personality. Each of these sock-puppets had a large number of followers - in total several hundred-thousands. Now let's assume that one to five promotional posts can be sold per day on each of the sock-puppets content stream. The scheme generates several thousand dollars per day ($25 per promo, hundreds of sock-puppets, 1-5 promos per day per sock-puppet). The costs for this were limited to the wages of up to eighty persons in Moscow, many of them temps, of which the highest paid received some $1,000 per month. While the upfront multiyear investment to create and establish the virtual personas was probably significant, this likely was, over all, a profitable business.

Again - this had nothing to do with political influence on the election. The sole point of political posts was to create 'engagement' and a larger number of followers in each potential social-political segment. People who buy promotional posts want these to be targeted at a specific audience. The Russian company could offer whatever audience was needed. It had sock-puppets with pro-LGBT view and a large following and sock-puppets with anti-LGBT views and a large following. It could provide pro-2nd amendment crowds as well as Jill Stein followers. Each of the sock-puppets had over time generated a group of followers that were like minded. The entity buying the promotion simply had to choose which group it preferred to address.

The panic of the U.S. establishment over the loss of their preferred candidate created an artificial storm over "Russian influence" and assumed "collusion" with the Trump campaign. (Certain Democrats though, like Adam Schiff, profit from creating a new Cold War through their sponsoring armament companies.)

The Mueller investigation found no "collusion" between anything Russia and the Trump campaign. The indictment does not mentions any. The whole "Russian influence" storm is based on a misunderstanding of commercial activities of a Russian marketing company in U.S. social networks.

There is a danger in this. The indictment sets up a new theory of nefarious foreign influence that could be applied to even this blog. As U.S. lawyer Robert Barns explains:

The only thing frightening about this indictment is the dangerous and dumb precedent it could set: foreign nationals criminally prohibited from public expression in the US during elections unless registered as foreign agents and reporting their expenditures to the FEC.
Mueller's new crime only requires 3 elements: 1) a foreign national; 2) outspoken on US social media during US election; and 3) failed to register as a foreign agent or failed to report receipts/expenditures of speech activity. Could indict millions under that theory.
The legal theory of the indictment for most of the defendants and most of the charges alleges that the "fraud" was simply not registering as a foreign agent or not reporting expenses to the FEC because they were a foreign national expressing views in a US election.

Author Leonid Bershidsky, who prominently writes for Bloomberg, remarks:

I'm actually surprised I haven't been indicted. I'm Russian, I was in the U.S. in 2016 and I published columns critical of both Clinton and Trump w/o registering as a foreign agent.

As most of you will know your author writing this is German. I write pseudo-anonymously for a mostly U.S. audience. My postings are political and during the U.S. election campaign expressed an anti-Hillary view. The blog is hosted on U.S, infrastructure paid for by me. I am not registered as Foreign Agent or with the Federal Election Commission.

Under the theory on which the indictment is based I could also be indicted for a similar "Conspiracy to Defraud the United States".

(Are those of you who kindly donate for this blog co-conspiractors?)

When Yevgeni Prigozhin, the hot dog caterer who allegedly owns the internet promotion business, was asked about the indictment he responded:

"The Americans are really impressionable people, they see what they want to see. [...] If they want to see the devil, let them see him."

Posted by b on February 17, 2018 at 20:09 UTC | Permalink

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Of course America meddle in Russia,

"Among NED projects in Russia has been to finance Russian anti-Putin opposition activist Alexei Navalny, member of a group called Russian Opposition Coordination Council. Navalny received money from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)."

..but this issue was related to accusations against Russia, one cant just think that the whole indictment is 100% false without any counter evidence.

Posted by: test | Feb 18 2018 20:28 utc | 101

Okay, Okay! I confess!! I interfered in the 2016 election; I voted! Twice!

Posted by: karlof1 | Feb 18 2018 21:11 utc | 102

I guess "special council" needs a marketing campaign too. With no photos of Ms. Veselnitskaya in bed with a male of Trump family, make something "related", like Orange Soda is related to orange juice -- they share the color, name, main ingredient (water) etc.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 18 2018 21:12 utc | 103

One thing to remember when looking at the Mueller indictment - when the US have nothing solid to accuse others of, the US, always, always projects onto others what they themselves do.

Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Feb 18 2018 21:16 utc | 104

b: stories about Trump generated MORE TRAFFIC than pro Clinton stories
Yes, and that CONTINUES to be the case currently, because click-bait rules, replacing circulation amounts, so if it's Trump it's "news" even when he's (and Russia's, BTW) not directly involved. . . .

Trump blames everyone but Russia
Trump: 'They are laughing their asses off in Moscow'
Stelter debunks pro-Trump media talking points
Clapper: More shoes will drop in Russia probe
Analysis: Trump's Russia delusion bubbles over
Opinion: For Mueller, this is only the beginning
As Mueller fights Russians, Trump is MIA: Our view
Trump's Russia denialism is grounds for impeachment
Trump slams Russian probe, CNN, Schiff in fiery early morning tweetstorm
Trump slams FBI over 'missed signals' on Florida shooting, asserts Russia was distraction
Trump vents frustration over Russia probe, rails against FBI
Trump lashes out over Russian investigation
Trump Chides McMaster For Saying Evidence Of Russian Interference 'Incontrovertible'

Posted by: Don Bacon | Feb 18 2018 21:46 utc | 105

Mueller does not care about the Russians, but he would not have indicted them unless it served the purpose of getting at somebody higher up in the pecking order.

And this is *not* about Russia meddling in a US election, that in itself is not illegal. But for US citizens to actively assist and promote such activities is another matter entirely.

That point is getting lost in the constant flap and chatter.

Mueller is working slowly and methodically and that is not what our media want: they want to give us sensations, big scoops, all interspersed with partisan laypeople offering opinions and second-guessing professionals who are simply doing the job they were appointed to do.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Feb 18 2018 22:41 utc | 106

@101 test.. the whole thing is just so very petty... does anyone really think this internet registry agency is on a similar level to the pr firms on madison avenue? and trust me, this madison avenue firms have been doing this a lot longer then this stupid 2 bit internet registry agency in st. petersburg.. the whole thing makes everything around the mueller investigation reek to high heavens..

@103 piotr.. indeed... mueller and friends need to hire some pr firm on madison avenue.. they way they are selling this is just so amatuerish, it is beyond belief... as b mentions elsewhere in a response to ttg @146 at sst.. the whole thing is like some stupid joke...
" ttg quote - "The content covers the political gamut which is in line with the objective of exacerbating the discord that already existed in this country. "

b's comments "I find the assumption that anything Russian had such an "objective" laughable.

The U.S. already has extreme discord on many issues. It is impossible to excerbate anything more than Trump does with one Tweet.

You are assuming that "Russia" was somehow trying to implement a "strategy of tension" in the U.S.? By posting 0.000003% of the daily Facebook posts? That is a joke, right?

The troll factory was a commercial marketing company that created content and generated views and followers to sell some forms of advertisement.

All else is just finding someone to blame for Clinton's loss and for heating up a Cold War 2.0 to sell more weapons.

Where is the evidence for:
- Putin-Trump affinity?
- Russia effecting teh election?
- Russian collusion with the Trump campaign?
- Russian influence operations?

The Mueller indictment presents none."

Posted by: james | Feb 18 2018 22:42 utc | 107

Perhaps Tom Fitton and Judicial Watch could get hired by these Russians to challenge the indictments. The accused Russians stay in Russia (why leave home) and Judicial Watch gives us a Spectacle in open court. Mueller must be stopped and he must be stopped by legal challenges.

Posted by: Macon Richardson | Feb 18 2018 22:53 utc | 108

You wrote "Is it a federal crime to create a fake facebook account?
I am still scratching my head at Mueller's core charge, is it a fed. crime to create a fake facebook account and post political content? If this is what Mueller is alleging, with B's qualifications, 'foreigner', 'political content during election cycle', and 'failure to register as foreign agent' doesn't the prosecutor have to cite the statute.

What federal statute applies to fake facebook accounts?" but what if FB knowingly awarded you an ipod for registering your 'fake' account? Should FB itself fall under the Conspiracy to Defraud the US new crime?

Posted by: Ian Shears | Feb 19 2018 0:27 utc | 109

Add to 102--

I see The Duran is hawking T-shirts saying in Russian "I'm a Russian Bot" for $26.49 + shipping with sales proceeds going to support website. Bet it would be a great conversation starter!

