The Mueller Report: Russian social media activity for Trump, against Clinton (part 1)

There are large sections of this part of the Mueller report that have been redacted as “Harmful to ongoing matter,” that is, other investigations and/or prosecutions. It begins with a general introduction to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russia-based operation with the express purpose of manipulating public opinion using American social media, namely, Facebook and Twitter. Then, the report details how each of the social media platforms were weaponized by the IRA to promote the candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, and oppose the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Russian operatives also pretended to be US citizens and promoted rallies for Trump, and tried to recruit actual US citizens to join pro-Trump activities. In this section, the report also details the number of times IRA associates and Trump campaign associates met and communicated with one other. (HINT: It was more than once.)

Then, the report details Russian hacking efforts against the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign, the dissemination of hacked and stolen material, and the contacts between the Russians and members of the Trump circle. (HINT: It was more than once.)

Because this section is quite lengthy, despite the heavy redactions, I’m going to divide it into sections. The first deals with the IRA. Next will come the specifics of using Facebook and Twitter, the impersonation of US citizens, and then the contacts between IRA operatives and the Trump campaign. Then, we will move onto the Russian hacking and document thefts, and the numerous contacts between influential Russians and members of the Trump campaign on other matters besides the campaign.

Volume I of the report is nearly 200 pages long. We’re not even a tenth of the way through yet.

A note on the formatting of the report here: The report was released as a PDF file, with redacted sections blacked out. I have replaced the blacked out sections, which often include entire paragraphs, with appropriate notices. There are many footnotes. Rather than try to repaginate the report and group all the footnotes together on this blog, the footnotes will be reprinted in their approximate location in the original report. Also, Cyrillic words and phrases have been omitted.

***

II. RUSSIAN “ACTIVE MEASURES” SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN

Yevgeniy Prigozhin (left) and Russian president Vladimir Putin (AP Photo)

The first form of Russian election influence came principally from the Internet Research Agency, LLC (IRA), a Russian organization funded by Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin and companies he controlled, including Concord Management and Consulting LLC and Concord Catering (collectively “Concord”).2 The IRA conducted social media operations targeted at large U.S. audiences with the goal of sowing discord in the U.S. political system. 3 These operations constituted “active measures”[…], a term that typically refers to operations conducted by Russian security services aimed at influencing the course of international affairs.4

[EDITOR: Prigozhin was among 13 Russians and three organizations indicted in February 2018 for illegally interfering with the 2016 elections. The 37-page indictment may be downloaded here.]

The IRA and its employees began operations targeting the United States as early as 2014. Using fictitious U.S. personas, IRA employees operated social media accounts and group pages designed to attract U.S. audiences. These groups and accounts, which addressed divisive U.S. political and social issues, falsely claimed to be controlled by U.S. activists. Over time, these social media accounts became a means to reach large U.S. audiences. IRA employees travelled to the United States in mid-2014 on an intelligence-gathering mission to obtain information and photographs for use in their social media posts.

IRA employees posted derogatory information about a number of candidates in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. By early to mid-2016, IRA operations included supporting the Trump Campaign and disparaging candidate Hillary Clinton. The IRA made various expenditures to carry out those activities, including buying political advertisements on social media in the names of U.S. persons and entities. Some IRA employees, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated electronically with individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities, including the staging of political rallies.5 The investigation did not identify evidence that any U.S. persons knowingly or intentionally coordinated with the IRA’s interference operation.

By the end of the 2016 U.S. election, the IRA had the ability to reach millions of U.S. persons through their social media accounts . Multiple IRA-controlled Facebook groups and
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FOOTNOTES:
2 The Office is aware of reports that other Russian entities engaged in similar active measures
operations targeting the United States. Some evidence collected by the Office corroborates those reports,
and the Office has shared that evidence with other offices in the Department of Justice and FBI.
3 [Harm to Ongoing Matter] see also SM-2230634 , serial 44 (analysis). The FBI case number cited here, and other FBI case numb ers
identified in the report, should be treated as law enforcement sensitive given the context. The report contains
additional law enforcement sensitive information.
4 As discussed in Part V below, the active measures investigation has resulted in criminal charges
against 13 individual Russian nationals and three Russian entities, principally for conspiracy to defraud the
United States, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371. See Volume I, Section V.A, infra; Indictment, United States
v. Internet Research Agency, et al., 1 :18-cr-32 (D.D.C. Feb. 16, 2018), Doc. I (“Internet Research Agency
Indictment”).
5 Internet Research Agency Indictment ¶¶52, 54, 55(a), 56, 74; [HARM TO ONGOING MATTER]

