President Trump pushed back Saturday against coverage by what he called the “Fake News Media” on revelations about Russian meddling in the 2016 election — saying the meddling began well before he ran for office and citing a Facebook official who said swaying the election was not Russia’s main goal.
A federal grand jury on Friday indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies for allegedly interfering in the 2016 presidential election, in a case brought by FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller that detailed a plot to “sow discord in the U.S. political system.”
On Twitter, Trump cited parts of the indictment that said the Russian-based Internet Research Agency started work in 2014 — which he noted was long before he announced his run for the presidency in June 2015.
“Maybe they knew I was going to run even though I didn’t know,” he quipped.
He then quote-retweeted the vice president of Facebook ads, Rob Goldman, who had written that the majority of the Russian spending on ads occurred after the election, and that swaying the election was not the main goal of those ads.
“The Fake News Media never fails,” Trump tweeted, presumably referring to coverage he believes has played down those details.
Goldman, however, had gone on to clarify that “the Russian campaign was certainly in favor of Trump.”
Earlier, Trump tweeted a quote from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who said at a news conference Friday that the indictment does not allege that there was any American who knowingly participated in illegal activity from the Russians.
Notably, Trump stayed away from attacking the investigation or Mueller directly, instead hailing the indictment as vindication of his claim that there was no collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign.
Trump tweeted Friday that “The Trump campaign did nothing wrong — no collusion!”
“The results of the election were not impacted.”
“Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President,” Trump tweeted. “The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”
In the 37-page indictment, signed by Mueller, the defendants are accused of spreading derogatory information about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, denigrating Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio — and ultimately supporting Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and Trump.
Rosenstein said the scheme involved setting up hundreds of social media accounts using stolen or fictitious identities to make it appear as if the accounts were controlled by individuals in the U.S. He said the defendants posed as politically active Americans and recruited “real Americans” to stage rallies and engage in political activities — although he added that those Americans did not know they were communicating with Russians.
He also said that after the election, the group worked to sow discord by staging rallies both in favor of President-elect Trump and in opposition to him.
According to the special counsel, the indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy to defraud the United States, three defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and five defendants with aggravated identity theft.
Fox News’ Judson Berger and Alex Pappas contributed to this report.