DOJ Inspector General Finds No Evidence FBI Spied On Trump Campaign

Donald Trump
Donald Trump (image via Flickr/White House)

The Department of Justice’s inspector general has reportedly found no evidence of spying by the FBI on the 2016 Trump campaign.

The New York Times reports:

The Justice Department’s inspector general found no evidence that the F.B.I. attempted to place undercover agents or informants inside Donald J. Trump’s campaign in 2016 as agents investigated whether his associates conspired with Russia’s election interference operation, people familiar with a draft of the inspector general’s report said.

The determination by the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, is expected to be a key finding in his highly anticipated report due out on Dec. 9 examining aspects of the Russia investigation.

The finding also contradicts some of the most inflammatory accusations hurled by Mr. Trump and his supporters, who alleged not only that F.B.I. officials spied on the Trump campaign but also at one point that former President Barack Obama had ordered Mr. Trump’s phones tapped.

The report is expected to undercut many claims by conservatives that the FBI acted improperly while investigating Trump associates during the 2016 election.

You’ll recall early in his term Trump accused President Obama of tapping his Trump Tower phones with no evidence to support the claim whatsoever.

Jimmy Carter: Trump Became President “Because The Russians Interfered On His Behalf”

Speaking at the Carter Center's retreat in Leesburg, Virginia, on Friday, former President Jimmy Carter told the crowd he believes a full investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election would reveal that Donald Trump did not indeed win the presidency.
Former President Jimmy Carter

Speaking at the Carter Center’s retreat in Leesburg, Virginia, on Friday, former President Jimmy Carter told the crowd he believes a full investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election would reveal that Donald Trump did not indeed win the presidency.

“There’s no doubt that the Russians did interfere in the election,” said Carter. “And I think the interference, although not yet quantified, if fully investigated would show that Trump didn’t actually win the election in 2016. He lost the election and he was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf.”

When the moderator inquired if he believes Trump is an illegitimate president, Carter replied, “Based on what I just said, which I can’t retract.”

Report: Russian Operatives Targeted Sanders Supporters To Weaken Hillary Clinton

Researchers studying Twitter data from the 2016 election say Russian operatives definitely targeted supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders in an effort to weaken Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders

Researchers studying Twitter data from the 2016 election say Russian operatives definitely targeted supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders in an effort to weaken Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

From The Hill:

A study by Clemson University researchers reported by The Washington Post found that thousands of tweets from Russian-owned accounts masquerading as conservative accounts supporting President Trump began targeting Sanders’s supporters shortly after the primary concluded.

“#BlackMenForBernie Leader Switches to Trump! I will Never Vote for Hillary, Welcome aboard the Trump Train,” read one tweet sent by a Russian account pretending to be a “Southern., Conservative Pro God, Anti Racism” Twitter user from Texas.

“Conscious Bernie Sanders supporters already moving towards the best candidate Trump! #Feel the Bern #Vote Trump 2016,” read another account known as “Red Louisiana News” that was actually operated by Russians.

About 12 percent of Sanders voters said they ended up voting for Trump over Clinton in the general election, according to the Post.

Still, the number of Sanders voters who supported Trump in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — states considered key to Trump’s victory — was higher than Trump’s margin of victory in those states.

“I think there is no question that Sanders was central to their strategy,” Darren Linvill, one of the two Clemson researchers behind the study, told the Post. “He was clearly used as a mechanism to decrease voter turnout for Hillary Clinton.”

Senate Intelligence Committee: Russia Carried Out Putin’s Plans To Interfere In 2016 Election

Donald Trump (L) Vladimir Putin (R)

After a 14-month investigation, the Senate Intelligence Committee has found no evidence to dispute the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia, on orders from Putin, carried out an unprecedented election interference effort to help the Trump campaign and hurt the Clinton campaign in 2016.

Even Fox News is reporting the news:

Senate Intelligence Committee leaders on Wednesday backed the 2017 intelligence community report that formally accused Russia of trying to interfere in the U.S. presidential election to boost then-candidate Donald Trump.

Their statements followed a final closed-door interview on the matter with top Obama administration officials. The committee, led by Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Vice Chairman Mark Warner, D-Va., spoke Wednesday with former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan and former National Security Agenda Director Michael Rogers (who retired earlier this year).

“Committee staff have spent 14 months reviewing the sources, tradecraft, and analytic work, and we see no reason to dispute the conclusions,” Burr said in a statement. “There is no doubt that Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere with our 2016 elections. I look forward to completing the Committee’s inquiry and issuing our findings and recommendations to the American people.”

White House Adviser Kellyanne Conway: Comey “Swung” The 2016 Election

Then there was the time that Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, speaking to ABC News’ George Stephanopolous, attacked former FBI Director James Comey by admitting, “This guy swung an election. He thought the wrong person would win.”

She admits that Comey handed the presidency to Trump. Watch below.

Facebook Stock Dives On News Of Cambridge Analytics “Harvesting” User Data For 2016 Election

In light of the recent revelations of a data breach by Cambridge Analytics of millions and millions of Facebook users, the social media’s stock has dropped drastically today.

