Tracking interference into our elections
By ERIC GELLERLAS VEGAS — Democratic lawmakers emerged from the world’s largest hacker conference this weekend with a clear message: Congress must pass legislation to mandate better U.S. election security. In panels and interviews at DEF CON in Las Vegas, where a roomful of hackers demonstrated ways to breach insecure voting machines, those lawmakers focused their fury on the man proudly blocking their bills. “Why hasn’t Congress fixed the problem? Two words: Mitch McConnell,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said during a Friday keynote address to a packed and largely supportive room at DEF CON’s Voting Village. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), one of a handful of computer scientists in Congress, told POLITICO that when it came to his biggest election security concern, “I have two words: Mitch McConnell.” The Senate majority leader has repeatedly blocked votes in the upper chamber on two House Democratic bills that would require voting machines to produce paper records, mandate post-election audits and impose security requirements on election technology companies. Election security experts overwhelmingly say these provisions are vital for protecting the democratic process. But McConnell has argued repeatedly that states, not the federal government, should decide how to run their elections. It’s “stupid to have the view that states have the right to have poor election security,” Lieu told POLITICO.
Schumer suggests McConnell is blocking election security measures because he wants ‘the Russians to interfere’By Chris Sommerfeldt - New York Daily NewsChuck Schumer is bringing the “Moscow Mitch” moniker to a whole other level. The New York senator speculated Thursday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been blocking election security bills from becoming law because he wants "the Russians to interfere” in 2020. Appearing on Joe Madison’s namesake radio show, Schumer said he could only think of two reasons for why McConnell derailed a couple of proposals last week that would have beefed up election security ahead of next’s year presidential contest — “neither of them good.” “One, they want the Russians to interfere because they think it’ll help them,” Schumer said. “The second, is another reason not so good. Donald Trump in his puerile, babyishness, if that’s even a word, is so upset at the fact that the Russians might have interfered, that it delegitimizes his election, and McConnell is so scared of Trump that he goes along.” Referring to former special counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony before Congress last month, Schumer added, “Mueller made this clear: the Russians wanted Trump to win.”
By David E. Sanger and Catie EdmondsonWASHINGTON — The Senate Intelligence Committee concluded Thursday that election systems in all 50 states were targeted by Russia in 2016, an effort more far-reaching than previously acknowledged and one largely undetected by the states and federal officials at the time. But while the bipartisan report’s warning that the United States remains vulnerable in the next election is clear, its findings were so heavily redacted at the insistence of American intelligence agencies that even some key recommendations for 2020 were blacked out. The report — the first volume of several to be released from the committee’s investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference — came 24 hours after the former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III warned that Russia was moving again to interfere “as we sit here.” While details of many of the hackings directed by Russian intelligence, particularly in Illinois and Arizona, are well known, the committee described “an unprecedented level of activity against state election infrastructure” intended largely to search for vulnerabilities in the security of the election systems. A spotlight on the people reshaping our politics. A conversation with voters across the country. And a guiding hand through the endless news cycle, telling you what you really need to know. It concluded that while there was no evidence that any votes were changed in actual voting machines, “Russian cyberactors were in a position to delete or change voter data” in the Illinois voter database. The committee found no evidence that they did so.
By Kathryn WatsonHours after former special counsel Robert Mueller testified Wednesday that Russians are still meddling in the U.S. political system, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked the advancement of legislation to secure the nation's election system. Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith also blocked a set of bills on election security Wednesday. In blocking the legislation crafted by Senate Democrats to provide more funding for election security, McConnell declared the effort partisan and insisted the Trump administration has already done much to secure the nation's elections. One bill McConnell objected to would have both required the use of paper ballots and provided funding for the Election Assistance Commission. He also objected to legislation that would have required campaigns and candidates to report offers offers of election-related aid from foreign governments.
By Ted Barrett and Kevin Collier, CNN(CNN) - Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi on Wednesday blocked the advancement of a trio of bills aimed at strengthening election security just hours after former special counsel Robert Mueller warned of the continued threat that foreign powers interfering in US elections. Democratic Sens. Mark Warner of Virginia, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Ron Wyden of Oregon had advocated for the bills on the Senate floor, asking for unanimous consent to pass the package, but that ask can be halted with an objection from any senator. Two of those bills would require campaigns to report to federal authorities any attempts by foreign entities to interfere in US elections, and the third is aimed at protecting from hackers the personal accounts and devices of senators and some staffers. Hyde-Smith objected to each unanimous consent request in keeping with GOP arguments that Congress has already responded to election security needs for the upcoming election. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a tweet Wednesday evening.
