They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

For the first time, the Southern Poverty Law Center included two male supremacist groups in its annual “Year in Extremism” report, released Wednesday.

The report, which tracks groups that target specific populations based on their identities, race or religion, also found that the Trump administration has “buoyed white supremacists” by appointing far-right advisers.

Houston-based A Voice for Men and Washington, D.C.-based Return of Kings were among the 954 hate groups included in the 2017 report. The male supremacist groups believe it’s natural and desirable for men to have more power than women, and lament what they see as the oppression of men by modern society. A recent post on A Voice for Men argued that many women who experience violence at the hands of men in their lives “ask for it.”

In a call with reporters, Heidi Beirich, head of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, likened the men’s rights groups’ rhetoric about women to the way the white nationalist organization American Renaissance categorically describes the inferiority of black people.

“These men right’s groups talk in the same way about women,” Beirich said. “They demonize them as an entire population, so they use slurs like, ‘They’re whores, they’re destroying men, they’re bitches, they’re evil.’ It’s the same kind of language directed at demonizing all women and trying to make women look essentially like a lesser form of humanity.”

In recent years there has been frequent overlap between the “men’s rights” community and the broader amalgamation of racists and online trolls known as the “alt-right.”

Beirich said the SPLC has been tracking the men’s rights movement since 2012 and this year determined that these two organizations met the criteria required to be added to their annual count.

The groups make up a tiny fraction of the overall 2017 report, which found a 4 percent rise in hate groups nationwide since 2016. The biggest upticks were among black nationalist and neo-Nazi group chapters, which saw their ranks swell from 193 to 233 and 99 to 121, respectively. Separately, the SPLC identified 689 anti-government or “Patriot” groups, up from 623 in 2016.

The report found that the Trump administration has “thrilled and comforted” white supremacists by appointing advisers with ties to the “alt-right” like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, and by enacting immigration policies that target Muslims and Latinos. White supremacist websites like the Daily Stormer and Stormfront have also helped proliferate hateful ideas to thousands of predominantly young men who are not formerly affiliated with any particular hate group, per the SPLC report.

One such person was Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old who, police say, murdered 17 people at his former high school in Parkland, Florida last week. Though Cruz was not a member of any group, he was steeped in white nationalist and anti-Islam ideology, authoring dozens of hateful social media posts.

Like many of the people who commit acts of mass violence, Cruz also had a history of misogynistic behavior and violence against women. The New York Times reported he was abusive towards his ex-girlfriend and behaved threateningly towards other female students.

Gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety found that in 57 percent of mass shooting cases between 2009 and 2015, a spouse, former spouse or other family member was among the victims. Everytown’s analysis, based on FBI data, also found that 16 percent of the attackers had previously been charged with domestic violence.

Read More →

Loans amounting up to $16 million that Paul Manafort received from a bank run by a Trump campaign economic adviser are getting scrutiny from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is interested in whether Manafort promised the banker a White House job in exchange for the loans, NBC News reported Wednesday.

The banker, Steve Calk, president of Federal Savings Bank in Chicago, sat on the Trump campaign’s economic advisory council — a position that was announced in August 2016, while Manafort was chairman of the campaign. Manafort was ousted from the campaign not long after.  He and his wife went on to secure three separate loans from the bank in late 2016 and early 2017.

References to those loans have popped up in recent court filings related to the negotiations over Manafort’s bail proposal, which involves properties he had put up as collateral for the FSB loans. The filings, coupled with NBC News’ recent reporting, suggest that Mueller is digging deeper into aspects of Manafort’s personal finances—and one of his key lenders— that to this point have been peripheral to the main case.

“The government has secured substantial evidence that Manafort secured this mortgage from The Federal Savings Bank through a series of false and fraudulent representations to The Federal Savings Bank,” Mueller said in a filing last week.

NBC News, citing two sources, said that federal investigators are investigating a possible “quid pro quo” deal between Manafort and Calk, including an offer of a White House gig. Calk did not ultimately get a job in the current administration. His spokesman did not return NBC News’ inquiries, nor did the bank’s PR firm.

Three sources told NBC News that other bank employees were skeptical of the loans to Manafort, and one source revealed that investigators have gotten at least one former employee to cooperate with the probe.

The White House did not comment to NBC News on whether Manafort had sought a position in Trump’s cabinet for Calk. Manafort spokesman Jason Maloni pointed NBC News to a previous statement he gave on Manafort’s loans.

