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Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Justice Department charged a pro-Trump former Twitter user with election interference for posts encouraging users to vote via text in the 2016 election.

Why it matters: The DOJ believes this is the first criminal case charging an American with suppressing the vote via disinformation on Twitter.

Details: Douglas Mackey, 31, who was known on Twitter as "Ricky Vaughn," was arrested Wednesday morning and accused of conspiring with others to use social media platforms to spread misinformation ahead of the 2016 election.

  • He allegedly led a campaign telling people they could vote for Hillary Clinton simply by texting a certain phone number.

Mackey, who was revealed to control the Ricky Vaughn account by the Huffington Post, had 58,000 followers and was named by MIT Media Lab as one of the top influencers ahead of the 2016 election.

  • According to prosecutors, the disinformation campaign led to at least 4,900 unique phone numbers attempting to vote by phone.
  • The complaint does not identify the conspirators, but the New York Times reported one of them is Anthime Gionet, the far-right figure known as “Baked Alaska" who was arrested for his involvement in the Jan 6 attack of the U.S. Capitol.

What they're saying: "There is no place in public discourse for lies and misinformation to defraud citizens of their right to vote," Seth D. DuCharme, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York said a statement.

  • "With Mackey’s arrest, we serve notice that those who would subvert the democratic process in this manner cannot rely on the cloak of Internet anonymity to evade responsibility for their crimes."

Go deeper

Trump supporter found with pipe bombs accused of plot to attack Democrats

Five improvised explosive devices that the FBI says "were fully operational and could cause great bodily harm or injury if handled improperly." Photo: FBI/Justice Department

The FBI believes California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and the Bay Area headquarters of Twitter and Facebook were targets of a man facing federal explosives charges, according to a criminal complaint.

Driving the news: Prosecutors charged Ian Benjamin Rogers after finding weapons including five pipe bombs, 49 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition following a Jan. 15 search of his Napa County home and auto repair business. His alleged goal was to ensure former President Trump remained in office.

Biden explains justification for Syria strike in letter to Congress

Photo: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden told congressional leadership in a letter Saturday that this week's airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to Iranian-backed militia groups was consistent with the U.S. right to self-defense.

Why it matters: Some Democrats, including Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), have criticized the Biden administration for the strike and demanded a briefing.

5 hours ago - Health

FDA authorizes Johnson & Johnson's one-shot COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

Photo: Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: The authorization of a third coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. will help speed up the vaccine rollout across the country, especially since the J&J shot only requires one dose as opposed to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech's two-shot vaccines.