Mueller Charges Against Russians Highlight Trump Rallies

(Bloomberg) -- Russians accused of conspiring to help elect U.S. President Donald Trump allegedly staged bogus rallies in key states to support him, including one in Florida in which someone portrayed Hillary Clinton in a prison uniform standing in a cage built on a flatbed truck.

The indictment Friday by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller also accused those Russians of promoting discord after the election by simultaneously holding New York rallies, one in support of Trump’s victory and another under the name “Trump is NOT my President!” There was a separate anti-Trump rally post-election in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Members of the Trump campaign unwittingly aided the accused Russians for some of their pre-election events, after the defendants posed as grassroots activists and contacted the campaign through bogus social-media accounts, according to the indictment.

The defendants and their alleged co-conspirators used fake U.S. personas to persuade Americans to attend their events, according to the indictment, and allegedly used social-media names including Facebook group “Being Patriotic” and Twitter handle @March_for_Trump. One Facebook group called “United Muslims of America” was allegedly created by the Russians to plan a rally called “Support Hillary. Save American Muslims” in July 2016 in Washington.

Using fake personas, the group arranged for one American to hold a sign depicting Clinton and a quote attributed to her saying, “I think Sharia Law will be a powerful new direction of freedom,” according to the indictment.

The Russians, using false personas, allegedly communicated with a Texas-based grassroots organization that advised them to focus their efforts on "purple states" that could be swayed to vote for Trump, including Florida and Virginia. Their plan was refined after they again posed as Americans and contacted U.S. political and social activists, according to the indictment.

The Russians charged tried to cover their tracks after the election by deleting or destroying data including emails and the bogus social-media accounts they’d set up to carry out the alleged scheme, the indictment says.

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