Posted by: karlof1 | Feb 19 2018 0:31 utc | 110

The foreign Agency troll recruits were smarter than the Clinton people, and they don't like it.

"I hate to say it, but it seems like the creative instincts and the sophistication exceeds a lot of the U.S. political operatives who do this for a living,” said Brian Fallon, a spokesman on Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. “There were memes and advertisements that were really in sync with the Trump campaign’s rhetoric. The messages were in sync, and they certainly exploited some of our vulnerabilities.”. . .here

Posted by: Don Bacon | Feb 19 2018 0:50 utc | 111

Posted by: james | Feb 18, 2018 5:42:47 PM | 107

IMHO, you mis the point of "troll operations" and Mueller indictment. It is not actually about convincing the public, but about creating an impression of convinced public. Consider the original school lunch application. Kids are to a degree captive audience, and their opinion about lunches is mostly influenced by the lunches themselves, however, they do not decide! School board or some other entity that would never touch the stuff has to be convinced that the kids do not really demand the change the lunch contractor. And it may work, barring outright food poisoning.

Similarly, Mr. Mueller does not have to convince the public at large, but give some fodder for an army of partisan staffers that may create "rent a crowd", and one of the causes that they need is to defend saintly Mr. Mueller from the wicked designed of the POTUS who would love to fire him, while HE IS MAKING IMPORTANT DISCOVERIES. And it is well documented that there is a crowd of "important commentators" who will be awed by any scrap, and congressman who will climb soap boxes or grander stands to proclaim the need to be serious.

Commercial applications are also more about creating impressions of popularity (e.g. for investors) than actual popularity. And the targets like investors do some elementary checks of "authenticity", hence the need of cultivating "personas".

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 19 2018 0:55 utc | 112

@PB 112
Mueller does not have to convince the public at large
No, but he knows that he doesn't have to, the establishment media will fall in line and propagandize the American public and the establishment politicians (as in my 105 above). Currently it's all Russia, all the time. It takes the public mind off there own miserable existence.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Feb 19 2018 1:09 utc | 113

This indictment was serious enough that both Trump and Sean Hannity had to admit that Russia tried to interfere in our elections, after a year of denials.

I have been researching abuses by the FBI and intelligence agencies for decades, using primary documents.

[... way too long paranoid bullshit rant deleted - b]

Posted by: jemcgloin | Feb 19 2018 4:21 utc | 114

@ jemcgloin 114
. . .both Trump and Sean Hannity had to admit that Russia tried to interfere in our elections
Baloney, you made that up, neither did, and there are no allegations of Russia doing anything. So all of your text (whatever it says) is wasted.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Feb 19 2018 4:37 utc | 115

@ jemcgloin 114
. . .both Trump and Sean Hannity had to admit that Russia tried to interfere in our elections
Baloney, you made that up, neither did, and there are no allegations of Russia doing anything. So all of your text (whatever it says) is wasted.
Posted by: Don Bacon | Feb 18, 2018 11:37:16 PM | 115

Yep. Many a true word spoken in jest...

JE McGloin conveniently, and deliberately, 'forgets' that The Swamp has hijacked the USG and its institutions, and rendered them corrupt and no longer accountable to The People.
The notion that an unaccountable faux Government deserves respect is beyond pathetic.

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Feb 19 2018 5:30 utc | 116

Russia is not Zimbabwe, Iraq, or Yemen. It’s not Grenada or Haiti.
Russia is not going to be intimidated by a chest-beating schoolyard bully.
This can only end badly for the U.S., its allies, and the rest of the world.

Posted by: Mixa | Feb 19 2018 6:34 utc | 117

Don Bacon

Actually Trump seems to admit that russia intefered - see his latest tweets, if that is true or not is a different question though (and so goes for Hannity).

