JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The takeaway from Friday’s developments in the Russia investigation was that there is clear evidence the Russians tried to influence American elections in the last few years.
The Justice Department announced the indictment of 13 Russian individuals and three Russian organizations, accusing them of plotting to influence the 2016 election.
One of Northeast Florida’s congressmen reacted to the indictment brought by special counsel Robert Mueller.
”I think it shows Robert Mueller is doing his job,” U.S. Rep. John Rutherford said.
So did U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida.
“Today’s indictments clearly demonstrate that Vladimir Putin is neither a Democrat nor a Republican," Rubio, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a statement. "This is not a partisan issue, and we cannot allow a foreign country to actively interfere in our political dialogue and divide us as a nation against each other.”
President Donald Trump said "far-fetched theories" about collusion in the 2016 election "only serve to further the agendas of bad actors like Russia." He also said, "It's time we stop the outlandish partisan attacks."
The Russians are accused of using social media propaganda, some of which was aimed at helping Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders, and harming the prospects of Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the indictment Friday.
"The defendants allegedly conducted what they called 'information warfare' against the United States, with the stated goal of spreading distrust toward the candidates and the political system in general," Rosenstein said.
The indictment states that the Russians worked with a company called the Internet Research Agency, which has been called a "troll farm." The indictment alleges that Trump campaign associates had "unwitting" contact with the Russians, who were posing as Americans.
”I think, significantly, you heard Deputy AG Rosenstein say there were pro-Trump rallies and anti-Trump rallies on the same day, and that every American involved in this -- they didn’t identify everyone -- but every American involved in this was totally unaware that this was a Russian operation, that they were all duped,” Rutherford said.
Friday’s indictment also states there is no allegation that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 election.
There have been four other high-profile indictments as part of Mueller's investigation.
Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was indicted in October, along with his business associate, Rick Gates, who worked with him on the campaign.
Both pleaded not guilty to 12 counts that were not related to the campaign. Those charges include conspiracy against the U.S., conspiracy to launder money and making false statements.
Also in October, former Trump campaign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the FBI, after he allegedly lied about his interactions with foreign nationals who had ties to the Russian government.
Then, in December, another guilty plea came from former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who also admitted to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russia's ambassador.