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Russia used social media to support Trump in 2016 at direction of Kremlin, Senate intelligence report says

Report says Russians were 'masquerading as Americans' and undermining Hillary Clinton's candidacy in support of Donald Trump

Chris Riotta
New York
Tuesday 08 October 2019 19:21 BST
Robert Mueller confirms report does not exonerate president Trump

A new Senate Intelligence Committee report says Russia used social media throughout the 2016 US presidential election as part of the Kremlin's efforts to spread disinformation and undermine Hillary Clinton’s candidacy in support of Donald Trump.

The Senate committee's key finding in its report, published on Tuesday, says that Russia’s Internet Research Agency “sought to influence the 2016 US presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton's chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin."

“Masquerading as Americans, these operatives used targeted advertisements, intentionally falsified news articles, self-generated contents, and social media platform tools to interact with and attempt to deceive tens of millions of social media users in the United States,” the report says.

It continues: “This campaign sought to polarise Americans on the basis of societal, ideological, and racial differences, provoked real world events, and was part of a foreign government's covert support of Russia's favored candidate in the US presidential election.”

The report comes as House Democrats have launched an impeachment inquiry into the president, alleging he abused his power in a phone call with Ukraine, in which he urged the country’s president to investigate the origins of the US probe into Russian election interference and “corruption” on the part of former Vice President Joe Biden.

There is no evidence to show Mr Biden or his son, Hunter, committed any wrongdoing while the younger Mr Biden worked for a Ukrainian energy firm. Nor is there any evidence to support Mr Trump’s often-repeated claims that Ukraine was responsible for interfering in the 2016 election rather than Russia.

The US Intelligence Community has long said Russia staged a multi-pronged cyber attack on the 2016 elections. Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller said during a public testimony on Capitol Hill that such efforts were meant to support Mr Trump’s election to the White House.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, which has been investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, released the second version of its report on Tuesday titled “Russian Active Measures Campaigns and Interference in the 2016 US Election, Volume 2: Russia’s Use of Social Media With Additional Views”.

It says Russia’s information warfare campaign “was broad in scope and entailed objectives beyond the result of the 2016 presidential election.”

The committee also provides findings that connect Kremlin leadership to the controversial Internet Research Agency, which experts have said was fundamental to Russia’s interference and influence operations.

US intelligence officials have warned Russia was continuing its influence operations across social media and across other platforms ahead of the 2020 presidential elections, along with other foreign actors like China and Iran.

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Mr Trump has slammed the Russia investigation, which clouded the first years of his presidency, as a "hoax" and a "witch hunt" that never should have happened in the first place.

His own appointees have differed on that position, however, telling congressional committees investigating Russian interference that the US electoral process was not properly safeguarded from foreign influence campaigns.

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