Posted by: Anon | Feb 19 2018 9:12 utc | 118

Late but right :-)

Julian Assange @JulianAssange

Buried in the Mueller astro-turfing indictment is something that we have long suspected. The Internet Research Agency's "troll farm" is geared to develop audience in socially active communities (e.g through aligned memes), in order to spam them on behalf of anyone willing to pay:
Before advertising networks can advertise they must build audience. How much of IRA's activities were simply trying to build audience by gaining followers using tweets and memes likely to be shared in those communities?
IRA allegedly also ran kitten appreciation groups. Are we also to believe that these kittens were also a plot to divide America? To not distinguish between audience building and customer advertising payload is sketchy.
The US has 320 million people with a trillion dollar media and cultural sector that employees over a million people. I do not assess that it is possible whatsoever to divide America by trying to "heighten the differences" with a hundred trolls
Re-enforcing audience bias is exactly what Facebook & Google have been doing at a vast scale by algorithmically preying on people's existing biases to increase engagement. In a more traditional manner, FOX, MSNBC, CNN, NYTimes, WaPO etc, are doing the same thing.
Regardless of whether IRA's activities were audience building through pandering to communities or whether a hare-brained Russian government plan to "heighten the differences" existed, its activities are clearly strategically insignificant compared to the other forces at play.

Also of note that the so called "Internet Research Agency" does not exist as a company and that the whole affair might have a deeper level of CIA involvement:
A Brief History of the “Kremlin Trolls”

Posted by: b | Feb 19 2018 10:44 utc | 119

Below the article on this topic I mentioned this page to help the readers in getting better informed. The FT is a CIA outlet. I ended the comment with: ‘FT, first they stop beleiving you, then, they reading you, then you become irrelevant.

Ha, ha, ha, the post was removed...

Posted by: Nils | Feb 19 2018 11:22 utc | 120

The US has 320 million people with a trillion dollar media and cultural sector that employees over a million people. I do not assess that it is possible whatsoever to divide America by trying to "heighten the differences" with a hundred trolls
~Julian Assange
Posted by: b | Feb 19, 2018 5:44:30 AM | 119

It doesn't take too much thought power or common sense to arrive at the same conclusion as Assange. What is some cat poo in an ocean of human fecal matter...? Preying on the vegetative state of the collective human psyche has never been so easy.

Posted by: MadMax2 | Feb 19 2018 12:09 utc | 121

But for US citizens to actively assist and promote such activities is another matter entirely.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Feb 18, 2018 5:41:46 PM | 106

Obviously you never read the indictment.

The only US person named in this affair, who had any illegal business dealings with the alleged "russian" "influencers" is a guy called Richard Pinedo, a California man who operated an online service called “Auction Essistance” and purchased bank-account numbers that were created “using stolen identities of U.S. persons,”

Mueller Hooks His Big Fish: Richard Pinedo, Putin's Man in Santa Paula

    Lessem said Pinedo had dealings with some of the defendants listed in the indictment, but stressed that those interactions represented a small piece of his client’s overall business.

    He profited “tens of thousands of dollars” from the sale of banking information online through Auction Essistance, according to court documents.

So, a small fraction of Pinedo’s “tens of thousands of dollars” came from Russians?


At first glance Muellers charges may seem laughably petty, but when you actually dig down they get even more absurd

Posted by: Bobby Mueller | Feb 19 2018 12:24 utc | 122

What happened to my post?

Posted by: jemcgloin | Feb 19 2018 12:36 utc | 123

For example
Full text of Mueller's indictment

12. b.For example, on or about May 29, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators, through an ORGANIZATION-controlled social media account, arranged for a real U.S. person to stand in front of the White House in the District of Columbia under false pretenses and hold a sign that read "Happy 55th Birthday Dear Boss." Defendants and their co-conspirators informed the real U.S. person that the sign was for someone who "is a leader here and our boss…our funder." PRIGOZHIN's Russian passport identifies his date of birth as June 1, 1961.

55 d. Defendants and their co-conspirators also used false U.S. personas to ask real U.S. persons to participate in the "Florida Goes Trump" rallies. Defendants and their co-conspirators asked certain of these individuals to perform tasks at the rallies. For example, Defendants and their co-conspirators asked one U.S. person to build a cage on a flatbed truck and another U.S. person to wear a costume portraying Clinton in a prison uniform. Defendants and their co-conspirators paid these individuals to complete the requests.

How are these even crimes?

The majority of the so-called "indictment" seems to be composed of such examples, behaviour which is not of itself even illegal.

