EDITOR: This relatively short section of the Mueller report describes how the IRA-controlled social media accounts were able to lure American citizens into spreading the Russian disinformation and propaganda. The investigators, however, did not conclude that any of the Americans, including Trump associates, were aware they were disseminating Russian “fake news” by retweeting and sharing posts, or by exchanging emails with IRA specialists pretending to be American supporters of the Trump campaign and administration.
In other words, the Americans were “useful idiots.”
6. Targeting and Recruitment of U.S. Persons
As early as 2014, the IRA instructed its employees to target U.S. persons who could used to advance its organization goals. Initially, recruitment focused on U.S. persons who could amplify the content posted by the IRA. HARM TO ONGOING MATTER
HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 88
IRA employees frequently used [INVESTIGATIVE TECHNIQUE] Twitter , Facebook, and Instagram to contact and recruit U.S. persons who followed the group. The IRA recruited U.S. persons from across the political spectrum. For example, the IRA targeted the family of [REDACTED-PERSONAL PRIVACY] and a number of black social justice activists
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88 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER
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while posing as a grassroots group called “Black Matters US.”89 In February 2017, the persona “Black Fist” (purporting to want to teach African-Americans to protect themselves when contacted by law enforcement) hired a self-defense instructor in New York to offer classes sponsored by Black Fist. The IRA also recruited moderators of conservative social media groups to promote IRA-generated content, 90 as well as recruited individuals to perform political acts (such as walking around New York City dressed up as Santa Claus with a Trump mask). 91 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 92 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 93 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER94
HARM TO ONGOING MATTER as the IRA’s online audience became larger, the IRA tracked U.S. persons with whom they communicated and had successfully tasked with tasks ran in from organizing rallies to taking pictures with certain political messages). HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 95
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89 3/11/16 Facebook Advertisement ID 6045078289928, 5/6/16 Facebook Advertisement ID
6051652423528, 10/26/16 Facebook Advertisement ID 6055238604687; 10/27/16 Facebook Message, ID [PERSONAL PRIVACY]
& ID 100011698576461 (Taylor Brooks).
90 8/19/16 Facebook Message , ID 100009922908461 (Matt Skiber) to ID [PERSONAL PRIVACY]
91 12/8/16 Email, firstname.lastname@example.org to email@example.com (confirming Craigslist advertisement).
92 8/18-19/16 Twitter DMs, @march_for_trump & [PERSONAL PRIVACY]
93 See e.g. 11/11-27/16 Facebook Messages ID 100011698576461 (Taylor Brooks) & ID [PERSONAL PRIVACY] (arranging to pay for plane tickets and for a bull horn}
94 See, e.g., 9/10/16 Facebook Message, ID 100009922908461 (Matt Skiber) & ID [PERSONAL PRIVACY] (discussing payment for rally supplies); 8/18/16 Twitter DM, @march_for_trump to [PERSONAL PRIVACY] (discussing payment for construction materials).
95 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER
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HARM TO ONGOING MATTER
7. Interactions and Contacts with the Trump Campaign
The investigation identified two different forms of connections between the IRA and members of the Trump Campaign. (The investigation identified no similar connections between the IRA and the Clinton Campaign.) [EDITOR: Highlighted for emphasis – this was a one-sided Russian effort to cultivate only targets on the Trump side.] First, on multiple occasions, members and surrogates of the Trump Campaign promoted-typically by linking, retweeting, or similar methods of reposting pro-Trump or anti-Clinton content published by the IRA through IRA-controlled social media accounts. Additionally, in a few instances, IRA employees represented themselves as U.S. persons to communicate with members of the Trump Campaign in an effort to seek assistance and coordination on IRA-organized political rallies inside the United States.
a. Trump Campaign Promotion of IRA Political Materials
Among the U.S. “leaders of public opinion” targeted by the IRA were various members and surrogates of the Trump Campaign. In total, Trump Campaign affiliates promoted dozens of tweets, posts , and other political content created by the IRA. Posts from the IRA-controlled Twitter account @TEN_GOP were cited or retweeted by
multiple Trump Campaign officials and surrogates, including Donald J. Trump Jr.,96 Eric
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96 See, e.g , @DonaldJTrumpJr 10/26/16 Tweet (“RT @TEN_GOP: BREAKING Thousands of names changed on voter rolls in Indiana. Police investigating #Voterfraud. #DrainTheSwamp.”); @DonaldJTrumpJr 11/2/16 Tweet (“RT @TEN_GOP: BREAKING: #VoterFraud by counting tens of thousands of ineligible mail in Hillary votes being reported in Broward County, Florida.”); @DonaldJTrumpJr 11/8/16 Tweet (“RT @TEN_GOP: This vet passed away last month before he could vote for Trump. Here he is in his #MAGA hat. #voted #ElectionDay.”). Trump Jr. retweeted additional @TEN_GOP content subsequent to the election.
