How Putin Took Part in US Elections
Indictment of US court against 13 people and 3 Russian companies describes in detail, which methods were used in 2016 to influence the elections to Trump’s benefit. Court rulings against Russians and Russian companies which were published by Special Counsel Robert Mueller confirm: Russia meddled with presidential elections in USA. According to the report of US Grad Jury, a strategic goal of Russians were to “seed discord” and to “influence the presidential elections of 2016”. Aside from the consiparicy against the state, the unlawful methods stretched from out-of-order obtaining of visas to opening the bank accounts under the fake name and identity theft, and also a fake IDs production.
And the Internet Research Agency Again
Let us remind that the “Internet Research Agency” (IRA), sometimes called “troll factory”, was created in July of 2013 by Yevgeny Prigozhin, one from the Putin’s inner circle, often called “Putin’s cook”. His company “Concord Catering” was named “the main source of financing” of IRA through the 14 branches. It was IRA which carried out the information war against USA, creating the fake accounts of fictional people in social networks, spreading the fake news and disinformation, and promoting the ideas which would support Donald Trump and criticize Hillary Clinton. “He is not afraid of dirty work”, said Lyubov Sobol from the “Anti-Corruption Foundation” about Prigozhin, “and he can carry out any tasks for Putin, from fighting the opposition to sending mercenries to Syria”. USA imposed sanctions against Prigozhin back in December of 2016 — United States Department of the Treasury claimed that Prigozhin provided the extensive support of high profile Russian bureaucrats, including constructing of military base next to Ukrainian border, which was later used for deployment of Russian limitary troops.
The main task of IRA was to flood the networks with posts and commentaries, which would create the image of Putin’s Russia as of stable and comfortable country, comparing to filled with chaos, morally degraded West. Soon “trolls” started foreign operations against the opponents of Russia, such as Ukraine and USA.
Krylova and Bogachova Start to Act
At June 4th 2014 Aleksandra Krylova and Anna Bogachova from the “Internet Research Agency” (IRA) came to USA posing as tourists. In truth they came with the Reconnaissance mission to study the operative situation and gather information. On the stage of preparation the team bought cameras in USA, phone SIM cards, disposable cellular phones, and also a file space on the local information servers to set up the virtual private networks (VPN). In addition a hundreds of e-mails were created, accounts in Twitter, and dozens of Facebook pages by the names of fictitious American citizens. In American team of IRA were: Mikhail Bystrov, who was a head of legal department of IRA, Mikhail Burchik (an executive director of IRA), Jeyhun Aslanov (a head of US department of IRA). The initial goal of IRA in US was not an election of Trump, but the incitement of tensions on sensitive topics, such as racism, religion, abortions, weapons.
But when Kremlin made its bets on Trump, in 2016 already the instructions for IRA for its “administartors of content” stated “to use all the opportunities for criticizing of Hillary and others (except of Sanders and Trump, we support them).”
The main efforts were directed onto social networks groups supporting Trump. In comments sections Russians tried to incite the tension and strife in the society, mentioning the issues with colored people, Islam, etc.; organized meetings against Trump, actively spoke out against Hillary. 90 people from IRA in St. Petersburg created groups with thousands and thousands of likes. Facebook registered 80 000 posts which has IRA fingerprints, which might have reached 126 million American electors. Twitter informed 677 thousands users that they might have been exposed to propagandist messages.
How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped to Elect Trump
Publishing the content in the Internet (first through Guccifer 2 and DCLeaks, later through the WikiLeaks) which was acquired by Russian agents through the hacking, turned journalists and media into a tool for Russian intelligence.
Thus, with a help of Western journalists, Russians infused the informational space with a fake news directed against Hillary Clinton, published the fragments of Clinton’s speeches which were said behind closed doors, and also lowered the influence of negative information connected to Russia, which have put Republicans to the disadvantage. The verdicts of Special Counsel Robert Mueller confirmed that WikiLeaks was choosing the time for publishing of content acquired by hackers from Democratic National Committee of Democratic Party in a manner which would ruin the efforts of Clinton to secure the support of Sanders electors — her opponent on primaries.
