Showing posts with label U.S. presidential election. Show all posts
Showing posts with label U.S. presidential election. Show all posts

Sunday, 21 January 2018

U.S. Political Retrospective: those first investigations into presidential candidate Donald J Trump


Sometime in September or October 2015 Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS began a broad investigation of then Republican presidential candidate nominee Donald J Trump under contact for an unspecified client and later commenced another investigation of Trump as official Republican presidential candidate for a different client in the first half of 2016.

Simpson later confirmed the clients to be in the first instance The Washington Free Beacon, a conservative website funded by a major Republican donor and in the second instance the Democratic National Committee and Clinton presidential campaign.

Excerpts from Christopher Steele’s 35-page ‘dossier’ created under contract for research company Fusion GPS:


U.S. SENATE, WASHINGTON, D.C., SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, excerpts from a partial transcipt of INTERVIEW OF: GLENN SIMPSON, 22 August 2017 (released 9 January 2018 in response to his request) , in which he explains how and where he looked for initial information about Donald Trump:

“In the early -- the very first weekend that I
started boning up on Donald Trump, you know, I
found various references to him having connections
to Italian organized crime and later to a Russian
organized crime figure named Felix Sater,
S-A-T-E-R. It wasn't hard to find, it wasn't any
great achievement, it was in the New York Times,
but as someone who has done a lot of Russian
organized crime investigations as a journalist
originally that caught my attention and became
something that, you know, I focused on while other
people looked at other things.
So from the very beginning of this organized
crime was -- Russian organized crime was a focus of
interest. I guess I should just repeat, you know,
this is a subject that I covered extensively at the
Wall Street Journal. I wrote a series of front-
page articles about various corrupt politicians
from Russia, oligarchs, and one of the things that
I wrote about was the connections between western
politicians and Russian business figures. So, you
know, I was sort of an amateur student of the
subject and I had written about some of these same
Russian crime figures, you know, years earlier in
the U.S. and various frauds and things they were
involved in……

You know, we also conducted a much broader
sort of look at his entire career and his overseas
investments in places like Europe and Latin
America. You know, it wasn't really a Russia
focused investigation for the first half of it.
That was just one component of a broader look at
his business career, his finances. We spent a lot
of time trying to figure out whether he's really as
rich as he says he is because that was the subject
of a libel case that he filed against a journalist
named Tim O'Brien for which there was quite a lot
of discovery and litigation filings detailing
O'Brien's allegation that he was worth, you know,
maybe a fifth to a third of what he claims and
Trump's angry retort that he was worth far more
than that.
So we did things like we looked at the golf
courses and whether they actually ever made any
money and how much debt they had. We looked at the
bankruptcies, how could somebody go through so many
bankruptcies, you know, and still have a billion
dollars in personal assets. So those are the kinds
of things. We looked at a lot of things like his
tax bills. Tax bills are useful because you can
figure out how much money someone is making or how
much they're worth or how much their properties are
worth based on how much they have to pay in taxes.
One of the things we found out was that, you
know, when it comes to paying taxes, Donald Trump
claims to not have much stuff. At least the Trump
organization. So they would make filings with
various state and local authorities saying that
their buildings weren't worth much……

For instance, in the early stage of an
investigation, you know, particularly of Donald
Trump you want to get every lawsuit the guy's ever
been in. So, you know, we collected lawsuits from
around the country and the world. And I do
remember one of the earlier things we did was we
collected a lot of documents from Scotland because
he'd been in a big controversy there about land
use. There had been another one in Ireland. There
was a lot of Freedom of Information Act requests
and that sort of thing.
So in the early phases of something you're
collecting lots of paper on every subject
imaginable. So in the course of reading that
litigation we would follow up on things that were
interesting, such as a libel case against a
journalist that he settled, which, in other words,
he didn't prevail in his attempts to prove that he
was a billionaire.”……

