Bob Mueller's Facebook warrant signals stunning new turn in Russian Federation probe

Facebook Gave Special Counsel Robert Mueller More Details on Russian Ad Buys Than Congress

Mueller has obtained a search warrant to investigate "inauthentic" Facebook accounts that are believed to have been operated by Russian-sponsored "troll farms" in and around the former Soviet Union. The records given to Mueller provide much more details than what the social media platform said last week to Congress.

Representatives of Facebook previously told congressional investigators that, during the course of an investigation into the site's role in the 2016 election, it had discovered that a Kremlin-linked firm had bought $100,000 of ads between 2015 and 2017.

Facebook didn't share the same information with Congress partly because of concerns of disrupting the special counsel's investigation and because of US privacy laws.

As CNN reported Thursday, Facebook is still not sure whether pro-Kremlin groups may have made other ad buys meant to influence American politics that it simply hasn't discovered yet. During the talks with Congress, the tech company deviated from talking specifically about the ad buys.

On Saturday, Mariotti said, the Facebook search warrant "means that Mueller has concluded that specific foreign individuals committed a crime by making a "contribution" in connection with an election". The Senate Intelligence Committee is likely to ask Facebook representatives to testify publicly in the coming weeks, but even if it subpoenas Facebook, it is not likely to gain access to the information Mueller now has at his fingertips.

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"Mueller clearly already has enough information on these accounts-and their link to a potential crime-to justify forcing [Facebook] to give up the info", former Federal Bureau of Investigation counterintelligence agent Asha Rangappa told Business Insider. "To justify forcing FB to give up the info".

"That means that he has uncovered a great deal of evidence through other avenues of Russian election interference", she said.

A former Federal Bureau of Investigation counterintelligence agent, Asha Rangappa said, "This is big news - and potentially bad news for the Russian election interference 'deniers'".

The information is relevant to Mueller as investigators try to understand whether there were any links between Russia's activity and President Donald Trump's election campaign. The ads were targeted at American Facebook users and covered issues like gun rights and immigration.

The company also listed out steps it has implemented towards curbing fake accounts and stories on the platform.

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