TRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder VI
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Translation: Fairpress

Author: Munir Podumljak

Russian June 2016
In February 2018, 13 Russians were criminally charged for interfering in the 2016 US elections with the aim of helping Donald Trump. A 37-page indictment alleged that the Russians’ operations “included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J Trump … and disparaging Hillary Clinton,” his Democratic opponent.[1] In reference to the charges, US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein stated that “there is no allegation in this indictment that any American had any knowledge” of it, and added that there was no evidence that such interference had had any impact on the outcome of the elections. On the other hand, US Senate Intelligence Committee vice-chair Richard Burr (Republican – North Carolina) on 16 May 2018 concluded that the committee “See no reason to dispute the conclusions (of the Intelligence community assessment). There is no doubt that Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere with our 2016 elections. […] The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President [Vladimir] Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton.”[2]

This conclusion came as something of a surprise since the House intelligence committee had earlier found “no evidence” of collusion between President Donald Trump and Russian officials, in its final investigative report about whether Moscow interfered with the 2016 US election.[3] Their report stated that both campaigns (Clinton’s and Trump’s) used “poor judgement” at times, referring particularly to Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr, and Jared Kushner.

The FBI indictments as well as the intelligence community assessment agree that Russian nationals, beginning in 2014, engaged in activities to influence the US elections through an operation coded as the ‘Translator Project’, the goal being to “spread distrust toward the candidates and the political system in general.”[4]

Russian operatives used a cluster of companies, all linked to a larger company called the Internet Research Agency, for their ‘information warfare.’ This was further confirmed by the Congress investigation as well as the conclusions of the US Senate Intelligence Committee. There were disagreements, however, over whether Russian actions had any impact on election results, whether Donald Trump or his associates were aware of becoming the assets of the Russian intelligence warfare, and whether this part of the operation was controlled by Putin himself?

The ‘Translator Project’ was conducted by and large through a systematic and sophisticated social media campaign. The Russian protagonists splashed catchy memes and hash tags that reached 126 million Americans on Facebook alone.[5] As the operation was conducted by people not known to the US intelligence community before the attack was launched, detecting any evidence of involvement from Putin in a criminal investigation case may be a challenge. However, a second part of the investigation has revealed connections to the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin. The intelligence report, FBI investigation as well as independent investigations have all confirmed that hackers known as “Fancy Bears”, closely aligned with the interests of the Russian Government, were behind the “Clinton Leaks” – an operation that resulted in thousands of e-mails and messages being published on WikiLeaks prior to the 2016 election. The information was first leaked by one hacker known as “Guccifer 2.0”, according to ABC.[6] The Fancy Bears were also behind Russia’s cyber warfare attack in Georgia in 2008.[7] In this case, publishing the Clinton Leaks on their own domains was just the initial step in an operation designed to reach much larger audiences.

Read more in the next article

 

This article was created with the support of the Fund for the Promotion of Pluralism and Diversity of Electronic Media within the project “Media Reality” – Developing and Encouraging the Media Literacy Programme

 

 

Connected articles: TRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder V; TRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder IVTRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder IIITRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder IITRUMP’S CODE: Making Money on Populist Disorder I 

 

[1] Swaine, J., Bennetts, M. (2018) Mueller charges 13 Russians with interfering in US election to help Trump. The Guardian, [online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/16/robert-mueller-russians-charged-election [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[2] Breuninger, K. (2018) Russian election meddling meant to help Trump, hurt Clinton, Senate Intelligence Committee finds. CNBC, [online]. Available at: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/16/russian-meddling-intended-to-help-trump-hurt-clinton-senate-says.html [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[3] Sampathkumar, M. (2018) Trump-Russia investigation: House intelligence committee finds ‘no evidence’ of collusion in final report. Independent, [online]. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-russia-investigation-latest-house-intelligence-committee-report-election-collusion-no-evidence-a8325761.html [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[4] Shame, S., Mazzetti, M. (2018) Inside a 3-Year Russian Campaign to Influence U.S. Voters. The New York Times, [online]. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/16/us/politics/russia-mueller-election.html [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[5] Shame, S., Mazzetti, M. (2018) Inside a 3-Year Russian Campaign to Influence U.S. Voters. The New York Times, [online]. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/16/us/politics/russia-mueller-election.html [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[6] ABC (2017) How Russia-linked hackers stole the Democrats’ emails and destabilised Hillary Clinton’s campaign. [online]. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-04/how-russians-hacked-democrats-and-clinton-campaign-emails/9118834 [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

[7] Bartlett, E. (2018) Fancy Bears: Who are the shady hacking group exposing doping, cover-ups and corruption in sport? Independent, [online]. Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news-and-comment/fancy-bears-who-are-hacking-group-doping-sport-football-russia-georgia-reedie-bach-a7906376.html [Accessed 10 Jul. 2018].

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