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Legal Analysis: Russian National Charged with Interfering in 2018 Midterm Elections

Richard Newman

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On October 19, 2018, the U.S. Justice Department announced that a criminal complaint had been unsealed, charging a Russian national for her alleged role in a Russian conspiracy to interfere in the U.S. political system and the 2018 midterm elections.

According to allegations in the criminal complaint, Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova of St. Petersburg, Russia served as the chief accountant of “Project Lakhta,” a Russian umbrella effort funded by Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin and two companies he controls, Concord Management and Consulting LLC, and Concord Catering. Project Lakhta includes multiple components, some involving domestic audiences within the Russian Federation and others targeting foreign audiences in the United States, members of the European Union, and Ukraine, among others.

Khusyaynova allegedly managed the financing of Project Lakhta operations, including foreign influence activities directed at the United States. The financial documents she controlled include detailed expenses for activities in the United States, such as expenditures for activists, advertisements on social media platforms, registration of domain names, the purchase of proxy servers, and “promoting news postings on social networks.”

Between January 2016 and June 2018, Project Lakhta’s proposed operating budget totaled more than $35 million, although only a portion of these funds were directed at the United States. Between January and June 2018 alone, Project Lakhta’s proposed operating budget totaled more than $10 million.

The alleged conspiracy, in which Khusyaynova is alleged to have played a central financial management role, sought to conduct what it called internally “information warfare against the United States.” This effort was not only designed to spread distrust towards candidates for U.S. political office and the U.S. political system in general, but also to defraud the United States by impeding the lawful functions of government agencies in administering relevant federal requirements.

The conspirators allegedly took extraordinary steps to make it appear that they were ordinary American political activists. This included the use of virtual private networks and other means to disguise their activities and to obfuscate their Russian origin. They used social media platforms to create thousands of social media and email accounts that appeared to be operated by U.S. persons, and used them to create and amplify divisive social and political content targeting U.S. audiences. These accounts also were used to advocate for the election or electoral defeat of particular candidates in the 2016 and 2018 U.S. elections. Some social media accounts posted tens of thousands of messages, and had tens of thousands of followers.

The conspiracy allegedly used social media and other internet platforms to address a wide variety of topics, including immigration, gun control and the Second Amendment, the Confederate flag, race relations, LGBT issues, the Women’s March and the NFL national anthem debate. Members of the conspiracy allegedly took advantage of specific events in the United States to anchor their themes, including the shootings of church members in Charleston, South Carolina and concert attendees in Las Vegas; the Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally and associated violence; police shootings of African-American men; as well as the personnel and policy decisions of the current U.S. presidential administration.

The conspirators’ alleged activities did not exclusively adopt one ideological view. Rather, the allegedly wrote on topics from varied and sometimes opposing perspectives. Members of the conspiracy were purportedly directed, among other things, to create “political intensity through supporting radical groups” and to “aggravate the conflict between minorities and the rest of the population.” The actors also allegedly developed playbooks and strategic messaging documents that offered guidance on how to target particular social groups, including the timing of messages, the types of news outlets to use and how to frame divisive messages.

“Today’s charges allege that Russian national Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova conspired with others who were part of a Russian influence campaign to interfere with U.S. democracy,” said Assistant Attorney General Demers. “Our nation is built upon a hard-fought and unwavering commitment to democracy. Americans disagree in good faith on all manner of issues, and we will protect their right to do so. Unlawful foreign interference with these debates debases their democratic integrity, and we will make every effort to disrupt it and hold those involved accountable.”

“The strategic goal of this alleged conspiracy, which continues to this day, is to sow discord in the U.S. political system and to undermine faith in our democratic institutions,” said U.S. Attorney Terwilliger. “This case demonstrates that federal law enforcement authorities will work aggressively to investigate and prosecute the perpetrators of unlawful foreign influence activities, and that we will not stand by idly while foreign actors obstruct the lawful functions of our government. I want to thank the agents and prosecutors for their determined work on this case.”