From Bloomberg:

Facebook Inc. shares posted their steepest drop since 2015 as U.S. and European officials demanded answers to reports that a political advertising firm retained information on millions of the social network’s users without their consent.

Politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are calling on Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to appear before lawmakers to explain how U.K.-based Cambridge Analytica, the data-analysis firm that helped Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency, was able to harvest the personal information.

According to The Daily Beast, Facebook has so far lost $42 billion in market value.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Indicts 13 Russian Nationals For Interfering In 2016 Presidential Election

At a press conference this morning, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced Special Counsel Robert Mueller has indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities with “the stated goal of “spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”

The indictment says that the aim of the defendants was “supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton.”

Operating under the name Internet Research Agency LLC, the defendants “sought, in part, to conduct what it called ‘information warfare against the United States of America’ through fictitious U.S. personas on social media platforms and other Internet-based media.”

The indictment lists, for example, Instagram accounts named “Woke Blacks,” “Blacktivists,” and “United Muslims of America” to discourage minorities from voting for Hillary Clinton or even voting at all.

More from Bloomberg:

In a Feb. 10, 2016, planning memo, the Russians were instructed to “use any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump — we support them).”

The operations also denigrated candidates including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, Trump’s rivals in the 2016 Republican primary, the indictment said.

The efforts included contact with “unwitting” Trump campaign officials, with the goal of “impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful government functions” including the election.

The group bought advertisements on U.S. social media, created numerous Twitter accounts designed to appear as if they were U.S. groups or people, according to the indictment. One fake account, @TEN_GOP account, attracted more than 100,000 online followers.

The Russians tracked the metrics of their effort in reports and budgeted for their efforts. Some traveled to the U.S. to gather intelligence for the surreptitious campaign, according to the indictment. They used stolen U.S. identities, including fake driver’s licenses, and contacted news media outlets to promote their activities.

In September 2016, the group ordered one worker to “intensify criticizing Hillary Clinton” after a review found insufficient anti-Clinton activity.

Donald Trump, who has called the investigation into Russian meddling a hoax, was briefed on the indictments this morning.

You can read the full indictment here. I suggest you take a minute and do so. This is not a hoax.

Here’s Rosenstein announcing the indictments this morning.

House Democrats Release Russia-Linked Facebook Ads From 2016 Election

The Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have shared some of the Facebook ads placed by Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential election.

From Talking Points Memo:

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee posted Wednesday a selection of the Facebook ads purchased by Russia-linked accounts as the committee’s hearing on how Russia exploited social media during the 2016 election got under way.

The committee Dems posted screenshots of the ads, as well as some of the the meta data associated with the ads, such as the amount of impressions the ads made and to which demographics the ads were targeted. Examples of Russia-purchased ads on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, were among the ads released.

Some of the ads released Wednesday did not mention presidential candidates by name, but rather weighed in on political issues, be it pushing anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiments, or mimicking the Black Lives Matters or LGBT rights movements.

Check out some of the ads below. More at the link above.

Yeah, I can see if these were targeted at folks on the fence about Hillary or Trump, these might have had some sway in folks decision-making on election day.

Russia-Linked Social Media Content Had Much Larger Reach Than Previously Believed

Prepared remarks sent to Congress ahead of today’s testimony by social media company representatives show the social media reach of Russian actors intending to disrupt the 2016 election was much larger than previously thought.

The New York Times quotes these figures from the prepared remarks:

• More than 126 million Facebook users saw Russian planted posts

• Over 131,000 messages on Twitter were published

• YouTube had over 1,000 videos uploaded to 18 channels associated with Russian agents

• 170 accounts on Instagram had posted about 120,000 pieces of Russia-linked content

The content was meant to inflame supporters and divide Americans during the presidential campaign.

Much more info at the New York Times.

Russian Election Disrupters Were Required To Watch “House Of Cards” To Understand American Politics

Yahoo News reports that Russian agents in a St. Petersburg “troll factory” were required to watch Netflix’s hit series House of Cards in order to better understand American “problems” like guns, taxes, and gays.

The Russians who worked for a notorious St. Petersburg “troll factory” that was part of Vladimir Putin’s campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election were required to watch the “House of Cards” television series to help them craft messages to “set up the Americans against their own government,” according to an interview broadcast Sunday (in Russian) with a former member of the troll factory’s elite English language department.

The interview, broadcast by the independent Russian TV station Rain, provides new insight into how the troll factory formerly known as the Internet Research Agency targeted U.S. audiences in part by posting provocative “comments” pretending to be from Americans on newspaper articles that appeared on the websites of the New York Times and Washington Post.

“At first we were forced to watch the ‘House of Cards’ in English,” said Maksim in the interview. It was part of a documented “strategy” in the English language department to fully understand how the American political system works. “It was necessary to know all the main problems of the United States of America. Tax problems, the problem of gays, sexual minorities, weapons,” he said.

Among the major themes the trolls were to write about in their posts were guns and gays. “When it was gays, we almost always had to bring out the religious themes,” he said. “Americans are very religious, especially those [who post] on news sites and write comments. You had to write that sodomy is a sin. That could always get you a couple of dozen ‘likes.’”

(h/t JoeMyGod)