A Russian company accused of bankrolling a massive online operation to disrupt the 2016 presidential election argued Monday that it had broken no federal laws, that it was merely supporting free political speech and that the fraud charge against it should be thrown out. Concord Management and Consulting was one of 16 Russian individuals or companies indicted by a federal grand jury in February at the behest of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. The company is accused of defrauding the government by failing to register as foreign agents and failing to report its election-related expenditures to the U.S. government.
A large campaign of “information warfare against the United States,” led by the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, used Facebook, Twitter and othersocial media to build support for then-candidate Donald Trump and attack his opponents, most notably Hillary Clinton, according to the indictment.
The charges allege that Concord Management and another defendant, Concord Catering, funded the Internet Research Agency, and that Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a catering magnate and longtime associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin, controls Concord. Concord allegedly paid $1.25 million a month to the Internet Research Agency for projects such as setting up rallies for Trump or various advocacy groups in America, creating Twitter and Facebook accounts to spread false information and “to interfere in U.S. political and electoral processes without detection of their Russian affiliation,” the charges state.