Posted by: Bobby Mueller | Feb 19 2018 12:41 utc | 124


we are only seeing small, incremental steps. It is easy to see them as "absurd" or "irrelevant" at this stage in the investigation, but Mueller is playing his cards close to his chest and making sure that he has dotted every i and crossed every t before before going public with his full findings: he knows they have to be verifiable, unassailable, and most of all, damning enough to move Congress to act on the charges.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Feb 19 2018 13:29 utc | 125

@ralphieboy 122: ("he knows they have to be verifiable, unassailable, and most of all, damning enough to move Congress to act on the charges.")

You forgot the /snark tag on your comment!

Posted by: nudge | Feb 19 2018 13:40 utc | 126

Mueller has learned well the benefits of information diversion. Just as Trump diverted the steamrolling news of the day when it was learned he had an affair with a prostitute by making his famous "shithoke" comments, and just like Clinton was able to divert attn away from us military personnel being killed by a terrorist bomber at their barracks in Isreal, Mueller has ffound a way to divert attn away from the FBI's culpability in the Fla shooting when they dropped the ball on having been tpped off on the shooter beforehand with no follow-up. Mueller, in timing this indictments announcement on the same day that the give of Fla called for the FBI director to resign because of the ?Fla shooting debacle, has found a way to divert attn away from the FBI's incompentencues in that regard.
Nothing more is really going on here.

Posted by: Snow Belt Willie | Feb 19 2018 14:09 utc | 127

Footnote to my comment #127:
Clinton diverted attn away from the barracks bombing by sending his thugs out to the deserts of the US Southwest to arrest a bunch of guys target practicing, portraying them as possible dangeros far right miltant vigilantes and holding them for a week as media pawns until the heat blew over re the killings of our soldiers. Clintons were masters of media manipulation in regards to matters like these.

Posted by: Snow Belt Willie | Feb 19 2018 14:18 utc | 128

"he knows they have to be verifiable, unassailable, and most of all, damning enough to move Congress to act on the charges."

You really should read the indictment before further making a fool of yourself by continuing to comment on something you clearly have not read or understood.

The vast majority of claims made in the laughable Mueller "indictment" are similar in nature to those two I highlighted @122 i.e: not actually crimes at all as far as I can see - these allegations by Mueller may be "verifiable", [but even that is not 100% sure, and is unlikely ever to be tested in a court of law] but they are certainly not "unassailable", and most of all not particularly "damning"

Posted by: Bobby Mueller | Feb 19 2018 14:20 utc | 129


""he knows they have to be verifiable, unassailable, and most of all, damning enough to move Congress to act on the charges.""

Really? Seems rather like a psy op. since there will never be a court which could judge the accusations and Mueller knows that so he can basically say whatever he wants to make him look good.

Posted by: Anon | Feb 19 2018 14:32 utc | 130

I don't always agree with Mike Whitney, but he nailed this one.
Goofy Indictments Divert Attention from Criminal Abuses at the FBI and DOJ

Posted by: Don Bacon | Feb 19 2018 14:48 utc | 131

@130 Anon:

These charges have to be presented before Congress, the only body that can rule against a sitting President.

Right now, Congress could rule against some rather egregious violations of conflict of interest and the Emoluments Clause if they so choose. But they choose not to. Mueller is going to seek to present a case that forces them to act or face political consequences.

In that case, you are right, it is political, but that is because it involves a sitting President.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Feb 19 2018 14:51 utc | 132

To Don Bacon,
Thanks for that link, Don. It was both very enlightening yet depressing at the same time. But(sigh) probably over the top truthfully in the end.

Posted by: Snow Belt Willie | Feb 19 2018 15:15 utc | 133

CBS Deputy AG Rosenstein Contradicts [him]self On Mueller’s Report

    Despite reporting correctly Deputy AG Rosenstein’s statement that Mueller’s investigation found no evidence that Russian social media activity had an effect on the US election and no cooperation or collusion with the Trump campaign, CBS then falsely reports: “DOJ indicts Russians for meddling in election.”

    Does CBS have an explanation for its side-by-side self-contradiction on its own website?

    Are the CBS presstitutes so stupid that they didn’t even notice their self-contradiction, or are the presstitutes so determined to carry on with the Russiagate fake news story that they shout over a print account with a TV Special Report?

