The Senate Intelligence Committee leaders have received reports that Russia paid up to a 1000 trolls to spread false information damaging to the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. One source of this information is former FBI agent and counter-terrorism expert Clinton Watts.
Watts, now a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, testified to the committee that Russian attempts to influence the election started before the party nominees were even chosen. Donald Trump’s rival Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) appeared to be a particular target, Watts claims.
Huffington Post reports:
“What really concerns me [are reports] there were upwards of 1,000 paid internet trolls working out of a facility in Russia, in effect taking over a series of computers which are then called botnets that can generate news down to specific areas,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He appeared Wednesday with GOP intel chair Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) at a press conference before committee hearings began.
Warner said in the latest case, the paid trolls apparently focused on swing states in an attempt to influence votes there — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — where people were “reading during the waning days of the election that “‘Clinton is sick,’ or ‘Clinton is taking money from whoever for some source’ … fake news.”
Warner said it’s crucial that investigators determine if voting results were actually affected. Each of the three states narrowly fell to Trump.
“An outside foreign adversary effectively sought to hijack the most critical democratic process, the election of a president, and in that process, decided to favor one candidate over another,” Warner said.
Burr said that he and Warner were committed to getting to the bottom of Russian interference in the election. He accused Russia of blatant attempts to also impact elections in Germany and France. “We feel part of our responsibility is to educate the rest of the world,” he said.
By the end of the first day of hearings Thursday, no one had yet testified about the 1,000 trolls, but the investigation is just beginning.
How deeply Donald Trump and his minions were involved is still up in the air (sort of), but it is now undeniable that Russia interfered with the 2016 US Presidential election, making Donald Trump officially the most illegitimate president in US history.