The Best Disinfectant is conducting a topical review of “Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election”, more commonly referred to as the “Mueller Report”. The report, which was released on April 19, 2019, summarizes findings by the Office of the Special Counsel, which was appointed to investigate allegations that Russian nationals and agents of the Russian Republic had actively interfered in the 2016 election and whether the campaign to elect now-president Donald J. Trump acted to assist in those efforts. Recognizing that the report is lengthy and dense in terms of content, The Best Disinfectant will be reviewing the report over the coming weeks and compiling brief summaries of selected sections. As we review and add more sections to this story, we invite you to follow John McCabe’s research on the transparency tool “Stone”, which can be accessed by clicking on the embedded widget at the bottom of the page.
Update – 19/04/2019
The report’s initial sections offer a detailed description of an influence campaign allegedly carried out by the Internet Research Agency (IRA) – a private Russian company based in St. Petersburg – as well as an alleged operation carried out by Russian Military Intelligence (GRU) units with the aim of damaging the candidacy of 2016 Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton and supporting the campaign of then presidential candidate Donald Trump. The Special Counsel opted to focus first on these two aspects of their investigation, ones whose origins the Special Counsel traces 2014:
- The IRA engaged in a “social media campaign designed to provoke and amplify political social discord in the United States.” The company, which is reportedly funded by a wealthy Russian businessman with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, sent employees to the United States in 2014 on an “intelligence gathering mission”. They used that trip as a basis for launching a campaign targeting the US electorate, which later entailed using Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts to disseminate politically and ideologically laced social media posts.
- IRA social media accounts had significant reach, with as many as 126 million Facebook users being exposed to IRA-produced content according to a representative of the company. Trump campaign members, affiliates, and the president himself also interacted with IRA social media accounts or promoted IRA-produced content.
- IRA accounts prompted the organization of public events, including rallies attended by as many as hundreds of people. To do so, they contacted US citizens and were able to, in some instances, convince them to organize events.
- The IRA purchased Facebook advertising to reach a wide audience.
- There is no evidence that US citizens assisted in IRA influence campaigns with full knowledge that they were in fact dealing with a foreign entity.
- The GRU engaged in a sophisticated hacking operation targeting the Democratic Party apparatus. This entailed surreptitiously accessing servers and computers, extracting internal communications, and hide their efforts. In total, hundreds of thousands of documents were seized.
- To distribute these materials, GRU officers created online personas, including “DCleaks” and “Guccifer 2.0”, which engaged with various parties in an attempt to release that information through channels which would reach as many people as possible.
- The GRU, using its online personas, passed the stolen information along to Wikileaks, where it was later published in the leadup to the election.
- The Trump Campaign showed interest in Wikileaks releases, though most sections of the report which outline the campaign’s interest in Wikileaks are heavily redacted.
- The Special Counsel elected to not bring charges against US individuals in relation to the GRU seizure of and dissemination of information belonging to the Democratic Party.
- Several GRU officers have been charged by the Special Counsel