    Is it a question of total incompetence or total dishonesty? I see every indication on the part of the media to prevent the American public from understanding that from start to finish Russiagate was a hoax designed to discredit the President of the United States.

    I see the same on the part of the FBI, the DOJ, and Trump’s own National Security Adviser. Here is Rosenstein’s announcement of Muller’s indictment of 13 Russians.

    Note that after saying the Russians are indicted for interfering in the election, and spending 5 minutes on this, at the 5 minute 20 second mark Rosenstein says there is no evidence that the Russians had any affect on the election! So what we have is the Deputy Attorney General of the United States announcing an indictment for which he says there is no evidence!

    “What’s going on here?” as the colonel asks in the movie, Legends of the Fall. The answer is that
    Rosenstein, Mueller, Comey, Brennan, Hillary, the DNC, the entirety of the presstitute media, and so on have been involved in a conspiracy to disempower and remove the President of the United States. They have been caught at it. And now the deceitful corrupt bastards and bitches are simultaneously abandoning their principal charge that Trump and his associates were involved while holding on to the claim that a few Russians independently of any and all Americans were trying to do something. If you watch Rosenstein’s 6 minute 45 second news statement, you can clearly see this simultaneous avowal and disavowal of Russiagate

Posted by: Bobby Mueller | Feb 19 2018 15:26 utc | 134

@119 b.. thanks for that extremely interesting post.. now i know the basis for a comment the other day on sst from someone making a connection to this internet registry agency and the cia... seeing that saker link with pics and etc back to 2014 - makes perfect sense... i can't believe ordinary people are not going to see this for what it is.. a complete set up to frame russia, made in the usa by the cia... wow...

Posted by: james | Feb 19 2018 17:03 utc | 135

What happened to my post?

Posted by: jemcgloin | Feb 19, 2018 7:36:05 AM | 123

[... way too long paranoid bullshit rant deleted - b]

Posted by: jemcgloin | Feb 18, 2018 11:21:26 PM | 114

Posted by: james | Feb 19 2018 17:04 utc | 136

@130 Anon,

the charges have to be brought up before Congress, which is the only body that can convict a sitting President. They could certainly bring charges against Trump for open conflict of interest charges and violations of the Emoluments Clause, but are not about to.

Mueller is working slowly and methodically to produce charges that will force Congress to act on them or face political consequences. In the mean time the GOP is working to minimize that fallout when the charges are presented and they refuse to act.

This is not the sort of show our media want: we love bombshells, big scoops and shocking revelations, not slow, methodical progress. And in the meantime, we get a lot of partisan commentators trying to look over Mueller's shoulders and second-guessing what he is doing.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Feb 19 2018 17:59 utc | 137

@ralphieboy 136
Mueller is working slowly and methodically to produce charges that will force Congress to act on them or face political consequences. . .And in the meantime, we get a lot of partisan commentators trying to look over Mueller's shoulders and second-guessing what he is doing.
That's contradictory, "mutually opposed or inconsistent."

Posted by: Don Bacon | Feb 19 2018 18:21 utc | 138

if you take two separate paragraphs and run them together then yes, it is inconsistent.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Feb 19 2018 18:35 utc | 139


? Trump isnt the one indicted, russians are, there will be no judgment in court - thus Mueller could say whatever he wants and get away with it.

I find it funny that you somehow know how Mueller work and that there will be more, bigger revelations, contrary the Russian investigations have produced very little going back with Flynn etc.

"Partisan" for calling out that FBI, DOJ use the controversial Steele document? Nah.

Posted by: Anon | Feb 19 2018 20:03 utc | 140

:These charges have to be presented before Congress, the only body that can rule against a sitting President.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Feb 19, 2018 9:51:29 AM | 132

Even Mueller has stated that his list of dubious "charges" do not include any charges implicating the Trump administration in allegations of "election interference" and indeed what little "evidence" he has produced doesn't seem to back up the original allegations of Russian "interference" in US elections.


Right now, Congress could rule against some rather egregious violations of conflict of interest

Could you actually show examples of these alleged "conflicts of interest" because I am not aware of any such charges or of any actual evidence of "conflict of interest" ever being produced?