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Trump, 97 Kellyanne Conway,98 Brad Parscale, 99 and Michael T. Flynn. 100 These posts included allegations of voter fraud, 101 as well as allegations that Secretary Clinton had mishandled classified information. 102
– A November 7, 2016 post from the IRA-controlled Twitter account @Pamela_Moore13 was retweeted by Donald J. Trump Jr. 103
– On September 19, 2017, President Trump’s personal account @realDonaldTrump responded to a tweet from the IRA-controlled account @10_gop (the backup account of @TEN_ GOP, which had already been deactivated by Twitter). The tweet read: “We love you, Mr. President!” 104 IRA employees monitored the reaction of the Trump Campaign and, later, Trump Administration officials to their tweets. For example, on August 23, 2016, the IRA-controlled persona “Matt Skiber” Facebook account sent a message to a U.S. Tea Party activist, writing that “Mr. Trump posted about our event in Miami! This is great!” 105 The IRA employee included a screenshot of candidate Trump’s Facebook account, which included a post about the August 20, 2016 political rallies organized by the IRA.
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97 @EricTrump 10/20/16 Tweet (“RT @TEN_GOP: BREAKING Hillary shuts down press conference when asked about DNC Operatives corruption & #VoterFraud #debatenight #TrumpB”).
98 @KellyannePolls 11/6/16 Tweet (“RT @TEN_ GOP: Mother of jailed sailor: ‘Hold Hillary to same standards as my son on Classified info’ #hillarysemail #WeinerGate.”).
99 @parscale 10/15/16 Tweet (“Thousands of deplorables chanting to the media: ‘Tell The Truth!’ RT if you are also done w/ biased Media! #Friday Feeling”).
100 @GenFlynn 11/7/16 (retweeting @TEN_GOP post that included in part ” @realDonaldTrump & @mike_pence will be our next POTUS & VPOTUS.”).
101 @TEN_GOP 10/11/16 Tweet (“North Carolina finds 2,214 voters over the age of 110!!”).
102 @TEN_GOP 11/6/16 Tweet (“Mother of jailed sailor: ‘Hold Hillary to same standards as my son on classified info #hillaryemail #WeinerGate.”‘).
103 @DonaldJTrumpJr 11 /7 /16 Tweet (“RT @Pamela_Moore13: Detroit residents speak out against the failed policies of Obama, Hillary & democrats …. “).
104 @realDonaldTrump 9/19/17 (7 :33 p.m.) Tweet (“THANK YOU for your support Miami! My team just shared photos from your TRUMP SIGN WAVING DAY, yesterday! I love you- and there is no question – TOGETHER, WE WILL MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”).
105 8/23/16 Facebook Message, ID 100009922908461 (Matt Skiber) to ID [PERSONAL PRIVACY]
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HARM TO ONGOING MATTER 106
b. Contact with Trump Campaign Officials in Connection to Rallies
Starting in June 2016, the IRA contacted different U.S. persons affiliated with the Trump Campaign in an effort to coordinate pro-Trump IRA-organized rallies inside the United States. In all cases, the IRA contacted the Campaign while claiming to be U.S. political activists working on behalf of a conservative grassroots organization. The IRA’s contacts included requests for signs and other materials to use at rallies, 107 as well as requests to promote the rallies and help coordinate logistics. 108 While certain campaign volunteers agreed to provide the requested support (for example, agreeing to set aside a number of signs), the investigation has not identified evidence that any Trump Campaign official understood the requests were coming from foreign nationals.
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In sum, the investigation established that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election through the “active measures” social media campaign carried out by the IRA, an organization funded by Prigozhin and companies that he controlled. As explained further in Volume I, Section V.A., infra, the Office concluded (and a grand jury has alleged) that Prigozhin, his companies, and IRA employees violated U.S. law through these operations, principally by undermining through deceptive acts the work of federal agencies charged with regulating foreign influence in U.S. elections.
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106 HARM TO ONGOING MATTER
107 See, e.g., 8/16/16 Email, firstname.lastname@example.org to [PERSONAL PRIVACY]@donaldtrump.com (asking for Trump/Pence signs for Florida rally); 8/18/16 Email, email@example.com to [PERSONAL PRIVACY]@donaldtrump.com (asking for Trump/Pence signs for Florida rally); 8/12/16 Email, firstname.lastname@example.org to [PERSONAL PRIVACY]@donaldtrump.com (asking for “contact phone numbers for Trump Campaign affiliates” in various Florida cities and signs).
108 8/15/16 Email, [PERSONAL PRIVACY] to email@example.com (asking to add locations to the “Florida Goes Trump,” list); 8/16/16 Email, [PERSONAL PRIVACY] to
firstname.lastname@example.org (volunteering to send an email blast to followers).
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NEXT: The Russians hacking and document-dumping efforts
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