Welcome to Rabbit Hole, a breaking-news analysis that helps you get smart on the one story everyone’s obsessing over—for Beast Inside members only.
If the Russian troll factory’s criminal trial seems like a circus, that’s probably on purpose. Flip through the latest headlines out of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s trial of the Internet Research Agency (IRA) and you’ll see the defense claiming that Mueller is allegedly hoarding nude selfies; F-bomb quotes from Animal House in court filings; and leaked court documents doctored and published on a Minecraft-inspired Twitter account. The hijinks are juvenile but they’re also in keeping with what looks to be an increasingly bizarre campaign by the company to wink at its own celebrity.
Nesting doll of shell companies: Understanding how the Russian troll factory has operated since the 2016 election can be a little tricky because of the various shell companies it’s allegedly acted under. Here’s a brief recap, according to court filings from the Special Counsel’s Office and sanctions designations. Concord Management, a company run by a man known as “Putin’s chef,” set up “Project Lakhta,” an effort to use social-media sock puppets to interfere with the elections and politics of countries like the U.S. and Ukraine. What’s confusing is that Concord allegedly carried out its plan through a web of shell companies, the most infamous of which is the Internet Research Agency, but included others like the Federal News Agency.