Scrutiny of the loans began last year as the various investigations into Manafort’s finances were heating up. As other outlets noted at the time, the $16 million in loans were huge for a bank of such a relatively small size. They amounted to nearly 24 percent of the bank’s reported $67 million of equity capital and 5.4 percent of the bank’s total assets.

In July, it was reported that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance had subpoenaed the bank for records related to the Manafort loans.

In late October — right after Mueller dropped an indictment charging Manafort with various financial crimes, among other things —  a local Chicago CBS affiliate reported that Calk was speaking to the FBI.

Manafort has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which also include failure to disclose foreign lobbying.

In filings with the FDIC that were posted publicly in late January, the bank reported a $12 million loss in the 4th quarter of 2017. It was not explicitly clear whether the loss was related to the loans to Manafort. The loss is listed as being off of “commercial and industrial loans.”

Meanwhile, the negotiations around Manafort’s proposed bail package have dragged on, with much of the back-and-forth taking place under seal. Some of the related filings were unsealed on Friday.

In them, Mueller argued that Manafort’s bail proposal is “deficient” due to “additional criminal conduct” prosecutors have learned of since the initial bail determination.

“That criminal conduct includes a series of bank frauds and bank fraud conspiracies, including criminal conduct relating to the mortgage on the Fairfax property, which Manafort seeks to pledge,” Mueller said, adding that Manafort secured the mortgage through a “a series of false and fraudulent representations” to Federal Savings Bank.

“For example, Manafort provided the bank with doctored profit and loss statements for DMP International LLC for both 2015 and 2016, overstating its income by millions of dollars. At the next bail hearing, we can proffer to the Court additional evidence related to this and the other bank frauds and conspiracies,” Mueller said.



Read More →

Four months after a gunman shot 480 concertgoers from the window of his 32nd-floor hotel room, President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) to do something the department has repeatedly said it can’t do on its own: Ban bump stocks.

The result could well be the kind of inaction on gun violence that we’ve grown used to.

Bump stocks are sliding shoulder stocks that use a gun’s recoil to fire the next round, effectively making a semi-automatic gun into an automatic one. The Las Vegas murderer had 12 guns modified with those devices.

Responding to demands for action after last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Trump said in a memo issued Tuesday afternoon that he was directing DOJ “to propose for notice and comment a rule banning all devices that turn legal weapons into machine-guns.”

Of course, doing so would have done nothing to stop the Parkland shooter, who didn’t need bump stocks to kill 17 people, including a dozen children, in minutes. But leave aside the obvious inadequacy of the step as a response to gun violence. We’ve been here before.

After the Las Vegas shooting, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation to ban bump stocks. The NRA opposed it, but said separately that ATF, an agency of DOJ, should review whether bump stocks require regulation under existing law.

“The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations,” the group said in a statement.

The Justice Department said at that time that it was reviewing whether it had the necessary authority to regulate bump stocks. But ATF has said repeatedly in the past, and said again in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, that it doesn’t have the authority required.

In a 2013 letter to Congress, the agency wrote that “stocks of this type are not subject to the provisions of federal firearms statutes.” The letter details the logistical problems with applying the law to bump-fire stocks, which seem expressly designed to skirt prohibitions on machine guns.

Feinstein cited that letter in a statement released Tuesday in which she declared: “Legislation is the only answer.”

The ATF doesn’t appear to have changed its mind since sending the letter. Its director, Thomas E. Brandon, made the same point in a December hearing.

“ATF’s authority to regulate firearms is of course limited by the terms of [firearms laws from 1934 and 1968], and they do not empower ATF to regulate parts or accessories designed to be used with firearms,” Brandon said, according to a report on the hearing from the Washington Post.

Brandon reportedly said the same thing at a meeting of police chiefs in Philadelphia in October.

It all suggests that any move by the administration to regulate bump stocks would be anything but straightforward, if it happens at all. Regulating bump stocks, which are designed to skirt laws banning machine guns, seems like a cursory step — certainly an uncontroversial one, given the breadth of popular support for stricter gun laws. But even that may be beyond Washington’s abilities.

Read More →

On a sunny afternoon last Wednesday, Nikolas Cruz entered the campus of his former high school in Parkland, Florida and unleashed a fusillade of bullets, slaughtering three adults and fourteen teenagers.

