Russia

How Russian Operatives Targeted U.S. Voters

Washington Post: “Russian operatives set up an array of misleading Web sites and social media pages to identify American voters susceptible to propaganda, then used a powerful Facebook tool to repeatedly send them messages designed to influence their political behavior, say people familiar with the investigation into foreign meddling in the U.S. election. The tactic resembles what American businesses and political campaigns have been doing in recent years to deliver messages to potentially interested people online.”

Documents Reveal New Trump Contacts with Russia

Associates of President Trump “have turned over documents to federal investigators that reveal two previously unreported contacts from Russia during the 2016 campaign,” the Washington Post reports.

“In one case, Trump’s personal attorney and a business associate exchanged emails weeks before the Republican National Convention about traveling to an economic conference in Russia that would be attended by top Russian financial and government leaders, including President Vladi­mir Putin.”

“In the other case, the same Trump attorney, Michael Cohen, received a proposal in late 2015 for a Moscow residential project from a company founded by a billionaire who once served in the Russian Senate… The previously unreported inquiry marks the second proposal for a Trump-branded Moscow project that was delivered to the company during the presidential campaign.”

Twitter Finds 201 Accounts Tied to Russian Operatives

“Twitter has shut down 201 accounts that were tied to the same Russian operatives who posted thousands of political ads on Facebook, the company told congressional investigators Thursday and revealed in a blog in the afternoon,” the Washington Post reports.

“The company also found three accounts from the news site RT — which Twitter linked to the Kremlin — that spent $274,100 in ads on Twitter’s platform in 2016.”

Russian Facebook Ads Backed Stein, Sanders and Trump

“Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein was the beneficiary of at least one Russian-bought ad on Facebook that federal government officials suspect were intended to influence the 2016 election,” Politico reports.

“Other advertisements paid for by shadowy Russian buyers criticized Hillary Clinton and promoted Donald Trump. Some backed Bernie Sanders and his platform even after his presidential campaign had ended, according to a person with knowledge of the ads.”

21 States Were Russian Hacking Targets

The Department of Homeland Security “notified 21 states Friday that Russia attempted to hack their election systems before the 2016 election,” The Hill reports.

“In the majority of the states, the Department of Homeland Security only saw preparations for hacking, like scanning to find potential modes for attack. Voting machines are not connected to the internet and cannot be scanned in this way, but other systems, including those housing voting rolls, can be.”

Trump’s Defense in Russia Probe Funded By Wealthy Few

Presiden Trump’s attorneys in the probe of Russian election interference “are being funded in part through a Republican Party account with a handful of wealthy donors—including a billionaire investor, a property developer seeking U.S. government visas and a Ukrainian-born American who has made billions of dollars doing business with Russian oligarchs,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The RNC and campaign’s payment arrangement for Mr. Trump’s lawyers is legal. But ethics experts cautioned that Mr. Trump’s decision to rely on party and campaign accounts to pay for his attorney fees can raise thorny political issues.”

More Trump Aides Caught Up In Russia Probe

Bloomberg: “Four months as a communications adviser to Donald Trump’s campaign have turned Michael Caputo’s life upside down. Since congressional investigators decided they wanted to interview Caputo as part of an investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, he’s drained his children’s college fund to pay more than $30,000 in legal fees, he said. He bought guns for his home and office after receiving death threats. He worries about the stress on his wife and daughters.”

“Outside the spotlight, a large cast of peripheral characters are finding themselves drawn into the probe, incurring legal fees that can run up to $1,000 an hour and infecting the West Wing and Trump’s orbit with a deep paranoia.”

Key Trump Adviser Will Testify to Senate

“Michael Cohen, one of President Trump’s closest business advisers, said on Sunday he would testify on Tuesday to the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, as the panel investigates alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election,” Reuters reports.

CNN: “Cohen is not expected to be under oath during the appearance, but all witnesses appearing before congressional committees are required to tell the truth or potentially face criminal charges.”

Facebook Discloses Details of Russia Ads to Mueller

“Special counsel Robert Mueller and his team are now in possession of Russian-linked ads run on Facebook during the presidential election, after they obtained a search warrant for the information,” CNN reports.

“Facebook gave Mueller and his team copies of ads and related information it discovered on its site linked to a Russian troll farm, as well as detailed information about the accounts that bought the ads and the way the ads were targeted at American Facebook users.”

“The disclosure, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, may give Mueller’s office a fuller picture of who was behind the ad buys and how the ads may have influenced voter sentiment during the 2016 election.”

Russia Removes Parking Spaces for U.S. Diplomats

“Russia has withdrawn parking privileges for U.S. diplomats, an apparent continuation of a diplomatic tit-for-tat between Washington and Moscow,” the AP reports.

“State-owned television channel Rossiya 24 reported on Wednesday that parking spaces outside the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg had been painted over with a pedestrian crossing, and special parking signs had been removed outside the U.S. consulate in Yekaterinburg, near the Ural Mountains.”

Clinton Says McConnell Suppressed Russian Hacking

New Yorker: “When the C.I.A. first told Obama, in August, that the Russians had been meddling in the Presidential race, the agency shared the information with the Gang of Eight—the congressional leadership and the chairs and the ranking members of the intelligence committees. The Administration asked for a bipartisan statement of warning. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, adamantly refused, muffling for weeks any sense of national alarm.”

Said Clinton: “McConnell, in what I think of as a not only unpatriotic but despicable act of partisan politics, made it clear that if the Obama Administration spoke publicly about what they knew, he would accuse them of partisan politics, of trying to tip the balance toward me… McConnell basically threatened the White House.”

Mueller Probe Has ‘Red-Hot’ Focus on Social Media

“Russia’s effort to influence U.S. voters through Facebook and other social media is a ‘red-hot’ focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 election and possible links to President Trump’s associates,” Bloomberg reports.

“Mueller’s team of prosecutors and FBI agents is zeroing in on how Russia spread fake and damaging information through social media and is seeking additional evidence from companies like Facebook and Twitter about what happened on their networks.”

“The ability of foreign nations to use social media to manipulate and influence elections and policy is increasingly seen as the soft underbelly of international espionage… because it doesn’t involve the theft of state secrets and the U.S. doesn’t have a ready defense to prevent such attacks.”

Russia Sought Broad Reset with Trump

“The proposal, spelled out in a detailed document obtained by BuzzFeed News, called for the wholesale restoration of diplomatic, military and intelligence channels severed between the two countries after Russia’s military interventions in Ukraine and Syria.”

“The broad scope of the Kremlin’s reset plan came with an ambitious launch date: immediately.”

“Besides offering a snapshot of where the Kremlin wanted to move the bilateral relationship, the proposal reveals one of Moscow’s unspoken assumptions – that Trump wouldn’t share the lingering US anger over Moscow’s alleged interference in the 2016 election and might accept a lightning fast rapprochement.”