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What did the Russian government-backed troll calling herself (or himself) Alice Donovan want?

That byline appears in at least 10 different news outlets beginning in 2016 and continuing through October of this year. The FBI believes “Alice Donovan” is the name of “a pseudonymous foot soldier in an army of Kremlin-led trolls,” according to the Washington Post. She was also actively criticizing not just the Hillary Clinton campaign but Trump-era foreign policy as recently as October.

“Donovan” appears to be the same person identified in one of Scott Shane’s New York Times stories about Russian interference on Facebook: An Alice Donovan outed by Facebook as a Russian intelligence sock puppet approvingly posted links to Kremlin cutout site DCLeaks, particularly its dump of documents related to George Soros’s Open Society Foundation.

The 13 publications that published Donovan’s emailed submissions were Counterpunch, Veterans Today, We Are Change, MintPressNews, Global Research, Global Politics, Ground Report, Op-Ed News, Restoring Liberty, Activist Post, The Duran, Popular Resistance, and foreign language outlets Reseau International and Naval Brasil. Most retread the news of the day with what appears to be very little oversight; Counterpunch is both the most traditional and the site with the clearest political perspective.

As a reporter, “Donovan” wrote blog posts that criticized Obama, Hillary Clinton, and allies including Colin Powell—similar to the themes of Russian-backed trolls masquerading as pro-Trump Americans on social media.

But a review of her articles—many of them plagiarized, according to one publication that ran them, the venerable left-wing blog Counterpunch—reveals a number of other areas of interest: Whereas Russian-controlled contributions to right-wing twitter feeds and Facebook pages stoked racism and railed against gun control, the ostensibly leftward prong of the massive Russian disinformation campaign focused on US activity in Syria, Venezuela and Turkey.

Perhaps predictably, some of the sites that published Donovan’s work have reacted largely with shrugs in much the same way that right-wing organizations felt too much was made of pro-cop memes, anti-Hillary jokes, and anti-immigrant sentiment. The origin of the articles was unimportant, suggested both Veterans Today editor Gordon Duff and Counterpunch editors Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank. “I don’t edit what people do. If it’s original, I’ll publish it,” Duff told the Post. “I don’t decide what’s real and not real.” Today Duff wrote his own conspiracy-filled piece about the Post story, primarily to criticize Counterpunch, at Veterans Today.

Counterpunch took a more philosophical tack: “So why did we run five pieces by Alice Donovan?” asked St. Clair and Frank. “First, because they were interesting and timely. The short pieces on Syria, in particular, came at a moment when Trump was engaged in his first big military action and we were eager, perhaps too eager, to publish as many different perspectives as possible on his new, more aggressive policy.”

Another site, We Are Change, didn’t respond to the accusations at all, though it did remove Donovan’s work from its public web presence.

Donovan’s articles on US military presence in the Middle East are unusual. In its mea-sorta-culpa, Counterpunch published a bibliography including as much of Donovan’s work as its writers could find, identifying one post lifted letter-for-letter from a pro-Russian, pro-Bashar al-Assad website called Inside Syria Media Center. Another—also cross-posted, this time with a shady news site called “Ground Report”—called the introduction of special forces troops into Mosul in November 2016 “a large-scale PR-campaign to support the candidate of the Democratic Party Hillary Clinton.”

Others are simply boilerplate anti-NATO, anti-Ukraine propaganda. Another Ground Report piece pushes for the cessation of sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, something the Russian government has pursued by every possible avenue.

But the feature of the Donovan articles that has provoked far less discussion is that, for nearly a year after Trump’s election, they mercilessly criticized him, as well, accusing his administration of fomenting civil war in Venezuela, making note of operations that really did cause tremendous innocent bloodshed in Syria, and stealing quotes and paragraphs from progressive publications including The Guardian and The American Interest to do so.

In short, whoever handles the Donovan account seems to have kept his or her eye on the ball: The goals of the Russian interference and influence campaigns still appear to be a weakened NATO, a withdrawal of US forces from Syria that leaves Moscow-friendly Assad in charge, and the end of punitive sanctions for its invasion of Ukraine and the murder of Sergei Magnitsky.

It may not actually matter to Moscow, or to “Alice Donovan” who is in charge: There’s still Western power abroad, and whether because the Trump administration still houses many Obama-era holdovers, because he has little interest in changing the status quo, or because he genuinely wants to maintain foreign policy continuity with his hated predecessor, the Kremlin still hasn’t achieved its goals.

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An appeals court Tuesday said that a privacy group suing President Trump’s so-called voter fraud commission was not itself a voter, and thus could not bring a claim alleging that the commission had failed to protect voters’ privacy in seeking states’ voter roll data.