“This case serves as a stark reminder to all Americans: Our foreign adversaries continue their efforts to interfere in our democracy by creating social and political division, spreading distrust in our political system, and advocating for the support or defeat of particular political candidates,” said Director Wray. “We take all threats to our democracy very seriously, and we’re committed to working with our partners to identify and stop these unlawful influence operations. Together, we must remain diligent and determined to protect our democratic institutions and maintain trust in our electoral process.”

The criminal complaint does not include any allegation that Khusyaynova or the broader conspiracy had any effect on the outcome of an election. The complaint also does not allege that any American knowingly participated in the Project Lakhta operation.

The investigative team received exceptional cooperation from private sector companies, such as Facebook and Twitter.

Richard B. Newman is an FTC defense lawyer at Hinch Newman LLP focusing on advertising and digital media matters. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

These materials are provided for informational purposes only and are not to be considered legal advice, nor do they create a lawyer-client relationship. No person should act or rely on any information in this article without seeking the advice of an attorney. Information on previous case results does not guarantee a similar future result. Hinch Newman LLP | 40 Wall St., 35thFloor, New York, NY 10005 | (212) 756-8777

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Crime

EXPOSED: The Russian Spy Who Worked for Trump

Polipace Staff

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Elena A. Baronoff was listed as the VP of Customer Relations at Trump Grande, and was considered the “International Ambassador for Sunny Isles Beach,” an exclusive strip of land that was reserved for the richest of the rich.  Everyone knew her in the enclave, and a profile of her even called her the “face of Sunny Isles Beach and the real estate industry.” She was close to millionaires, billionaires, designers and moguls — and even was quite wealthy herself.

The problem is that, despite being a well-known socialite, she was also a former Spy.  She had originally come to America as a “Cultural Attaché in Public Diplomacy for the Russian Government,” a title almost exclusively used by spies of the Russian government trying to infiltrate business circles in the 1980’s. She was one of perhaps hundreds of women that Russia used over 40 years including the famous and beautiful Anna Chapman to influence business on behalf of Russia and its business interests.

Elena wasn’t just the VP of Customer Relations for Trump Grand, she was one of the biggest sellers of real-estate for Trump in the area, and the exclusive realtor for the Trump Grand, focusing on selling his properties specifically to Russians – specifically Mobsters and politically connected individuals.

According a story written about the sales, in the Nation Magazine, Ken Silverstien wrote:

“She took me to see a unit on the thirty-eighth floor of Trump Palace, which looked out on the turquoise waters of the Atlantic and was on the market for $2.3 million. ‘Living in a Trump property is like living in a hotel,’ she told me, as we stood on a balcony. The unit was attractively priced, she said cheerfully, and all the more so as the owner, a Russian looking to buy a bigger condo elsewhere in the area, had spent at least $350,000 on improvements.

Elena and Ivanka in 2014

Later that day, I obtained the property records for the condo. The legal owner is a company registered in Belize, an offshore haven where, according to a government website, there ‘is no requirement to file annual returns or public disclosure of directors, shareholders, charges, loans or agreements.’”

Reuters Reported that many people involved in Putin’s government, bought real estate in Sunny Isles, but didn’t report them on disclosure forms required by the Russian government itself to prevent money laundering.

Three owners of  were accused in federal indictments of belonging to a Russian-American organized crime group and working for a major international crime boss based in Russia. One of them was arrested for even running a gambling and money laundering ring in the Trump tower in Manhattan.

According to my source who worked with her, basically her entire job was to introduce Russians from all over the world to the Trump organization — allegedly to launder their money by buying real estate. She would travel with the Trump organization to “sister cities” using her “sunny isles ambassadorship” in new potential cities that Trump wanted to develop, often bringing rich Russian men with her that would express interest in buying into those new developments.

Remember Donald Trump Jr. bragged that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia?” We found these photos of Ivanka, Jr and Eric, with Elena A. Baronoff in Russia — meeting with Russian money “investors” of their condos. If you notice the huge body guards behind them in the first photo, you know these guys are more than just normal “businessmen.”