In the days since, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have made their heartbreak public. They’ve gone on camera to call for renewed efforts to reduce gun violence, and they’ve harshly criticized the National Rifle Association, President Donald Trump and Congress for blocking gun control legislation. They’ve also organized the March for Our Lives, a mass rally in Washington, D.C. slated to take place next month.

The grieving teenagers have received widespread praise for their impassioned response to the loss of their peers. But they’ve also become a target of conspiracy theorists on the far right.

Fringe sites like InfoWars and Gateway Pundit have suggested that the student organizers are fronts for left-wing anti-gun interests, working in collaboration with the mainstream media to undermine Trump. Some of their claims have been endorsed and boosted by higher profile figures like Donald Trump Jr., Bill O’Reilly, and a former Republican congressman.

Survivors of past mass shootings have been smeared as crisis actors or media-trained plants. But this is likely the first time allies of the White House are helping with the smearing — and that the targets are publicly pushing back.

Most of the attacks have focused on senior David Hogg, a student journalist who recorded interviews with his classmates while the shooting was still underway and they were hiding huddled in a closet. As Hogg later told the press, his father is a retired FBI agent who taught him about weapons — helping him recognize in the moment that the sounds of gunfire he’d heard were real.

This link to the FBI was catnip for those who have pointed to the investigation into Russian election meddling to claim that the bureau is a hotbed of anti-Trump sentiment. After the FBI acknowledged Friday that it had failed to investigate a detailed tip about Cruz’s pledge to become a school shooter, supporters of the administration — and Trump himself — said the bureau of 35,000 employees was too distracted by the Russia probe to do its job properly.

In a Monday post that spread like wildfire on social media, far-right site Gateway Pundit alleged that Hogg was “coached on anti-Trump lies” and a “pawn for anti-Trump rhetoric and anti-gun legislation.” A photo above the post shows the word “exposed” and an FBI badge superimposed over the 17-year-old’s face.

The site True Pundit attacked Hogg for “running his mouth” about Trump and blamed him for not informing his father of the threat Cruz posed.

On Twitter, Trump Jr. liked that story, which was headlined “Outspoken Trump-Hating School Shooting Survivor is Son Of FBI Agent; MSM Helps Prop Up Incompetent Bureau.”

Trump’s eldest son also lent his approval to a since-deleted error-filled post shared by conservative One America News Network suggesting that the student was “running cover for his dad.”

Three posts liked by Trump Jr. on Tuesday

An aide to Florida State Rep. Shawn Harrison, a Republican, on Tuesday emailed a Florida reporter claiming that Hogg and another student who had recently been interviewed on CNN were plants.

“Both kids in the picture are not students here but actors that travel to various crisis (sic) when they happen,” wrote the aide, Benjamin Kelly.

Harrison soon after called the tweet “inappropriate.”

Other conspiracy-based articles have suggested that Hogg was being fed lines, pointing to the ear piece he was wearing during a remote TV interview; that Hogg’s appearance last August in a local CBS News segment in Los Angeles as an eyewitness to an altercation on a beach “raised questions” about his re-emergence in the news now; and that his mother, Rebecca Boldrick, is an “anti-Trump activist” because she shared posts critical of the president on social media.

The attacks have come in broader strokes, too. Critics of the student activists speculated that they could not, in the days since the Parkland shooting, have independently organized plans for the national rally against gun violence on March 24.

“O really? ‘Students’ are planning a nationwide rally?,”Jack Kingston, a former Republican congressman from Georgia, tweeted Sunday. “Not left wing gun control activists using 17yr kids in the wake of a horrible tragedy? #Soros #Resistance #Antifa #DNC”

Kingston went further in a Tuesday appearance on CNN, insisting that the teenagers “probably do not have the logistical ability to plan a nationwide rally” and that George Soros or others promoting a “pre-existing anti-gun agenda” were leading the way.

“They have the money for the bus, and they’re ready to go,” Kingston said sarcastically of the students, who traveled to the state legislature in Tallahassee on Tuesday to meet with lawmakers. “I mean I just have a hard time believing it.”

Former Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly weighed in to say that Kingston’s claims that the students were “being used by leftist people in the gun control debate” were “most likely true.”

Of course, groups like Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America have offered vocal support for the Parkland survivors and used the tragedy to highlight the need to reduce gun violence, as they do with every mass shooting. Celebrity giants like George and Amal Clooney have donated $500,000 to help pay for the march, praising the students’ inspirational “courage and eloquence.”