It was, broadly speaking, a kind of
holistic examination of Donald Trump's business
record and his associations, his bankruptcies, his
suppliers, you know, offshore or third-world
suppliers of products that he was selling. You
know, it evolved somewhat quickly into issues of
his relationships to organized crime figures but,
you know, really the gamut of Donald Trump.
What we generally do at the beginning of a
case if it's possible is to order all the books
about the subject from Amazon so we're not
reinventing the wheel and we know what's been
written and said before. So this was typical. We
ordered every Donald Trump book and, to my
surprise, that's a lot of books. I was never very
interested in Donald Trump. He was not a serious
political figure that I'd ever had any exposure to.
He's a New York figure really.
So anyway, we read everything we could read
about Donald Trump. Those books cover his
divorces, his casinos, his early years dealings
with labor unions and mafia figures. I'm trying to
think what else. His taxes certainly have always
been a big issue. Again, it was sort of an
unlimited look at his -- you know, his business and
finances and that sort of thing……

That calls for a somewhat long answer. We
had done an enormous amount of work on Donald Trump
generally at this point in the project and we began
to drill down on specific areas. He [Christopher Steele] was not the
only subcontractor that we engaged. Other parts of
the world required other people. For example, we
were interested in the fact that the Trump family
was selling merchandise under the Trump brand in
the United States that was made in sweat shops in
Asia and South America -- or Latin America. So we
needed someone else for that. So there were other
things. We were not totally focused on Russia at
that time, but we were at a point where we were --
you know, we'd done a lot of reading and research
and we were drilling down on specific areas.
Scotland was another one
So that's the answer. What happens when you
get to this point in an investigation when you've
gathered all of the public record information and
you've begun to exhaust your open source, you know,
resources is that you tend to find specialists who
can take you further into a subject and I had known
Chris since I left the Wall Street Journal. He was
the lead Russianist at MI6 prior to leaving the
government and an extremely well-regarded
investigator, researcher, and, as I say, we're
friends and share interest in Russian kleptocracy
and organized crime issues. I would say that's
broadly why I asked him to see what he could find
out about Donald Trump's business activities in
Russia……

I mean, one of the key lines here in the
second paragraph says "However, he and his inner
circle have accepted a regular flow of intelligence
from the Kremlin, including on his democratic and
other political rivals."
So the issue with the Trump Tower meeting, as
I understand it, is that the Trump people were
eager to accept intelligence from a foreign
government about their political rivals and that
is, you know, I would say, a form of interference.
If you're getting help from a foreign government
and your help is intelligence, then the foreign
government's interfering. I mean, you know, I
think that also -- of course, in retrospect we now
know this was pretty right on target in terms on
what it says. So anyway --
I mean, it clearly refers to, you know,
them being interested in and willing to -- it
depicts them as accepting information. What we
have seen to date with the disclosures this year is
they were at a minimum super interested in getting
Information……

We've seen hacking in politics before, but this
kind of, you know, mass theft of e-mail and then to
dump it all into, you know, the public sphere was
extraordinary and it was criminal.
So the question by now of whether this was
Russia and whether this might have something to do
with the other information that we'd received was,
you know, the immediate question, and I think this
is also -- by the time this memo was written Chris
had already met with the FBI about the first memo.
So he's -- if I can interpret a little bit here.
In his mind this is already a criminal matter,
there's already a potential national security
matter here.
I mean, this is basically about a month later
and there's a lot of events that occurred in
between. You know, after the first memo, you know,
Chris said he was very concerned about whether this
represented a national security threat and said he
wanted to -- he said he thought we were obligated
to tell someone in government, in our government
about this information. He thought from his
perspective there was an issue -- a security issue
about whether a presidential candidate was being
blackmailed. From my perspective there was a law
enforcement issue about whether there was an
illegal conspiracy to violate the campaign laws,
and then somewhere in this time the whole issue of
hacking has also surfaced.
So he proposed to -- he said we should tell
the FBI, it's a national security issue. I didn't
originally agree or disagree, I just put it off and
said I needed to think about it. Then he raised it
again with me. I don't remember the exact sequence
of these events, but my recollection is that I
questioned how we would do that because I don't
know anyone there that I could report something
like this to and be believed and I didn't really
think it was necessarily appropriate for me to do
that. In any event, he said don't worry about
that, I know the perfect person, I have a contact
there, they'll listen to me, they know who I am,
I'll take care of it. I said okay. You know, I
agreed, it's potentially a crime in progress. So,
you know, if we can do that in the most appropriate
way, I said it was okay for him to do that……