“As we read it, the provision is intended to protect individuals—in the present context,
voters—by requiring an agency to fully consider their privacy before collecting their personal information,” the appeals court said, in denying the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s request to halt the commission’s data collection operation.

“EPIC is not a voter and is therefore not the type of plaintiff the Congress had in mind,” the court said.

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Former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates has until Wednesday to satisfy a federal judge that his participation, via a Facebook Live video, in a fundraiser for his legal defense fund was not a violation of the court’s gag order in his pending criminal case.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued the show cause order Friday, after GOP lobbyist Jack Burkman held the fundraiser Tuesday in a hotel just outside Washington, D.C. According to the accounts of reporters there, members of the media nearly outnumbered the half-dozen attendees and it was unclear how much money Burkman raised for the fund, Defending American Rights Legal Fund.

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A federal judge Friday sided with a Democrat on President Trump’s voter fraud commission in his request that the commission turn over documents it had been withholding from release.

U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued a preliminary decision backing the Democrat, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap in his claim that he was entitled to view internal communications and other records that the commission has resisted releasing publicly.

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The creation and funding of a foundation ostensibly seeking to lax Russia’s ban on U.S. adoption is being examined by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Bloomberg reported Thursday.

Rinat Akhmetshin — a Russian-American lobbyist with ties to Russian intelligence who attended the 2016 Trump Tower meeting — is a registered lobbyist for the foundation, the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative. Another employee at the foundation, Robert Arakelian, has testified in front of Mueller’s team, Bloomberg reported.

The foundation was reportedly part of a larger crusade to roll back a U.S. sanctions program known as the Magnitsky Act. Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer who also attended the Trump Tower meeting, was part of that endeavor on behalf of one of her clients, Denys Katsyv, who is listed on the lobbying registration documents for the foundation.

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Another day, another debate waged in court filings over whether the bail assets being proposed by Rick Gates are worth what Gates says they are.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, in a court filing Wednesday, questioned the value of assets Gates offered in a bail proposal last week. In particular, Mueller expressed skepticism over how Gates assessed the value of a commercial property included in the package.

The details of Gates’ bail proposal were mostly obscured by redactions, but his lawyers claim that the package is worth $5.8 million — well over the $5 million in secured bail the judge in the case said she would need to see before approving Gates’ release from house arrest.

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Just days after the inauguration, White House Counsel Don McGahn learned—and warned President Donald Trump—that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn had probably violated federal laws, according to a new report out Wednesday.

Foreign Policy reported that the Special Counsel has obtained “records” that reveal McGahn in late January researched the consequences of lying to the FBI and of violating the Logan Act, a centuries-old federal prohibition on private citizens negotiating with hostile foreign governments. The research, conducted with the help of two aides, prompted McGahn to conclude that Flynn had likely committed a crime by discussing sanctions with a top Russian official during the transition, two current administration officials told Foreign Policy.

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President Trump’s nominee for Singapore ambassador will likely not be confirmed this year, CNN reported Wednesday, after revelations born out by the Special Counsel’s Russia probe raised questions about her testimony to Congress, among other concerns lawmakers had raised about her nomination.

Court documents related to the guilty plea former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn entered in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation led to reports that the nominee, KT McFarland was aware of Flynn’s contacts with Russian officials during the transition — contra her testimony to Congress. McFarland served as deputy national security adviser under Flynn.

Though her nomination had previously cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in September, it has not yet to been brought up for a floor vote. Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Corker (R-TN) told CNN it will be up to the White House whether to renominate for consideration next year.

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The Special Counsel’s investigation into top White House adviser Jared Kushner’s foreign contacts is completely warranted, outgoing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Tuesday.

“He deserves the scrutiny,” Christie said of President Donald Trump’s son-in-law in an interview with MSNBC.

“Because he was involved in the transition and involved in meetings that call into question his role,” Christie said, adding that Kushner may have acted appropriately. “If he’s innocent of that, then that will come out as Mueller examines all the facts, and if he’s not, that will come out too.”

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A pair of Democratic and Republican senators who have been involved in the investigations into Russian election meddling called for the Department of Homeland Security to make election cybersecurity a “top priority,” in a letter to the newly-confirmed DHS Secretary Kristjen Nielsen.

The letter, from Sens. James Lankford (R-OK) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), comes as the two lawmakers are working on a bill to improve the lines of communications between the Department of Homeland Security, the intelligence community and state election offices so that they can work to together to prevent foreign election meddling.

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