- The Washington Times - Monday, September 30, 2019

The U.S. imposed sanctions Monday on a Russian troll farm and a Russian financier for trying to influence the midterm congressional elections in 2018.

The Treasury Department announced sanctions against the Internet Research Agency, financier Yevgeny Prigozhin and associated front companies, as well as targeting three of his private planes and a yacht.

The action comes with President Trump in the midst of an impeachment inquiry for allegedly seeking Ukraine’s help to interfere in the 2020 election by investigating Democratic front-runner Joseph R. Biden, an accusation the president denies vigorously.

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said the department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control took the action against the Russian company for “its attempts to subvert American democratic processes.”

“Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of American democracy, and we will use our authorities against anyone seeking to undermine our processes and subversively influence voters,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “This administration will work tirelessly to safeguard our electoral process, and will aggressively pursue any other foreign actor that attempts to interfere in the 2020 elections.”

A U.S. grand jury indicted 13 Russian individuals and three Russian entities, including the Internet Research Agency, in February 2018 on charges of trying to interfere “with U.S. elections and political processes.”

Facebook announced in July 2018 that it shut down several pages and accounts related to “bad actors” with activity profiles similar to the Internet Research Agency.

Treasury said there was “no indication that foreign actors were able to compromise election infrastructure that would have prevented voting, changed vote counts, or disrupted the tallying of votes” in 2018.

But Treasury said the Internet Research Agency used “fictitious personas on social media and disseminated false information in an effort to attempt to influence the 2018 U.S. midterm elections and try to undermine faith in U.S. democratic institutions.”

It said the IRA “conducted a variety of activities that were part of a broad campaign to try to influence the U.S. political system. For example, as of October 2018, the Internet Research Agency released a staged video filmed by one of their employees that claimed they were seeking to influence and interfere in the 2018 midterms.”

“In November 2018, the Internet Research Agency posted a statement on a website titled the ‘Internet Research Agency American Division’ claiming that the organization sought to discredit candidates it deemed hostile to Russia and that they were utilizing social media to further its campaign,” Treasury said.

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