A second and complete interview transcript is available:
Trump's wild and inappropriate response to the release of Glenn Simpson interview transcript:

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Donald Trump continues to deny Trump presidential election campaign-Russia link as FBI indictments begin




US President Donald J. Trump continues to deny Trump presidential election campaign-Russia links as Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) indictments begin.

CNN, 30 October 2017:
Washington (CNN) Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former Trump campaign official Rick Gates surrendered Monday to Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller.

Gates, 45, is a longtime business associate of Manafort, 68, having worked together since the mid-2000s, and served as his deputy on the campaign. The two were indicted under seal on Friday, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said.

The indictment against the two men contains 12 counts: conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money, unregistered agent of a foreign principal, false and misleading US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) statements, false statements, and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.

Manafort arrived at the FBI's Washington field office Monday morning. The two are being processed separately, according to a law enforcement official. They will later be transported to federal district court in Washington later Monday morning.

The two are scheduled to make their initial court appearances before US District Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson at 1:30 p.m. ET Monday…..

Manafort entered the Trump campaign orbit in early 2016, when he reached out to Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner and offered to work for free, according to The New York Times.

Manafort joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 to help with delegate counting ahead of the Republican National Convention, as some Republicans hoped to use arcane delegate procedures to wrest the nomination from Trump at the convention in Cleveland.

He soon was promoted to campaign chairman, and he became the top official on the campaign after then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was fired in June 2016.

His tenure didn't last long.

The Times reported in August 2016 that Ukrainian investigators found Manafort's name in an off-the-books, handwritten ledger detailing secret payments — including $12.7 million to Manafort from Yanukovych's Party of Regions.

Manafort denied he had received any such payment and claims the ledger was forged. But just days later, he resigned from the campaign as the accusations swirling around him became a major distraction for Trump.

Copy of FBI indictment dated 27 October 2017 here.

Grand Jury Investigation, Memorandum Opinion here.

Manafort and Gates now under house arrest.

@realDonaldTrump, 30 October 2017:

Sorry, but this is years ago, before Paul Manafort was part of the Trump campaign. But why aren't Crooked Hillary & the Dems the focus?????....

....Also, there is NO COLLUSION!

On 3 October 2017 the FBI issued an indictment in United States of American v George Papadopoulos on one count of making false statements concerning his interactions with certain foreign nationals whom he understood to have close connections with Russian government officials. Papadopoulos appears to have joined the Trump campaign in March 2016.

He was part of Trump's six-man foreign policy team led by then Alabama senator and now US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions.

Copy of Papadopoulos Statement of Offence can be read here. Copy of Papadopoulos plea agreement here.

Los Angeles Times, 30 October 2017:

A former foreign policy advisor to Donald Trump's presidential campaign has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians who claimed to have “thousands of emails” on Hillary Clinton, in the latest charges filed in the investigation of the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia. 

George Papadopoulos, 30, of Chicago, has agreed to cooperate with the investigation led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, according to a plea agreement unsealed on Monday.

He pleaded guilty on Oct. 5 to making false statements to disguise his contacts with Russians whom he thought had “dirt” on Clinton, according to court papers. He was arrested in July as he got off a plane at Dulles International Airport.

After he was contacted by an unnamed Russian professor in March, Papadopoulos exchanged emails with an official in the Russian foreign ministry, court papers say. Among the topics he discussed was a possible visit by Trump to Russia.

“As mentioned we are all very excited by the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump,” one Russian emailed him.

In April, after he had become an advisor to the campaign, Papadopoulos met with the Russian professor at a London hotel. The professor said he had just returned from a trip to Moscow, where he was told “the Russians had emails of Clinton.”

