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Mueller’s office targeted by Russian disinformation campaign

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Federal prosecutors on Wednesday said Russians had attempted to use materials from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office in an effort to undermine the investigation into the Kremlin’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election.

Over 1,000 nonsensitive documents turned over to the defense attorneys of a Russian company indicted by Mueller – Concord Management and Consulting – were “altered” and subsequently disseminated online in October 2018, Mueller’s office said in a Wednesday court filing.

“Certain nonsensitive discovery materials in the defense’s possession appear to have been altered and disseminated as part of a disinformation campaign aimed (apparently) at discrediting ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the U.S. political system,” prosecutors said in the filing.

According to the filing, in late October the “newly created Twitter account @HackingRedstone published the following tweet: ‘We’ve got access to the Special Counsel Mueller’s probe database as we hacked Russian server with info from the Russian troll case Concord LLC v. Mueller. You can view all the files Mueller had about the IRA and Russian collusion. Enjoy the reading!'”

Federal prosecutors said that the tweet included a link to a webpage located on an online file-sharing portal and “contained file folders with names and folder structures that are unique to the names and structures of materials (including tracking numbers assigned by the Special Counsel’s Office) produced by the government in discovery.”

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The filing added, “The fact that the webpage contained numerous irrelevant files suggest that the person who created the webpage used their knowledge of the nonsensitive discovery to make it appear as though the irrelevant files contained on the webpage were the sum total evidence of ‘IRA and Russian collusion’ gathered by law enforcement in this matter in an apparent effort to discredit the investigation.”

The Internet Research Agency, or IRA, is a St. Petersburg-based research firm. The IRA’s top executives have also been indicted in Mueller’s probe, and are accused of playing a central role in Russia’s efforts to use social media to influence the US presidential election in 2016.

The account behind the October tweet, which the filing said had a Russian IP address, has since been suspended. The disinformation campaign ultimately didn’t gain momentum.

Federal prosecutors said there was no evidence that the FBI or the special counsel’s office had been successfully hacked.

The filing also informed the Russian company’s defense team that Mueller’s office is declining a request for sensitive documents to be turned over in preparation for trial, citing the disinformation campaign as a large part of the motivation for this decision.

“Concord’s request to send the sensitive discovery to the Russian Federation unreasonably risks the national security interests of the United States,” the filing stated.

Concord is owned by owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is often referred to as “Putin’s chef.”

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