The efforts of hackers helped Trump to secure three crucial messages in the minds of Americans: Democrats are falsifying elections, large media should not be trusted because of their alliance with Clinton, and the campaign office for Clinton has some doubts itself, whether she is good enough to be a President. The surveys conducted by Annenberg School for Communication claim that from October 3rd to 20th of 2016 the number of people who considered Clinton qualified enough for Presidential post decreased significantly.
Ex-FBI agent Clint Watts in his recently published book “Messing with the Enemy”) writes, that Russia definitely influenced the presidential elections in USA, especially in Michigan and Wisconsin, and that without Russian efforts on influencing, in the election day Trump would be way behind Clinton.
The Senate committee directed by Republicans supported the conclusion of American intelligence that Moscow tried to provide support to presidential campaign of Donald Trump in 2016 through the cyber-attacks and spreading of disinformation.
The paper of United States House of Representatives committee on intelligence published earlier this year claims that Russian not only aimed for increasing the chances of Trump winning the elections, but also to undermine the very idea of free and honest elections, and to spread the “chaos and discontent” in USA.
As intelligence stated, when Putin gave his orders to start the campaign to influence the outcome of 2016 elections, he tried to help Trump to win and to slander Hillary Clinton, while pursuing the more far-reaching goals on the undermining of Western liberalism.
Facebook company assumes that Russia spent 100 000 USD on advertisements in the social networks to influence the internal affairs of USA.
As written in company blog, this was established while investigating the Russian interference with US presidential elections. All in all, over 470 accounts were identified, which posted over 3000 advertisements in a period from June 2015 to May 2017. Most advertisements did not mention elections or candidates directly, but their content was aimed on reinforcing the division on such questions as relations between different ethnic groups, migration, and the right to bear arms. About one fourth of total number of advertisement were spread only in particular regions.
The Mysterious Begemot
In February of 2015 in Washington the consulting firm “Begemot Ventures International” was registered. As all other firms in US capital, it provided its services to people interested in politics. But, as opposed to other companies, Begemot’s management was connected not only to Russian company, but also with a questionable analytical company which later would help the election of Donald Trump. In the same building, where this company still located in, also is located the office of Sam Patten, a Republican lobbyist and consultant on foreign policies, which earlier helped the “Cambridge Analytica” company to master the operation of micro-addressing during the interim electoral cycle of 2014. And they are not simply located next to each other: Patten is one of two CEOs of Begemot. The second CEO of Begemot is Konstantin Kilimnik, which is currently under the federal investigation regarding the Russian government interference with presidential elections of 2016. In the recent document provided to court by Mueller, it is stated that Kilimnik had connections with Russian intelligence service since 2016.
Kilimnik and Paul Manafort, the former campaign chairman for Trump, are connected professionally for many years, since they worked together in the International Republican Institute, a foreign policy organization, connected to Republican Party. Kilimnik often was serving as a middle man between Manafort and Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who Manafort was informing privately of the presidential election campaign of 2016.
The similar connections continued through the elections, and thanks to cooperation between Kilimnik and Manafort, this is the closest of known links between the Tramp campign office and Kremlin agents.
The indictment of Special Counsel on Russian interference brings new details, which show that secret operation of the “informational war” was directed, first and above all, on the prevention of Hillary Clinton being elected.
Russians, with two organizations which financed them, and with a group of Internet trolls named “Internet Research Agency” are accused of the conspiracy, the attempts of undermining the American political system, including the presidential elections of 2016. Coordinated efforts which used American social networks and media for planting the political influence is known under the name “Project Lakhta”. The indictment states that the operation of spreading the influence to the benefit of Trump was conducted by the order of Russian president Vladimir Putin. The report of intelligence services states that the Moscow infiltration into the computers of Democratic Party National Committee, and of John Podesta (Clinton’s campaign chairman), and of other politics were a part of the plan of influencing through the use of cyber technologies.