Papadopolous told other leaders in the Trump campaign that he was in contact with Russians, and said there were some “interesting messages coming in from Moscow about a trip.”

An unnamed campaign official, described as a campaign “supervisor,” encouraged him to make the trip, a document reads.

BACKGROUND


ABC News, 20 July 2017:

Mr Trump Jr has been the focus of a string of revelations about a meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer in 2016, billed as a part of a Russian government effort to help the Republican's White House campaign.

Explosive emails, which Mr Trump Jr published on his own Twitter account, show that:

Donald Trump Jr (and others) knowingly had a meeting with a Kremlin-linked lawyer on June 9, 2016
The intermediary who arranged the meeting offered "information that would incriminate" Hillary Clinton and "her dealings with Russia" that would be "very useful" to the campaign
The intermediary described the information as "very high level and sensitive"
Most importantly, it was described as "part of Russia and its Government's support for Mr Trump"

The story has continued to evolve, with a former Soviet officer recently confirming he was as the meeting.

Mr Manafort and Mr Kushner were also reported to be at the meeting in question.

The Washington Post, 27 October 2017:

On Friday, Trump declared the investigations into any collusion between his campaign and the Russian government all-but-over….

“It is now commonly agreed, after many months of COSTLY looking, that there was NO collusion between Russia and Trump. Was collusion with HC!”.....

After his inauguration, the first time Trump mentioned collusion on Twitter was May 8.

“Director Clapper reiterated what everybody, including the fake media already knows,” he wrote on Twitter, referring to former national intelligence director James R. Clapper Jr., “there is ‘no evidence’ of collusion w/ Russia and Trump.”

“The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax,” he added, “when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”

At the moment Trump tweeted about how there wasn’t any collusion — the first and second times of 14 tweets in total — the investigations into collusion were limited to an FBI counterintelligence investigation and House and Senate committees digging into the matter. The next day, though, Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey, triggering the chain of events that led to the appointment of Mueller and his investigation.

When Trump was interviewed by NBC’s Lester Holt shortly after the Comey firing, he was adamant.

“I think that looking into me and, the campaign … look, I have nothing to do [with it],” he said. “This was set up by the Democrats. There is no collusion between me and my campaign and the Russians. The other thing is the Russians did not affect the vote.” He also told Holt that “when I decided to just [fire Comey], I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.’ ”

Quartz, 29 October 2017:

However, Russia’s efforts to influence the US election have been repeatedly, unequivocally confirmed on the record by all top US intelligence officials, including those appointed by Trump.

report (pdf) issued by US intelligence officials on Jan. 6 stated Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind a campaign to influence the 2016 election, “denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency,” and stated that Putin had “a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

During a public Senate Intelligence Committee hearing (pdf) this May, Virginia’s Mark Warner asked top intelligence officials if they agreed with the conclusions of this report that “Russian intelligence agencies were responsible for the hacking and leaking of information and using misinformation to influence our elections?”

Every intelligence official answered yes. Intelligence officials at the hearing included representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency, as well as Trump-appointed CIA director Mike Pompeo and Trump’s chosen director of national intelligence, Dan Coats. (See 42:30 mark on the video below, or at the 1:04 mark on the video on the Senate website).

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Study finds Trump, right-wing extremism and fake news won the media battle during the 2016 US presidential election campaign


In which Facebook Inc is identified as a major commercial player in the media landscape and a significant purveyor of fake news, as well as giving page space to highly partisan and clickbait news sites.

Excerpts from Harvard University, Berkman Klein Centre for Internet and Society, Rob Faris et al, Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, 16 August 2017:

Both winners and losers of the 2016 presidential election describe it as a political earthquake. Donald Trump was the most explicitly populist candidate in modern history. He ran an overtly anti-elite and anti-media campaign and embraced positions on trade, immigration, and international alliances, among many other topics, that were outside elite consensus. Trump expressed these positions in starkly aggressive terms. His detractors perceived Trump’s views and the manner in which he communicated them as alarming, and his supporters perceived them as refreshing and candid. He was outraised and outspent by his opponents in both the primary and the general election, and yet he prevailed—contrary to the conventional wisdom of the past several elections that winning, or at least staying close, in the money race is a precondition to winning both the nomination and the election.

