WASHINGTON - Moscow insisted Tuesday there is no evidence it interfered in the 2016 US presidential election, after three aides to Donald Trump’s campaign were charged as part of an investigation into Russian efforts to influence the vote.

Ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and another former Trump aide appeared in court on Monday, pleading not guilty to conspiracy against the United States, money laundering and several other charges after indictments in the Russia probe were unsealed.

Separately, another former Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Kremlin-related contacts, according to a plea deal revealed the same day.

“We are accused of interfering not only in US elections but also in those of other countries without one piece of evidence,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, repeating a denial of involvement that Moscow has made before.

There are reports that “we don’t just interfere in elections, we manipulate the weather and bring about floods”, he quipped. “Everyone likes to talk but no one can present any facts.”

Manafort, 68, and Rick Gates, 45, were charged with allegedly hiding millions of dollars gleaned from work with Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych and his pro-Moscow political party.

The pair was released on bail of $10 million and $5 million respectively and placed under house arrest. Papadopoulos revealed that he informed Trump and others personally that he could organize a meeting between the then candidate and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The ex-advisor told the FBI that he had been instructed by an unnamed “campaign supervisor” to meet Russian officials “off the record” if “feasible.” His contacts with Russian sources came to include Putin’s niece and the Russian ambassador in London.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested Trump did not recall “specific details of the meeting” and that Papadopoulos had only a limited role. “It was extremely limited; it was a volunteer position. And again, no activity was ever done in an official capacity on behalf of the campaign in that regard.”

US intelligence agencies have concluded that Putin ordered a vast influence campaign to help Trump win election, including the hack and release of Democratic Party and Clinton campaign emails.

As Mueller’s probe has rumbled forward, Trump and sympathetic media organizations like Fox News have increasingly called the former FBI director’s independence into question.

Democrats - who dismiss counter-allegations against Mueller and Clinton as a blatant attempt to divert attention - called for the special counsel to be protected.

Trump calls former aide a ‘liar’

US President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday to blast the “fake” media and his Democratic rivals, and called a former campaign aide who has pleaded guilty in the Russia probe a “liar.”

The morning attack came a day after special counsel Robert Mueller announced charges against three aides to Trump’s campaign who were indicted as part of a sprawling investigation into Russian efforts to influence the vote.

One of the three, George Papadopoulos, who Trump has previously called an “excellent guy,” pleaded guilty earlier this month on a charge of lying to the FBI about his Kremlin-related contacts.

The other two, former campaign chief Paul Manafort and Rick Gates pleaded not guilty Monday on charges of conspiracy, money laundering and other counts.

In a series of two tweets, Trump wrote:

“The Fake News is working overtime. As Paul Manaforts lawyer said, there was “no collusion” and events mentioned took place long before he... came to the campaign. Few people knew the young, low level volunteer named George, who has already proven to be a liar. Check the DEMS!”

In another tweet that landed minutes later, Trump said he hoped people would turn their attention to a tax reform package being fleshed out in Congress. “I hope people will start to focus on our Massive Tax Cuts for Business (jobs) and the Middle Class (in addition to Democrat corruption)!” he wrote.

Internet giants find more

Russia-linked election meddling

Internet giants were expected to tell Congress this week that Russian-backed content aimed at manipulating US politics during last year’s election was more extensive than first thought.

Facebook, Google and Twitter were slated to share what they have learned so far from digging into possible connections between Russian entities and posts, ads, and even videos shared on YouTube. Facebook will tell Congress that some 126 million US users, a potentially large portion of the voting public here, may have seen stories, posts or other content from Russian sources, according to tech news site Recode, the Wall Street Journal and other US media.

The reach is far broader than had originally been estimated by the world’s leading social network.

Facebook did not respond to AFP requests for comment. Google found that two accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency spent $4,700 on search and display ads during last year’s US election cycle, Google general counsel Kent Walker and director of information security Richard Salgado said in a blog post.

The ads were not targeted based on which states people lived in or their apparent political leanings, the men said.

“Like other internet platforms, we have found some evidence of efforts to misuse our platforms during the 2016 US election by actors linked to the Internet Research Agency in Russia,” Walker and Salgado said.

“While we have found only limited activity on our services, we will continue to work to prevent all of it, because there is no amount of interference that is acceptable.”

There were 18 channels at YouTube “likely associated” with the campaign that made English language videos available that appeared to have politically-oriented clips in the mix of offerings.

A total of 1,108 such videos were uploaded, totalling 43 hours of content, and racked up 309,000 views in the 18 months leading up to the election won by US President Donald Trump.

The channels had relatively low view counts, with only about three percent of them logging more than 5,000 views. The channels identified have been suspended, according to Walker and Salgado.

There was no evident that RT, a reference to a state-run Russian television network, manipulated YouTube or violated its policies, the men said.