Indictments Make Texas Connections to Alleged Russian Meddling - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Indictments Make Texas Connections to Alleged Russian Meddling

Texas is mentioned several times in the federal indictment released Friday

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    Russia Indictments Mention Phony Texas Facebook Group

    The Justice Department issued criminal indictments agaisnt Russians it accuses of influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Investigators specifically talk about how Texans were fooled by a fake Facebook page, which set up rallies ahead of the election. (Published Friday, Feb. 16, 2018)

    A federal grand jury's indictment of 13 Russians and three Russian companies for alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election mentions several Texas connections.

    Special counsel Robert Mueller announced the grand jury's decision Friday. The indictment claims the defendants allegedly worked to discredit then-Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign while boosting Republican Donald Trump.

    The indictment names a Facebook page called "Heart of Texas," which has since been taken down. It alleges the page was aimed at Texans, but started by Russians.

    "I believe it was the second most popular Russian Facebook page we've seen. It has about a quarter of a million followers," said Casey Michel, a contributor to the progressive online news site, Think Progress.

    Indictments Make TX Connections to Alleged Russian MeddlingIndictments Make TX Connections to Alleged Russian Meddling

    A federal grand jury's indictment of 13 Russians and three Russian companies for alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election mentions several Texas connections.

    (Published Friday, Feb. 16, 2018)

    In October, Michel wrote an article for The Washington Post that outlined how Russians pretended to be Texans on Facebook, and a lot of real Texans believed it.

    "It has kind of a two-dimensional understanding of what Texas was," Michel said of the "Heart of Texas" page. "Everyone drove big trucks, drinks Dr Pepper at all hours, and hated vegetarians."

    He said the "Heart of Texas" stirred the pot of discontent, organizing anti-Islamic rallies in cities like Houston.

    The president of the Texas Nationalist Movement, a succession group, told NBC 5 a volunteer from "Heart of Texas" reached out to try to include them in a rally, but something seemed "off" and the TNM declined. 

    Former Federal Prosecutor Talks About Russia IndictmentsFormer Federal Prosecutor Talks About Russia Indictments

    Former federal prosecutor Matt Orwig talks about the extraordinary indictment released Friday, the U.S. special counsel accused 13 Russians Friday of an elaborate plot to disrupt the 2016 presidential election.

    (Published Friday, Feb. 16, 2018)

    There is a "Texas-based grass roots organization" mentioned in the indictment, but the TNM says it is not a reference to them. Friday they issued a statement "calling on Mueller and the Department of Justice to specifically name the organization."

    The indictment also alleges that the Russians were attempting to disseminate negative information about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who campaigned against Trump in the primaries.

    Cruz was one of the last Republicans to drop out of the race before Trump became the Republican nominee.

    A section of the indictment says they "engaged in operations primarily to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then candidate Donald Trump."

    NBC 5 reached out to Cruz's office on Friday for comment on the indictment, but we have not heard back.

    Two of the Russians indicted Friday came through Texas in 2014, prosecutors say.

    In 2016, they allegedly communicated with someone affiliated with a Texas grassroots organization, although we don't know which one. The indictment claims the person told them to focus their efforts on so-called "purple states" that could be swayed toward either Clinton or Trump — states like Florida and Virginia.

    The names of those who may have been in contact with the accused Russians were not disclosed, and the indictment says the person in Texas didn't know he or she was even communicating with the Russians.

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