In this report we explore the dynamics of the election by analyzing over two million stories related to the election, published online by approximately 70,000 media sources between May 1, 2015, and Election Day in 2016. We measure how often sources were linked to by other online sources and how often they were shared on Facebook or Twitter. Through these sharing patterns and analysis of the content of the stories, we identify both what was highly salient according to these different measures and the relationships among different media, stories, and Twitter users.

Our clearest and most significant observation is that the American political system has seen not a symmetrical polarization of the two sides of the political map, but rather the emergence of a discrete and relatively insular right-wing media ecosystem whose shape and communications practices differ sharply from the rest of the media ecosystem, ranging from the center-right to the left. Right-wing media were centered on Breitbart and Fox News, and they presented partisan-disciplined messaging, which was not the case for the traditional professional media that were the center of attention across the rest of the media sphere. The right-wing media ecosystem partly insulated its readers from nonconforming news reported elsewhere and moderated the effects of bad news for Donald Trump’s candidacy. While we observe highly partisan and clickbait news sites on both sides of the partisan divide, especially on Facebook, on the right these sites received amplification and legitimation through an attention backbone that tied the most extreme conspiracy sites like Truthfeed, Infowars, through the likes of Gateway Pundit and Conservative Treehouse, to bridging sites like Daily Caller and Breitbart that legitimated and normalized the paranoid style that came to typify the right-wing ecosystem in the 2016 election. This attention backbone relied heavily on social media.

For the past 20 years there has been substantial literature decrying the polarization of American politics. The core claim has been that the right and the left are drawing farther apart, becoming more insular, and adopting more extreme versions of their own arguments. It is well established that political elites have become polarized over the past several decades, while other research has shown that the electorate has also grown apart. Other versions of the argument have focused on the internet specifically, arguing that echo chambers or filter bubbles have caused people of like political views to read only one another and to reinforce each other’s views, leading to the adoption of more extreme views. These various arguments have focused on general features of either the communications system or political psychology—homophily, confirmation bias, in-group/out-group dynamics, and so forth. Many commentators and scholars predicted and measured roughly symmetric polarization on the two sides of the political divide.

Our observations of the 2016 election are inconsistent with a symmetric polarization hypothesis. Instead, we see a distinctly asymmetric pattern with an inflection point in the center-right—the least populated and least influential portion of the media spectrum. In effect, we have seen a radicalization of the right wing of American politics: a hollowing out of the center-right and its displacement by a new, more extreme form of right-wing politics. During this election cycle, media sources that attracted attention on the center-right, center, center-left, and left followed a more or less normal distribution of attention from the center-right to the left, when attention is measured by either links or tweets, and a somewhat more left-tilted distribution when measured by Facebook shares. By contrast, the distribution of attention on the right was skewed to the far right. The number of media outlets that appeared in the center-right was relatively small; their influence was generally low, whether measured by inlinks or social media shares; and they tended to link out to the traditional media—such as the New York Times and the Washington Post—to the same extent as did outlets in the center, center-left, and left, and significantly more than did outlets on the right. The number of farther-right media outlets is very large, and the preponderance of attention to these sources, which include Fox News and Breitbart, came from media outlets and readers within the right. This asymmetry between the left and the right appears in the link ecosystem, and is even more pronounced when measured by social media sharing…..

Our data suggest that the “fake news” framing of what happened in the 2016 campaign, which received much post-election attention, is a distraction. Moreover, it appears to reinforce and buy into a major theme of the Trump campaign: that news cannot be trusted. The wave of attention to fake news is grounded in a real phenomenon, but at least in the 2016 election it seems to have played a relatively small role in the overall scheme of things. We do indeed find stories in our data set that come from sites, like Ending the Fed, intended as political clickbait to make a profit from Facebook, often with no real interest in the political outcome…..