But O’Reilly, along with other right-wing figures like The Resurgent’s Erick Erickson, have found a subtler way to undermine the students. They’ve argued that the news media is taking advantage of children still vulnerable from a tragedy who might not fully understand the stances they’re taking.

“The national press believes it is their job to destroy the Trump administration by any means necessary,” O’Reilly wrote on his website. “So if the media has to use kids to do that, they’ll use kids.’

Erickson’s post made a similar point: the survivors of the shooting haven’t “had time to mourn” and were not yet ready to share their stories on national television.

The March For Our Lives organizers did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment. But some students, like senior Sofie Whitney, have responded to the attacks.

“I think they’re really insensitive for saying those things,” Whitney told CNN’s Jake Tapper during a Tuesday interview. “The fact that someone is against us when we just lost people we used to see every day — I can’t fathom how someone can have a mindset like that.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) offered support in a tweet, chastising the “disgusting group of idiots with no sense of decency” who are claiming “some of the students on tv after #Parkland are actors.”

And in interviews and on their own social media accounts, Stoneman Douglas’ students have made it clear that they are speaking for themselves.

“Us 17yrs really are planning a nationwide rally! It’s crazy what determination, and a strong work ethic can lead to!” Sarah Chadwick, a 16-year-old at the school tweeted in response to Kingston. “But I mean you have neither of those things so I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”

This post has been updated.

Read More →

A former lawyer for a major U.S. law firm pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Washington D.C., to lying to federal authorities in a case that is part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s wide-ranging Russia probe.

The guilty plea by Alex van der Zwaan, who worked at the firm Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLC until he was terminated in November, came as part of a plea agreement between Mueller’s team. The case is being overseen by U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is also overseeing Mueller’s cases against former Trump campaign aides Paul Manafort and Rick Gates.

Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman, and Gates, his deputy who also worked for the campaign, pleaded not guilty last October to charges brought by Mueller related to their work in Ukraine for a pro-Russian political party. Skadden was recruited by Manafort to write a 2012 report justifying the Ukrainian government’s prosecution and conviction of Yulia Tymoshenko, a political rival of Viktor Yanukovych, whom Manafort was advising.

Van der Zwaan pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his communications with Rick Gates and an unidentified third person known as “person A”.

Van der Zwaan was questioned by investigators on Nov. 3, 2017, about conversations he had with Gates and a “Person A” in the fall of 2016.

At Tuesday’s plea hearing, Andrew Weissmann, a prosecutor on Mueller’s team, broadly described van der Zwaan’s communications with Gates and “Person A,” as well as what he told federal investigators about those communications last year.

“Person A” was described by Weissmann as someone who spoke Russian and who was located in Ukraine. Gates, “Person A” and van der Zwaan worked together on the rollout of the 2012 Tymoshenko report, Weissmann said.

FBI agents and prosecutors interviewed van der Zwaan under oath at the special counsel’s office in November, as part of Mueller’s investigation into Manafort and Gates’ alleged Foreign Agents Registration Act violations.   Van der Zwaan told them that the most recent communication he had with Gates was an “innocuous” conversation in August 2016 and that he hadn’t communicated with “Person A” since 2014, when in fact, according to Weissmann he spoke to them both in September 2016.

A statement of offense that was released to the public after the hearing said that Gates called van der Zwaan in September 2016 to tell him to contact “Person A.” Gates also sent the lawyer documents that included a “preliminary criminal complaint in Ukraine,” using the encryption service Viber, according to the court filing. Van der Zwaan called “Person A” to discuss in Russian the potential for charges to be brought against Skadden and Manafort — a call that the lawyer recorded, according to the court filing. He then called a senior partner who worked on the 2012 report — a call he “partially recorded,” according to the filings — and also called Gates. Van der Zwaan recorded the Gates call and took notes on all of the calls, according to the statement of offense.

During his November 2016 interview, Van der Zwaan was also asked about an email “Person A” sent him in Russian, that, according to Weissmann, was not handed over to his law firm to produce for Mueller’s team. Van der Zwaan told investigators he did not know why that email wasn’t produced and that he didn’t respond to it, according to Weissmman. Van der Zwaan “knew full well” that he had not produced it and that he destroyed that and other emails, Weissmann said.

Van der Zwaan is 33 years old and the son-in-law of Ukrainian-Russian billionaire German Khan. Born in Brussels, he obtained a law degree in Britain and is now a Dutch citizen.