These four previously unpublished photos show the Trump family in Russia (all three of them) with Russian partners. These photos have never been published in the media before, and shows that not only were they there, but they were there with the person responsible for selling properties to meet with potential buyers/investors IN Russia.

We haven’t had time to identify all the people in the photos yet, but it would be interesting to know.
You can see real estate developer Michael Dezer who worked on Trump projects in some of the photos.

We couldn’t reach her because she died in 2015 of Leukemia, after it suddenly was found spread all over her body. She had described being in immense pain suddenly while traveling, and was surprised to learn she had cancer and died within a year.

Her real estate business is still run by her son George, who changed his last name to Baronov. In an interview, he pointed out how important Russians are to Trump.

What does this mean? Not only has Trump tried to hide his obvious connections to Russia, but that it was so important that his main sales person of his Condo’s in Florida was intimately connected TO Russia. Her background working for the embassy as a “Cultural Attaché” meant she had connections that allowed Trump to access the highest levels of Russian society — and was important enough for his entire family to visit Russia with her to meet potential Russian buyers.

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Crime

No One Hurt When Angry Customer Goes Nuts Because She Couldn’t Get a Beef Patty

Polipace Staff

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A woman who couldn’t get a beef patty at a favorite New York eatery used a baseball bat in protest.

On Saturday, police released surveillance video of the woman in action in the Bronx — smashing a restaurant’s windows after learning the eatery had run out of her favorite food.

Police say the woman at the Back Home restaurant in the Morrisania neighborhood came in on the afternoon of Jan. 15 and ordered a patty. She was told they’d run out, and she got upset.

Authorities say she left and came back to the Jamaican restaurant with the bat. The video shows a woman bashing in two windows.

She fled and police were still searching for her on Saturday.

The video shows a woman dressed in a black and white jacket and matching sneakers, swinging a multi-colored aluminum bat as bystanders tried to stop her before she walked away.Drivers Around Nevada are Furious About This New RuleDrivers With No Tickets In 3 Years Are In For A Big SurpriseAd By Comparisons.org See More

No one was injured during the incident.

The Back Home restaurant in the Morrisania neighborhood is a simple, affordable spot that offers Jamaican specialties like curry goat and oxtail, drawing people from around the city.

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Crime

Brooklyn District Attorney Drops Charges Against Mother Who Had Child Ripped Away by Police

Polipace Staff

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A video showing NYPD officers violently removing a woman’s one-year-old child from her arms has sparked national outrage — even after NYPD and the Brooklyn DA informed us that they would be not pursuing charges. Additionally, NYPD Commissioner O’Neill has informed the public he is personally looking into the case..

Nyesha Ferguos posted the video to her Facebook page on Friday. It shows 23-year-old Jazmine Headly clinging to her son, Damone, and telling officers they are hurting him as they attempt to yank the child away from her. One officer waves a yellow stun gun at the outraged crowd, which includes children, several of whom are filming on their cell phones.

Headley had reportedly been waiting four hours at a Brooklyn Human Resources Administration (HRA) office to receive daycare reimbursement.
As the office was crowded and there were no seats available, she sat with Damone on the floor.

When she refused to stand, security called the police. The situation quickly escalated. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams told CBS2 News that “a Taser was used” and that HRA peace officers tried to remove Headley because of what they described as “disorderly conduct towards others and for obstructing the hallway.”

Witnesses disputed this account, saying that there was not enough seating and that security was unnecessarily antagonistic. Ferguson, who posted the video, told the New York Times about her experiences at HRA offices, saying “They’re always rude. They think that people that are poor don’t have nothing, so you can treat them any kind of way.”
Headley was charged with resisting arrest, acting in a manner injurious to a child, obstructing governmental administration and trespassing and taken to Rikers Island. On Tuesday morning Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez dropped those charges and released a statement saying, in part, “It is clear to me that this incident should have been handled differently. An HRA officer escalated the situation as Ms. Headley was about to leave the premises, creating an awful scenario of a baby being torn from his mother,”
A GoFundMe page has been set up by the Brooklyn Defenders Service  to offset the costs of childcare.
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