—————–
Instagram accounts had hundreds of thousands of U.S. participants. IRA-controlled Twitter accounts separately had tens of thousands of followers, including multiple U.S. political figures who retweeted IRA-created content. In November 2017, a Facebook representative testified that Facebook had identified 470 IRA-controlled Facebook accounts that collectively made 80,000 posts between January 2015 and August 2017. Facebook estimated the IRA reached as many as 126 million persons through its Face book accounts.6 In January 2018, Twitter announced that it had identified 3,814 IRA-controlled Twitter accounts and notified approximately 1.4 million people Twitter believed may have been in contact with an IRA-controlled account.7

A. Structure of the Internet Research Agency
[HARM TO ONGOING MATTER]8 [HARM TO ONGOING MATTER]9 [HARM TO ONGOING MATTER]10

The organization quickly grew. [HARM TO ONGOING MATTER]

The growth of the organization also led to a more detailed organizational structure. [HARM TO ONGOING MATTER]
—————
FOOTNOTES:
6 Social Media Influence in the 2016 US. Election, Hearing Before the Senate Select Committee
on Intelligence, 115th Cong. 13 (11/1/17) (testimony of Colin Stretch, General Counsel of Facebook) (“We
estimate that roughly 29 million people were served content in their News Feeds directly from the IRA’s
80,000 posts over the two years. Posts from these Pages were also shared, liked, and followed by people on
Facebook, and, as a result, three times more people may have been exposed to a story that originated from
the Russian operation. Our best estimate is that approximately 126 million people may have been served
content from a Page associated with the IRA at some point during the two-year period.”). The Facebook
representative also testified that Facebook had identified 170 Instagram accounts that posted approximately
120,000 pieces of content during that time. Facebook did not offer an estimate of the audience reached via
Instagram.
7 Twitter, Update on Twitter’s Review of the 2016 US Election (Jan. 31, 2018).
8 See SM-2230634, serial 92.
9 [HARM TO ONGOING MATTER]
10 [HARM TO ONGOING MATTER]
11 See SM-2230634, serial 86 [HARM TO ONGOING MATTER]
12 [HARM TO ONGOING MATTER]

——————–
[HARM TO ONGOING MATTER]13

Source: Politico.com

Two individuals headed the IRA’s management: its general director, Mikhail Bystrov, and its executive director, Mikhail Burchik. HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 14 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER15

[EDITOR: Politico.com has brief biographies of Bystrov and Burchik, as well as many other individuals associated with the investigation.]

As early as the spring of 2014, the IRA began to hide its funding and activities. HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 16

The IRA’s U.S. operations are part of a larger set of interlocking operations known as “Project Lakhta,” HARM TO ONGOING MATTER17 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 18

B. Funding and Oversight from Concord and Prigozhin

Until at least February 2018, Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin and two Concord companies funded the IRA. Prigozhin is a wealthy Russian businessman who served as the head of Concord.
————–
FOOTNOTES:
13 Harm to Ongoing Matter
14 See, e.g., SM-2230634 , serials 9, 113 & 180 -· Harm to Ongoing Matter
15 Harm to Ongoing Matter
16 Harm to ongoing Matter See SM-2230634, serials 131 & 204.
17 Harm to Ongoing Matter
18 Harm to Ongoing Matter

———-
HARM TO ONGOING MATTER Prigozhin was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in December 2016, 19 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 20 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 21 Numerous media have reported on Prigozhin’s ties to Putin, and the two have appeared together in public photographs. 22

HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 23 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER

HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 24 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER25 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER

HARM TO ONGOING MATTER
—————
FOOTNOTES:
19 U.S. Treasury Department, “Treasury Sanctions Individuals and Entities in Connection withRussia’s Occupation of Crimea and the Conflict in Ukraine” (Dec. 20, 2016).
20 Harm to Ongoing Matter
21 Harm to Ongoing Matter
22 See, e.g., Neil MacFarquhar, Yevgeny Prigozhin, Russian Oligarch Indicted by US., Is Known
as “Putin’s Cook”, New York Times (Feb. 16, 2018).
24 Harm to Ongoing Matter
25 harm to Ongoing Matter See also SM-2230634, serial 113 Harm to Ongoing Matter

—————-

[EDITOR: Most of page 18 is redacted “Harm to Ongoing Matter,” except footnote 28.]

28 The term “troll” refers to internet users — in this context, paid operatives — who post inflammatory
or otherwise disruptive content on social media or other websites.

——————-
IRA employees were aware that Prigozhin was involved in the IRA’s U.S. operations, HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 29 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 30 In May 2016. IRA employees, claiming to be U.S. social activists and administrators of Facebook groups, recruited U.S. persons to hold signs (including one in front of the White House) that read “Happy 55th Birthday Dear Boss,” as am homage to Prigozhin (whose 55th birthday was on June 1, 2016).31 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER32