As part of the plea hearing, van der Zwaan indicated that he and Mueller had come to an agreement on recommending that he face zero to six months of jail time, and a fine between $500-$9,500 as part of his plea. Judge Amy Berman Jackson reminded him that there’s no guarantee that that will be his ultimate sentence.

It was also revealed during the hearing the van der Zwaan’s wife was dealing with a difficult pregnancy, with his attorneys asking that they expedite his sentencing hearing. Jackson set the sentencing hearing for the morning of April 3. In the meantime, his travel is restricted to the Washington, D.C.-area and to Manhattan, where his lawyers are located. His passport has been handed over to the FBI, and he will need to get court approval for any other travel within the continental United States.


Read More →

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) has added a new lawyer to his defense team amid an expanding criminal probe, KMOV reported Monday.

The addition of former circuit judge Jack Garvey comes after reports that St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has convened a grand jury. Garvey’s hiring is a possible sign that Greitens is preparing for a drawn-out investigation.

Gardner launched the probe last month after allegations emerged that Greitens blackmailed a woman with whom he carried out an extramarital affair. TPM reported that the woman also alleged Greitens slapped her.

Last week, two investigators with Gardner’s office reportedly questioned lawmakers at the Capitol. One said the investigators had asked about Greitens’ use of so-called “dark money” organizations that don’t disclose their donors, suggesting the probe may have expanded beyond its original focus.

Greitens, who was elected in 2016, has admitted to carrying out the 2015 relationship with the woman, whose name has not been made public. He has denied the blackmail and slapping allegations.

House Speaker Todd Richardson, House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty, Republican State Rep. Nate Walker, and Democratic State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal are among those who have said they’ve been contacted by investigators.

Read More →

Updated at 1:27 p.m. ET

In a surprise development, a lawyer who worked at the firm that produced a report for Paul Manafort’s Ukrainian lobbying campaign has been charged with lying to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team. The charges were revealed in court documents filed on Friday that became public on Tuesday.

The lawyer, Alex Van Der Zwaan “willfully and knowingly” made “materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations” to the investigators about his conversations with Manafort deputy Rick Gates and an unnamed third person, prosecutors alleged in the new court filings.

A plea agreement hearing is schedule for 2:30 p.m. ET in federal court in Washington, D.C., where Van Der Zwaan is expected to plead guilty.

Zwaan —who according to the Kyiv Post is based in London and is the son-in-law of Russian oligarch German Khan — spoke to investigators on Nov. 3, just a few days after Mueller’s indictments against Manafort and Gates became public, the court documents said. Before Tuesday’s revelation, Zwaan’s name has come up only peripherally in connection with the Manafort-Gates case.

Gates and Manafort have both been charged by Mueller for failure to disclose the Ukrainian lobbying work, among other things. They have both pleaded not guilty.

Zwaan’s firm’s Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLC was behind a 2012 report that sought to justify the Ukrainian government’s prosecution and conviction of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister of Ukraine. Manafort, who went on to serve as President Trump’s campaign chairman, recruited the firm to produce the report while he was advising Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian Ukrainian politician.

It was reported in September that Mueller was interested in Skadden’s involvement in the report. “The firm terminated its employment of Alex van der Zwaan in 2017 and has been cooperating with authorities in connection with this matter,” Skadden said in a statement released Tuesday.

Zwaan allegedly told investigators he last spoke to Gates in August 2016, when he in fact spoke to Gates a month later, prosecutors said in the filings. The September conversations also involved a person dubbed by Mueller as “Person A,” according to the court documents. Zwaan “surreptitiously recorded” the phone calls, the prosecutors alleged.

Zwaan allegedly also misled investigators about a September 2016 email between him and “Person A,” according to the court documents. He allegedly told investigators he did not know why the email was not produced for Mueller’s team, the court document said. Prosecutors alleged that Zwaan deleted and otherwise did not produce that and other emails.

Read the filing below:

Read More →

The Executive Director of the Maine Republican Party has admitted he created, runs and writes articles for a pro-Republican anonymous website that has come under fire from state Democrats.

Attorneys for Jason Savage wrote to the Maine Commission of Governmental Ethics to say he operates the Maine Examiner “on his own free time and does not utilize Maine Republican Party resources,” Maine News Center reported Friday.

The letter asserted that the website was a proper news site and not subject to state campaign finance disclosure laws, as state Democrats have alleged. Last month, the Democrats filed a complaint with the ethics commission saying the site slandered their unsuccessful mayoral candidate without disclosing its ties to the Republican Party.

