Special Counsel Robert Mueller alleged in his indictment of thirteen Russian citizens for meddling in the 2016 presidential election, that the goal of the operation was to denigrate candidates like Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and support candidates like Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein and Donald Trump.
In February of 2016 operatives working for the Internet Research Agency, the cyber agency responsible for executing Russian interference campaigns into foreign political processes, created guidelines for future content that was to be posted to the agency’s social media accounts. “Specialists” as they were referred to, were instructed to post content that focused on “politics in the USA” and to “use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump- we support them),” according to Mueller.
These specialists assumed fictitious identities to make it look like the posts were coming from Americans.
One of the operatives was reportedly reprimanded for not writing enough posts criticizing Hillary Clinton. “It is imperative to intensify criticizing Hillary Clinton” in future posts, they were told.
These operatives also used these false personas to communicate with unsuspecting members of volunteer organizations supportive of Donald Trump. The volunteers would then distribute the agencies content through their own accounts via retweets, reposts, and other means.
It’s alleged that in the latter half of 2016, these specialists also began to encourage U.S. minority groups to not vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, or to vote for a third-party candidate. “[A] particular hype and hatred for Trump is misleading the people and forcing Blacks to vote Killary. We cannot resort to the lesser of two devils. Then we’d surely be better off without voting AT ALL,” read a massage on an agency-controlled account called “Woke Blacks.”
“Choose peace and vote for Jill Stein. Trust me, it’s not a wasted vote,” a message on the “Blacktivist” account read. In November of 2016, a message that read “American Muslims [are] boycotting elections today, most of the American Muslim voters refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton because she wants to continue the war on Muslims in the middle east and voted yes for invading Iraq,” was posted on the agency-controlled “United Muslims of America” accounts.
The Mueller indictment lays out a sophisticated attack perpetrated by Russian operatives, using U.S. social media platforms to foment discord, disunity, and ultimately, distrust in the U.S. political system. These specialists were directed to create “political intensity” by supporting radical groups. Hundreds of operatives were employed during the course of the operation; it was budgeted at $1.2 million a month.
Russia has denied the accusations, calling them “blabber.”
During a conference call with reporters today, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “There are no indications that the Russian state could have been involved in this and nor can there be any. Russia did not meddle, does not have the habit of meddling in the internal affairs of other countries, and is not doing so now.”