Our observations suggest that fixing the American public sphere may be much harder than we would like. One feature of the more widely circulated explanations of our “post-truth” moment—fake news sites seeking Facebook advertising, Russia engaging in a propaganda war, or information overload leading confused voters to fail to distinguish facts from false or misleading reporting—is that these are clearly inconsistent with democratic values, and the need for interventions to respond to them is more or less indisputable. If profit-driven fake news is the problem, solutions like urging Facebook or Google to use technical mechanisms to identify fake news sites and silence them by denying them advertising revenue or downgrading the visibility of their sites seem, on their face, not to conflict with any democratic values. Similarly, if a foreign power is seeking to influence our democratic process by propagandistic means, then having the intelligence community determine how this is being done and stop it is normatively unproblematic. If readers are simply confused, then developing tools that will feed them fact-checking metrics while they select and read stories might help. These approaches may contribute to solving the disorientation in the public sphere, but our observations suggest that they will be working on the margins of the core challenge……  

In this study, we analyze both mainstream and social media coverage of the 2016 United States presidential election. We document that the majority of mainstream media coverage was negative for both candidates, but largely followed Donald Trump’s agenda: when reporting on Hillary Clinton, coverage primarily focused on the various scandals related to the Clinton Foundation and emails. When focused on Trump, major substantive issues, primarily immigration, were prominent. Indeed, immigration emerged as a central issue in the campaign and served as a defining issue for the Trump campaign.

We find that the structure and composition of media on the right and left are quite different. The leading media on the right and left are rooted in different traditions and journalistic practices. On the conservative side, more attention was paid to pro-Trump, highly partisan media outlets. On the liberal side, by contrast, the center of gravity was made up largely of long-standing media organizations steeped in the traditions and practices of objective journalism.

Our data supports lines of research on polarization in American politics that focus on the asymmetric patterns between the left and the right, rather than studies that see polarization as a general historical phenomenon, driven by technology or other mechanisms that apply across the partisan divide.

The analysis includes the evaluation and mapping of the media landscape from several perspectives and is based on large-scale data collection of media stories published on the web and shared on Twitter……

Immigration emerged as the leading substantive issue of the campaign. Initially, the Trump campaign used a hard-line anti-immigration stance to distinguish Trump from the field of GOP contenders. Later, immigration was a wedge issue between the left and the right. Pro-Trump media sources supported this with sensationalistic, race-centric coverage of immigration focused on crime, terrorism, fear of Muslims, and disease.

While coverage of his candidacy was largely critical, Trump dominated media coverage…..

Conservative media disrupted.
Breitbart emerges as the nexus of conservative media. The Wall Street Journal is treated by social media users as centrist and less influential. The rising prominence of Breitbart along with relatively new outlets such as the Daily Caller marks a significant reshaping of the conservative media landscape over the past several years…..  

Donald Trump succeeded in shaping the election agenda. Coverage of Trump overwhelmingly outperformed coverage of Clinton. Clinton’s coverage was focused on scandals, while Trump’s coverage focused on his core issues.
Figure 1: Number of sentences by topic and candidate from May 1, 2015, to November 7, 2016

On the partisan left and right, the popularity of media sources varies significantly across the different platforms. On the left, the Huffington Post, MSNBC, and Vox are prominent on all platforms. On the right, Breitbart, Fox News, the Daily Caller, and the New York Post are popular across platforms.

Table 1: Most popular media on the right from May 1, 2015, to November 7, 2016

Table 2: Most popular media on the left from May 1, 2015, to November 7, 2016

Disinformation and propaganda are rooted in partisanship and are more prevalent on social media.

The most obvious forms of disinformation are most prevalent on social media and in the most partisan fringes of the media landscape. Greater popularity on social media than attention from media peers is a strong indicator of reporting that is partisan and, in some cases, dubious.

Among the set of top 100 media sources by inlinks or social media shares, seven sources, all from the partisan right or partisan left, receive substantially more attention on social media than links from other media outlets.