I am aware of a conflict of interest concerning Killary Klinton and her deal/bribe involving Uranium, but I am not as yet aware of any Trump/Russia conflict of interest.


But they choose not to.

My understanding was not that "they choose not to" rather that they have absolutely no legal or procedural grounds for proceeding with any such charges.


Mueller is going to seek to present a case

You have absolutely no idea what Mueller is going to do. So far he has repeatedly promised to produce evidence of many nefarious doings but as yet has produced almost no evidence of ANY illegal doings involving Russia and the Trump administration, nor of Russian "interference" in US elections etc etc .

Mr Mueller, like yourself, is clearly "All hat and no cattle".

Posted by: Bobby Mueller | Feb 19 2018 20:58 utc | 141

For the last time, the Mueller Indictments are a smokescreen meant to confuse the masses and divert attn away from FBI culpability for the Fla shooting. Please draw your attn back to the Fla shooting and FBI's culpability where it belongs.


Posted by: Snow Belt Willie | Feb 20 2018 1:43 utc | 142

Snow Belt Willie

Yes, a diversion. But I think Mike Whitney is closer to the mark (see Don Bacon @131).

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 20 2018 4:01 utc | 143

Snow Belt Willie

Yes, a diversion. But I think Mike Whitney is closer to the mark (see Don Bacon @131).

Posted by: Jackrabbit | Feb 20 2018 4:01 utc | 144

"Inside baseball" legal point: "conspiracy to defraud" is - despite its name - not actually a crime of conspiracy ("defrauding" is not a substantive crime).

Rather, "conspiracy to defraud" is a traditional catch-all for situations where the defendant did something scuzzy together with other scuzzy individuals. In other words, CTD is a tried-and-tested way to convict "the usual suspects" without real evidence of actual wrongdoing.

Posted by: Anonymous | Feb 20 2018 4:09 utc | 145

McMaster “incontrovertible” answer to Cybersecurity!

The statement by Lieutenant General McMaster at the Munich Security Conference (Feb 17) stood in stark
contrast to Trump’s oft repeated claim that Russian interference in his election victory was a hoax.

“As you can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain,” McMaster told a Russian delegate to the conference. The detailed document presented the most compelling public evidence to date that the Russian operation was elaborate, expensive and real. Citing emails and conversations by the perpetrators of the plot, it also demonstrated that the ongoing probe may have access to explosive intelligence material gathered on the Russian operations.
McMaster also noted that special counsel Robert Mueller’s team had shown that the U.S. was becoming
“more and more adept at tracing the origins of this espionage and subversion.”

During the QA, McMaster was then asked by a Russian journalist about the findings from internet experts in Russia...

Journalist: ... about cybersecurity, according to info I received from Russian experts, approximately 28% of cyber attacks from outside towards the Russian electronic systems come from the USA --28% while 2-3 % of attacks towards American systems come from Russia. 10 times less.
Would you like to either acknowledge or deny these data?
And what do you feel about our repeated proposals to start a bilateral dialogue, a Russian American dialogue, on cybersecurity which is being rejected all the time by the American side.
Thank you.

McMaster: I am surprised there are any Russian cyber experts available based on how active most of them have been (against) in undermining our democracies in the west... (applause)

Just minutes before, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had dismissed the indictment as “just blabber.”

QA at around 16:15 but its worth listening to his 15 min solid western propaganda about US delusions.

Posted by: Hankyou | Feb 20 2018 8:14 utc | 146

Anybody have a link to view the actual memes and posts created by the troll farm? I remember the Facebook ones from years a go were hilarious to look at.

Posted by: Jason | Feb 21 2018 20:37 utc | 147

Start here

Posted by: Danny | Feb 23 2018 23:41 utc | 148

I am a US citizen and I have found most of this concerning because the complaint mostly seems to be "They talked at us!". Which is actually one of our enshrined rights that are supposed to be the inherent rights of all people. But while it certainly doesn't show collusion ( and I doubt there was any ) identity fraud for the purposes of circumventing the sanctions that are there mostly because of what is going on in Ukraine (not because of Russians talking at us) is a real crime that you are dismissing. Ukraine is real. Magnitsky used to be real. The sanctions are real and that is a real crime.

Posted by: Joseph Southwell | Feb 27 2018 21:44 utc | 149

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