Rachel Maddow took on Russia’s military-intelligence tactics (maskirovka) on Friday (Sept. 8), providing a helpful timeline of the Russia-Trump investigation. I used her timeline plus the Moyers and Company timeline and tracked down primary sources to help me think through the progression of these investigations into US political corruption and collusion with a foreign power.
As of this week, we finally have confirmation that Facebook was used as the tool (willingly or unwillingly) to run a psy-ops campaign on targeted U.S. voters to influence the election.
Some key questions are: Were there American confederates involved in collusion and who violated the Federal Elections Campaign Act by using foreign money to influence a US political election?
It’s hard to care about this stuff that is confusing and appears to be primarily the one0percenters playing one-percenter games, but government corruption on this scale mostly hurts the “little guy,” those who are most vulnerable and who only have the tools of democracy to use as leverage in the playground of the gods. It’s an imperfect system, but it is one of the best tools for nonviolent transfer of power that we’ve got.
For the longterm health of our nation, it’s important that our judicial and legislative branches be strong enough to resist this kind of inside-outside political takeover.–Rose Berger
So here’s my timeline:
- September 2015 –
FBI began investigating cyber breaches targeting US political organizations, including the Democratic National Committee.
- April 2016 –
The Democratic National Committee’s IT department notices suspicious computer activity, contacts the FBI and hires a private security firm, CrowdStrike, to investigate.
- May 2016 –
“In May 2016, a Russian military intelligence officer bragged to a colleague that his organization, known as the GRU, was getting ready to pay Clinton back for what President Vladimir Putin believed was an influence operation she had run against him five years earlier as Secretary of State. The GRU, he said, was going to cause chaos in the upcoming U.S. election. … The intelligence officials have found that Moscow’s agents bought ads on Facebook to target specific populations with propaganda. … Facebook official stays the company has no evidence of that occurring.“—Massimo Calabrese (Time), see more.
- June 2017 –
Key Trump campaign officials meet with Russian intelligence liaison on Clinton opposition research.
Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Department of Homeland Security’s acting director of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis Cyber Division says that individuals connected to the Russian government tried to hack election-related computer systems in 21 states.
And New York Times reports that one person at that meeting was Rinat Akhmetshin, with Russian intelligence background, “a gregarious, fast-talking man with a sharp sense of humor, was a skilled practitioner in the muscular Russian version of what in American politics is known as opposition research. From his base in Washington, Mr. Akhmetshin has been hired by an ever-changing roster of clients, often Russians, to burnish their image and blacken those of their rivals. Some clients were close to the Kremlin. Others were its bitter foes.”
- July 2016 –
Comey closes Clinton investigation and Democratic Party servers are hacked and emails released (DCLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 release documents stolen from Democratic Party)
FBI Director James Comey holds a press conference announcing that the bureau has closed its yearlong investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
“We assess with high confidence that the GRU used the Guccifer 2.0 persona, DCLeaks.com, and WikiLeaks to release US victim data obtained in cyber operations publicly and in exclusives to media outlet.”… We assess with high confidence that the GRU relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks.”—National Intelligence Agency report
“Investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation overseen by Jared Kushner helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016. Congressional and Justice Department investigators are focusing on whether Trump’s campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states – areas where Trump’s digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton, according to several people familiar with the parallel inquiries. … Mike Carpenter, who in January left a senior Pentagon post where he worked on Russia matters, also has suspicions about collaboration between the campaign and Russia’s cyber operatives. There appears to have been significant cooperation between Russia’s online propaganda machine and individuals in the United States who were knowledgeable about where to target the disinformation,” he said, without naming any American suspects.” —Peter Stone and Greg Gordon (McClatchy)
“When reached for comment, Facebook said that it has found no evidence of Russian entities buying ads during the election”—Tom LoBianco (CNN)
The FBI opens an investigation into possible collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.
- August-September-October 2016 lead up to Election Day
In a joint statement, the Department of Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence say, “The US Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations…
“Russia’s state-run propaganda machine—comprised of its domestic media apparatus, outlets targeting global audiences such as RT and Sputnik, and a network of quasi-government trolls—contribute to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging.”—National Intelligence Agency report
Prior to the election, Russian hackers had targeted election systems in at least 21 states. Among the victims was VR Systems, an outside vendor that operates voting systems in North Carolina and seven other states.
Hillary Clinton loses White House, though wins popular vote
January 2017 –
Donald Trump sworn in as 45th president of U.S.
The CIA, FBI and NSA release their unclassified report, concluding unanimously, “Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election.” The three intelligence agencies agree that “the Russian government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller assumes control over a federal grand jury criminal investigation of Mike Flynn’s ties to Turkey, as well as the criminal investigation involving Paul Manafort.
Facebook Says Russian Accounts Bought $100,000 in Ads During the 2016 Election by Alana Abrasion (Time)
Facebook says it sold political ads to Russian company during the 2016 election …”A Facebook official said, ’There is evidence that some of the accounts are linked to a troll farm in St. Petersburg, referred to as the Internet Research Agency.’… (Washington Post)
“Russia used trolls as well as RT as part of its influence efforts to denigrate Secretary Clinton. This effort amplified stories on scandals about Secretary Clinton and the role of WikiLeaks in the election campaign. The likely financier of the so-called Internet Research Agency of professional trolls located in Saint Petersburg is a close Putin ally with ties to Russian intelligence. A journalist who is a leading expert on the Internet Research Agency claimed that some social media accounts that appear to be tied to Russia’s professional trolls—because they previously were devoted to supporting Russian actions in Ukraine—started to advocate for President-elect Trump as early as December 2015.”——National Intelligence Agency