HARM TO ONGOING MATTER

C. The IRA Targets U.S. Elections

1. The IRA Ramps Up U.S. Operations As Early As 2014

The IRA’s U.S. operations sought to influence public opinion through online media and forums. By the spring of 2014, the IRA began to consolidate U.S. operations within a single general department, known internally as the “Translator” […] department HARM TO ONGOING MATTER The IRA subdivided the Translator Department into different responsibilities, ranging from operations on different social media platforms to analytics to
—————-
FOOTNOTES:
29 [REDACTED – Investigative Technique] See SM-2230634,serials 131 & 204.
30 See SM-2230634, serial 156.
31 Internet Research Agency Indictment ¶12(b); see also 5/26/16 Facebook Messages, ID
1479936895656747 (United Muslims of America) & REDACTED — PERSONAL PRIVACY
32 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER see also SM-2230634, serial 189. HARM TO ONGOING MATTER

—————-
graphics and IT.
HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 33 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER34

HARM TO ONGOING MATTER
——————
33 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER See SM-2230634, serial 205
34 See SM-2230634, serial 204 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER

—————-
HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 35 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 36
HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 37

IRA employees also traveled to the United States on intelligence-gathering missions. In June 2014, four IRA employees applied to the U.S. Department of State to enter the United States,
while lying about the purpose of their trip and claiming to be four friends who had met at a party.38 Ultimately, two IRA employees — Anna Bogacheva and Aleksandra Krylova –received visas and entered the United States on June 4, 2014.

Prior to traveling, Krylova and Bogacheva compiled itineraries and instructions for the trip HARM TO ONGOING MATTER39 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER

[EDITOR: Both women are named in the same federal grand jury indictment as Prigozhin.]
————–
FOOTNOTES:
35 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER
36 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER
37 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER
38 See SM-2230634, serials 150 & 172 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER
39 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER

——————
HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 40 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 41

2. U.S. Operations Through IRA-Controlled Social Media Accounts

Dozens of IRA employees were responsible for operating accounts and personas on different U.S. social media platforms. The IRA referred to employees assigned to operate the social media accounts as “specialists. “42 Starting as early as 2014, the IRA’s U.S. operations included social media specialists focusing on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.43 The IRA later added specialists who operated on Tumblr and Instagram accounts. 44

Initially, the IRA created social media accounts that pretended to be the personal accounts of U.S. persons. 45 By early 2015, the IRA began to create larger social media groups or public social media pages that claimed (falsely) to be affiliated with U.S. political and grassroots organizations. In certain cases, the IRA created accounts that mimicked real U.S. organizations. For example, one IRA-controlled Twitter account, @TEN_GOP, purported to be connected to the Tennessee Republican Party.46 More commonly, the IRA created accounts in the names of fictitious U.S. organizations and grassroots groups and used these accounts to pose as anti-immigration groups, Tea Party activists, Black Lives Matter protestors, and other U.S. social and political activists.

The IRA closely monitored the activity of its social media accounts. HARM TO ONGOING MATTER
—————
FOOTNOTES:
40 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER
41 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER
42 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER
43 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER
44 See, e.g. SM-2230634, serial 179 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER
45 See, See, e.g., Facebook ID 100011390466802 (Alex Anderson) ; Facebook ID 100009626173204
(Andrea Hansen); Facebook ID 100009728618427 (Gary Williams); Facebook ID 100013640043337
(Lakisha Richardson).
46 The account claimed to be the “Unofficial Twitter of Tennessee Republicans” and made posts
that appeared to be endorsements of the state political party. See, e.g., @TEN_GOP, 4/3/16 Tweet
(“Tennessee GOP backs @realDonaldTrump period #makeAmericagreatagain #tngop #tennessee #gop”).

——————-
HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 47 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER48

HARM TO ONGOING MATTER

By February 2016, internal IRA documents referred to support for the Trump campaign and opposition to candidate Clinton.49 For example HARM TO ONGOING MATTER directions to IRA operators HARM TO ONGOING MATTER “Main idea: Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary [Clinton] and the rest (except Bernie Sanders and Trump – we support them)” 50 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER

The focus on the U.S. presidential campaign continued throughout 2016. In HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 2016 internal HARM TO ONGOING MATTER reviewing the IRA-controlled Facebook group “Secured Borders,” the
———————–
FOOTNOTES:
47 Harm to Ongoing Matter
48 See, e.g., SM-2230634 serial 131 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER
49 The IRA posted content about the Clinton candidacy before Clinton officially announced her
presidential campaign. IRA-controlled social media accounts criticized Clinton’s record as Secretary of State and promoted various critiques of her candidacy. The IRA also used other techniques HARM TO ONGOING MATTER See SM-2230634, serial 70
50 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER

———————

author criticized the “lower number of posts dedicated to criticizing Hillary Clinton” and reminded the Facebook specialist “it is imperative to intensify criticizing Hillary Clinton.” 51

IRA employees also acknowledged that their work focused on influencing the U.S. presidential election HARM TO ONGOING MATTER
HARM TO ONGOING MATTER52
——————-
FOOTNOTES:
51 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER
52 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER

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NEXT: Activities on Facebook and on Twitter


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