The commission will meet Thursday and decide whether to open a formal investigation into the allegations.

The site describes itself as run by “a small group of Mainers who simply publish Maine news, trends, and interesting pieces about you, the people of Maine.” Metadata directly linked Savage to the site.

As TPM previously reported, a number of political entities, such as the reelection campaign for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), have started websites that resemble local news sites, sometimes without disclosing who they are. Government transparency experts say they can easily mislead readers who are unaware who is funding or promoting the stories being put in front of them.

Read More →

For a year and half, President Donald Trump and his supporters have dismissed the growing evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election as a hoax. But Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russian nationals Friday suggests it’s all too real.

Trump has maintained that Democrats, pained by their surprise electoral loss, invented the notion that Russian operatives spread propaganda on social media and leaked emails stolen from top Democratic operatives. Pinpointing the bad actor behind the attacks was simply not possible, Trump insisted. He has said he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials that Russia played any role.

Trump was wrong, according to U.S. prosecutors. Mueller’s indictment lays out in precise detail how, prosecutors believe, Russia’s Internet Research Agency carried out a multi-year, multi-million-dollar project to impersonate U.S. citizens on social media, hold on-the-ground protests in states like Florida, and even further bogus claims that Democrats committed voter fraud. The 37-page document is backed up with dates, names, bank account numbers, and the text of specific ads that the Russians paid to promote.

It provides conclusive public evidence that Russians were behind the mass interference campaign in the 2016 election, as the U.S. intelligence community concluded back in their January 2017 report.

As both documents make clear, Russia’s intention was both to undermine trust in the U.S. political system and, at least from mid 2016 on, to get Trump into the Oval Office. The indictment also says Russia sought to help Trump in the Republican primary.

Trump was suspicious of this notion from the get-go. During the campaign, he alternately suggested that the Democratic National Committee’s servers were hacked by its own staff (June 2016), China or “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds” or nobody at all.

After Trump won the election, his official line was that federal and congressional investigations into Russia’s interference were based on “Fake News Media” stories, “sleazebag political operatives,” and a “phony Democrat excuse for losing the election.”

Trump continued to press for a closer relationship with Russia, even tweeting in July 2017 that he had spoken to Putin at the G20 Summit about “forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, [and] many other negative things, will be guarded and safe.”

The President quickly backed down in the face of widespread outrage. But he continued to tell the media he believed Putin was “sincere” when he told him in their face-to-face meetings that Russia did not intervene.

Proof of Russia’s social media influence campaigns surfaced by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees did not change his mind.

“The Russia hoax continues, now it’s ads on Facebook,” Trump tweeted in September 2017. “What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?”

Mueller’s indictment notes that Internet Research Agency operatives began purchasing ads on social media sites to promote their bogus activist groups in 2015, spending thousands of U.S. dollars per month on the effort.

The ads were real. The fake social media accounts existed (and Trump himself even interacted with one of them). The DNC emails were hacked and leaked. And we now have hard evidence that Russia funded and orchestrated the whole elaborate effort.

Read More →

The Kremlin operation that interfered in the 2016 campaign stoked fears of voter fraud in advance of election day, purchasing ads on Facebook and using the #VoterFraud hashtag on Twitter, according to an indictment of 13 Russian nationals filed by Robert Mueller’s probe on Friday.

Separately, the Russians spread social media messages that aimed to discourage blacks from voting, the indictment says.

One Facebook account, called Stop A.I., alleged in August that “Hillary Clinton has already committed voter fraud during the Democrat Iowa Caucust,” according to the indictment.

A week later, the group used its @TEN_GOP twitter account to report fictitious accusations of voter fraud being investigated in North Carolina.

A week before the election, the group used the #VoterFraud hashtag to push a similar lie, this time involving “tens of thousands of ineligible mail in [sic] Hillary votes being reported in Broward County, Florida.”

Trump, too, made numerous false claims about Democratic voter fraud in the run-up to the 2016 election.

The indictment also says that late in 2016, the Russians “began to encourage U.S, minority groups not to vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election or to vote for third-party U.S. presidential candidate.”

“We cannot resort to the lesser of two evils,” one Russian-controlled Instagram account said, referring to Clinton as “Killary.”

“Choose peace and vote for Jill Stein,” said another Russian-backed Instagram post.

Responding to the indictment, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said in a statement: “Of particular concern, the indictments show how the Russians tried to suppress the votes of minorities across the United States in order to help Donald Trump win the presidency.”

Read More →