Donald Trump's national security adviser says FBI indictments show Russian meddling in US election is undeniable

Charges brought against 13 Russians and Kremlin-linked internet firm mean ‘evidence is now incontrovertible’, says HR McMaster

Chris Baynes
Saturday 17 February 2018 13:55 GMT
HR McMaster speaks during the Munich Security Conference
HR McMaster speaks during the Munich Security Conference (EPA)

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Donald Trump’s national security adviser has said there is undeniable proof of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference after 13 Russians were charged by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller, HR McMaster said: “With the FBI indictment, the evidence is now incontrovertible.”

His pronouncement came in answer to a question from a Russian delegate shortly after the country’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking on the same stage, had dismissed the indictments as “just blabber”.

A Kremlin-linked internet firm has also been charged, along with the 13 Russian nationals, with conspiring to “sow discord in the US political system”.

Some of the defendants, posing as US citizens, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign and other political activists, according to an indictment filed by a federal grand jury in Washington DC.

The indictment represents the most detailed allegations to date of illegal Russian meddling during the campaign that put Mr Trump in the White House.

Asked about the charges in Munich, Mr Lavrov said: “I have no response. You can publish anything, and we see those indictments multiplying, the statements multiplying.

“Until we see the facts, everything else is just blabber – I’m sorry for this expression.”

He claimed US officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, had said no country influenced the presidential election results. US intelligence agencies have previously concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin set out affect the outcome of the vote but stopped short of saying whether he succeeded.

Rod Rosenstein announces thirteen Russian nationals have been indicted in Mueller probe

Taking the stage after Mr Lavrov, Mr McMaster scoffed at working with Russia on cybersecurity.

“We would love to have a cyber dialogue when Russia is sincere about curtailing its sophisticated form of espionage,” he said.

On Friday, after the indictments were announced, President Trump acknowledged for the first time that Moscow had conducted an “anti-US campaign”. But he claimed “the results of the election were not impacted” and said there was “no collusion” with and no wrongdoing by his campaign.

Mr Mueller’s team is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin during the run-up to the election.

The 13 Russians are charged with running a huge but hidden social media trolling campaign, aimed in part at helping the Republican defeat his Democrat rival, Hillary Clinton.

The indictment marks the first criminal charges against Russians believed to have secretly worked to influence the outcome.

According to the indictment, the Russian organisation was funded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy St Petersburg businessman with ties to President Putin and the Kremlin.

Mr Lavrov denounced “this irrational myth about this global Russian threat, traces of which are found everywhere – from Brexit to the Catalan referendum”.

In Russia, one of those indicted said that the US justice system was unfair.

Mikhail Burchik was quoted by the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda as saying: “I am very surprised that, in the opinion of the Washington court, several Russian people interfered in the elections in the United States. I do not know how the Americans came to this decision.”

Mr Burchik was identified in the indictment as executive director of an organisation that allegedly sowed propaganda on social media to try to interfere with the election.

He was quoted as saying on Saturday that “they have one-sided justice, and it turns out that you can hang the blame on anyone”.

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