The Senate Intelligence Committee issued a bipartisan report yesterday on how Russia used social media as part of the Kremlin-directed attack on the American elections. The document, released by Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.), made a series of recommendations about new laws to foreign interference, but it also served as an effective indictment against the perpetrators.
The 85-page report takes a comprehensive look at how the Internet Research Agency, a so-called troll farm based in Russia, used automated and fake social media personas in an attempt to sow discord, hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump.The committee found that Russian social media activity "was overtly and almost invariably supportive of then-candidate Trump to the detriment of Secretary Clinton's campaign." [...]The report confirms the findings of private researchers that African-American voters were targeted by the troll farm more frequently than any other group, in an apparent effort to suppress the vote and help Trump.
The Senate Intelligence Committee even uncovered evidence that the day after the 2016 election, operatives at the Internet Research Agency "uncorked a tiny bottle of champagne, took one gulp each and looked into each other's eyes." They celebrated because Trump's victory meant that the Kremlin's campaign had succeeded.
At a certain level, these topline findings probably seem unsurprising. In fact, you may not have even heard much about the Senate Intelligence Committee's findings because they seem obvious: Russia attacked American elections; Moscow's military intelligence operation relied on social media; and the purpose of the gambit was to elevate Donald Trump to power. This is entirely in line with our existing understanding of what transpired, though it's helpful to have a bipartisan Senate report documenting what transpired in fresh detail.
But as Rachel noted on the show last night, there's a related angle unfolding right now: the White House, even now, is still looking for evidence that Russia didn't attack American elections.
This was, for example, a key part of Donald Trump's infamous July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which the American president referenced a crackpot conspiracy theory intended to help exonerate Russia from its role in the 2016 scheme.
Trump's far-right secretary of State thinks his boss was on the right track ...
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defiantly insisted on Saturday in Greece that the Trump administration was right to ask Ukrainian officials to investigate claims of election interference in the 2016 American presidential campaign, bolstering a widely debunked conspiracy theory that had already been dismissed by his own diplomatic envoy.
... and his far-right attorney general is hunting for something he can use to bolster his boss' conspiracy theory.
Attorney General William P. Barr has taken an interest in a mysterious European professor whose conversation with an adviser to President Trump's 2016 campaign helped launch the FBI investigation into possible coordination with Russia -- and who has since become the focal point of an unproven conservative theory that the entire inquiry was a setup, people familiar with the matter said.Those involved in the FBI investigation said they are mystified by the attorney general's activities and interest in the professor, Joseph Mifsud, and they suspect that Barr might be using Justice Department resources to validate conjecture that Mifsud was deployed against a Trump adviser by Western intelligence to manufacture a basis to investigate the campaign."It just seems like they're doing everything they can to delegitimize the origins of that investigation," said one person involved with the Russia probe, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the politically sensitive matter that is still being reviewed. "I just don't think there's any real basis to disparage it."
Maybe one of these guys can read the bipartisan findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee? Or does Team Trump assume senators are part of a nefarious scheme?