These sites do not necessarily all engage in misleading or false reporting, but they are clearly highly partisan. In this group, Gateway Pundit is in a class of its own, known for “publishing falsehoods and spreading hoaxes.”

Disproportionate popularity on Facebook is a strong indicator of highly partisan and unreliable media.

A distinct set of websites receive a disproportionate amount of attention from Facebook compared with Twitter and media inlinks. From the list of the most prominent media, 13 sites fall into this category. Many of these sites are cited by independent sources and media reporting as progenitors of inaccurate if not blatantly false reporting. Both in form and substance, the majority of these sites are aptly described as political clickbait. Again, this does not imply equivalency across these sites. Ending the Fed is often cited as the prototypical example of a media source that published false stories. The Onion is an outlier in this group, in that it is explicitly satirical and ironic, rather than, as is the case with the others, engaging in highly partisan and dubious reporting without explicit irony.


Asymmetric vulnerabilities: The right and left were subject to media manipulation in different ways.

The more insulated right-wing media ecosystem was susceptible to sustained network propaganda and disinformation, particularly misleading negative claims about Hillary Clinton. Traditional media accountability mechanisms—for example, fact-checking sites, media watchdog groups, and cross-media criticism—appear to have wielded little influence on the insular conservative media sphere. Claims aimed for “internal” consumption within the right-wing media ecosystem were more extreme, less internally coherent, and appealed more to the “paranoid style” of American politics than claims intended to affect mainstream media reporting.

The institutional commitment to impartiality of media sources at the core of attention on the left meant that hyperpartisan, unreliable sources on the left did not receive the same amplification that equivalent sites on the right did.

These same standard journalistic practices were successfully manipulated by media and activists on the right to inject anti-Clinton narratives into the mainstream media narrative. A key example is the use of the leaked Democratic National Committee’s emails and her campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails, released through Wikileaks, and the sustained series of stories written around email-based accusations of influence peddling. Another example is the book and movie release of Clinton Cash together with the sustained campaign that followed, making the Clinton Foundation the major post-convention story. By developing plausible narratives and documentation susceptible to negative coverage, parallel to the more paranoid narrative lines intended for internal consumption within the right-wing media ecosystem, and by “working the refs,” demanding mainstream coverage of anti-Clinton stories, right-wing media played a key role in setting the agenda of mainstream, center-left media. We document these dynamics in the Clinton Foundation case study section of this report.

The New York Times, 6 September 2017:

Fake Russian Facebook Accounts Bought $100,000 in Political Ads

Providing new evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election, Facebook disclosed on Wednesday that it had identified more than $100,000 worth of divisive ads on hot-button issues purchased by a shadowy Russian company linked to the Kremlin.

Most of the 3,000 ads did not refer to particular candidates but instead focused on divisive social issues such as race, gay rights, gun control and immigration, according to a post on Facebook by Alex Stamos, the company’s chief security officer. The ads, which ran between June 2015 and May 2017, were linked to some 470 fake accounts and pages the company said it had shut down.

Facebook officials said the fake accounts were created by a Russian company called the Internet Research Agency, which is known for using “troll” accounts to post on social media and comment on news websites.

The disclosure adds to the evidence of the broad scope of the Russian influence campaign, which American intelligence agencies concluded was designed to damage Hillary Clinton and boost Donald J. Trump during the election. Multiple investigations of the Russian meddling, and the possibility that the Trump campaign somehow colluded with Russia, have cast a shadow over the first eight months of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Facebook staff members on Wednesday briefed the Senate and House intelligence committees, which are investigating the Russian intervention in the American election. Mr. Stamos indicated that Facebook is also cooperating with investigators for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, writing that “we have shared our findings with U.S. authorities investigating these issues, and we will continue to work with them as necessary.”….

In its review of election-related advertising, Facebook said it had also found an additional 2,200 ads, costing $50,000, that had less certain indications of a Russian connection. Some of those ads, for instance, were purchased by Facebook accounts with internet protocol addresses that appeared to be in the United States but with the language set to Russian.