YouTube Starts on the Service of Kremlin
YouTube stars Williams and Calvin Johnson, two black bloggers, were a members of Russia-supported large scale campaign for defamation of Hillary Clinton, and, if possible, on helping Trump during elections. In 2016 they attacked Clinton with criticism, promising to spread “the words of truth” to the black audience of USA. They called Clinton “the old racist bitch”, “the witch” and the “ill in the head”. It is established now that Johnsons are from Nigeria, and they were not the only ones Nigerians, which were contacted by Russians, perhaps in search of black “faces” to influence the American political arena. In October 2016 two people who called themselves to be independent political and social journalists, which were making programs for “Russia Today”, met three Nigerian students from Moscow colleges, to discuss Hillary Clinton and the USA presidential elections. The unofficial meeting was held in a restaurant on the open air in Tverskoy district of Russian capital , where black students often gather, especially those from Nigeria. Both men introduced themselves to be Sergey and Aleksandr, and said that they write for a numnber of Russian media. Journalists discussed students’ interest to Russia, the world politics, and then switched to questions regarding US politics and the candidates on presidential elections. Sergey asked students whom they favor amidst candidates. Everyone chose Clinton, and that’s when journalists said they are surprised by the choice of Clinton, as according to their information she is not popular amidst Nigerians. Russians tried to convince students that most of Nigerians do not like Clinton, and to make students believe this, Aleksander got his smartphone and showed the video with Williams and Calvin. But nothing said by Williams and Calvin on the video did not impressed Nigerians. The meeting was over then, but before leaving journalists mentioned that they plan to create a platform where they could voice their opinion on US presidential elections through the video messages. Students haven’t seen them since.
IF Not For Putin, Would Trump Win?
Ex-candidate for President of USA Hillary Clinton claimed: Russian interference in 2016 elections had a scale so large that can be compared to “cybernetic 9/11”. Russian intelligence not only cared for publishing the Internet messaging between Clinton’s campaign headquarters and arranged the numerous meetings between Trump campaign members and representatives of Moscow — there are more examples. For example, Russians invested at least 152 000 USD into spreading the biased advertisements in Facebook, which “either directly promoted Trump or defamed Hillary Clinton, or was intended to increasing the division of American society. 100 000 USD was coming from St. Petersburg company Internet Research Agency.” The Facebook estimates state that advertisements like this were viewed by approx. 10 million users from USA. Twitter identified 201 accounts as being connected to Facebook accounts which published the mentioned propagandist advertisements. Google also acknowledged that Russians paid dozens of thousands dollars for election advertisements. Gmail and YouTube were also a part of campaign. Facebook identified advertisements and promotions purchased for 100 000 USD from “accounts connected to Russia”. Clinton repeated her statements that on the eve of US elections of 2016 Julian Assangeconspired with Russian government. Clinton also claimed that harmful “leakings” of e-mails which harmed her candidature in 2016 were a part of coordinated operation against her, under the direction of Russian government.
In the same time, only 13 000 USD were spent the advertisements shown in the “wavering states” in 2016 before elections. Considering the budget of Clinton’s election campaign (1.4 billion dollars) and Trump’s (approx. 1 billion dollars), this sum is too negligible to influence the outcome of US President elections by large. According the experts evaluations, even if Russians spent 100 000 USD for advertisements, that would lower the Hillary Clinton’s financial advantages by only 0.025%. To deliver the substantial messages to the wavering part of electorate, one would need to spend dozens of millions dollars. By the assessment of USA intelligence experts, Russia was merely probing the election systems for vulberabilitiesm and tried to influence them.
But Clinton thinks that her experience helped other countries to understand the scale of Russian cyber threats, and to protect their own elections from the potential influences.