(Bloomberg) -- American prosecutors expanded an election-fraud case against 13 Russians that was first brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, adding details to flesh out how the defendants allegedly defrauded the U.S. by interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential race.
The superseding indictment is the latest signal that U.S. prosecutors are aggressively pursuing matters set in motion by Mueller’s investigation of Russian election interference -- even as the Justice Department is also conducting a politically charged investigation of the probe’s origins.
Prosecutors used the filing to bolster their legal arguments after an attorney for one of the Russians mounted an aggressive defense challenging the premise of Mueller’s February 2018 indictment. With Mueller’s grand jury disbanded earlier this year, prosecutors secured the latest indictment from a different panel.
The filing aims to spell out the reasoning behind the primary charge against the Russians, namely that they were engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the U.S.
Mueller’s original indictment accused the Russians of interfering with the lawful functions of the Federal Election Commission, the Justice Department and the State Department by obtaining visas through fraudulent statements, making expenditures related to the 2016 campaign without proper disclosure and failure to register as foreign agents carrying out political activities in the U.S.
A company owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a restaurateur nicknamed “Putin’s chef” because he catered the Russian president’s functions, opted to fight the case and hired Washington lawyer Eric Dubelier. Dubelier repeatedly demanded that prosecutors show how his client knowingly violated any statute.
Tuesday’s filing specified the “lawful functions” that the defendants allegedly violated. It said the Russians’ conduct, which started in 2014, interfered with the proper enforcement of U.S. prohibitions of certain election-related expenditures by foreign nationals, and prevented election authorities from enforcing requirements for the timely filing of reports about those expenditures.
The Russians also undermined U.S. attempts to enforce the statutory ban against unregistered individuals acting as agents of a foreign entity, according to the filing. Finally, the superseding indictment said several of the defendants obstructed the enforcement of requirements that foreign nationals seeking entry to the U.S. provide truthful and accurate information to the government when applying for visas.The federal judge overseeing the case has given Dubelier two weeks, until Nov. 26, to respond.
The case is USA v. Internet Research Agency, 18-cr-00032, in U.S. District Court, District of Columbia.
(Updates with superseding indictment)
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