By David E. Sanger and Catie EdmondsonWASHINGTON — The Senate Intelligence Committee concluded Thursday that election systems in all 50 states were targeted by Russia in 2016, largely undetected by the states and federal officials at the time, but at the demand of American intelligence agencies the committee was forced to redact its findings so heavily that key lessons for the 2020 election are blacked out. Even key findings at the beginning of the report were heavily redacted. The report — the first volume of several to be released from the committee’s investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference — came just 24 hours after the former special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, warned that Russia was moving again to interfere “as we sit here.” It also landed hours after Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, personally stepped forward to block consideration of a package of election security bills.
By Jordain CarneySenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked two election security measures on Thursday, arguing Democrats are trying to give themselves a "political benefit." The move comes a day after former special counsel Robert Mueller warned about election meddling in 2020, saying Russia was laying the groundwork to interfere in the 2020 election "as we sit here." Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) had tried to get consent Thursday to pass a House bill that requires the use of paper ballots and includes funding for the Election Assistance Commission. It passed the House 225-184 with one Republican voting for it. But McConnell objected, saying Schumer was trying to pass “partisan legislation.” “Clearly this request is not a serious effort to make a law. Clearly something so partisan that it only received one single solitary Republican vote in the House is not going to travel through the Senate by unanimous consent,” McConnell said. Under the Senate’s rules any one senator can request consent to pass a bill, but any one senator can object. Schumer argued that if McConnell didn’t like that bill “let’s put another bill on the floor and debate it.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) also asked for consent to pass legislation that would require candidates, campaign officials and their family members to notify the FBI of assistance offers from foreign governments. McConnell also objected to that bill.
Former President Jimmy Carter said Friday he believes President Donald Trump actually lost the 2016 election and is president only because of Russian interference. Carter made the comments during a discussion on human rights at a resort in Leesburg, Virginia, without offering any evidence for his statements.
McConnell, with GOP Senate leaders, just "stands there and twiddles their thumbs and almost says, ‘Come on Putin, let it happen," the minority leader said.By Rebecca ShabadWASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Tuesday slammed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for blocking legislation that would protect U.S. elections from future interference, including by foreign governments. “It is irresponsible for the Republican leader to declare 'mission accomplished' about the 2018 elections,” Schumer told reporters on Capitol Hill, speaking about McConnell's remark in which he claimed an absence of problems in last year's midterms. “The Republican Senate, Leader McConnell just stands there and twiddles their thumbs and almost says, ‘Come on Putin, let it happen,'” said Schumer, who added that any leader in Congress who doesn’t work to protect the nation’s elections is “abdicating their responsibilities to our grand democracy.” In an effort to push election security measures, Democrats have a three-pronged strategy, Schumer said. First, lawmakers will press McConnell to allow debate on legislation that’s been introduced by holding standalone votes on those bills. Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, for example, called for a unanimous consent vote on his legislation last week that would legally require a presidential campaign to notify the FBI about foreign interference, but Republicans blocked it. Second, Democrats plan to press McConnell to allow votes on amendments for the 2020 defense policy bill that the Senate will consider this week that deal with election interference, which Schumer called a “national security issue.” Finally, the Democratic leader said that he will also push for election security funding as part of negotiations for a two-year deal to lift spending ceilings. - If the Russians had helped the democrats during the elections, McConnell and the GOP would be up in arms and passing all kinds of laws to protect election security.
The GOP governor said the incidents took place in 2016 and no election results were compromised. TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — After an FBI briefing, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says Russian hackers gained access to voter databases in two Florida counties ahead of the 2016 presidential election. DeSantis said Tuesday the hackers didn't manipulate any data and the election results weren't compromised. The governor said he signed an agreement with the FBI not to disclose the names of the counties, but elections officials in those counties are aware of the intrusions.
Mueller Witness’ Team Gamed Out Russian Meddling … in 2015 - Betsy Woodruff, Erin BancoOne former analyst at the Wikistrat consulting firm called it ‘disturbing.’Days after Donald Trump rode down an escalator at Trump Tower and announced he’d run for president, a little-known consulting firm with links to Israeli intelligence started gaming out how a foreign government could meddle in the U.S. political process. Internal communications, which The Daily Beast reviewed, show that the firm conducted an analysis of how illicit efforts might shape American politics. Months later, the Trump campaign reviewed a pitch from a company owned by that firm’s founder—a pitch to carry out similar efforts. The founder of the firm, called Wikistrat, has been questioned by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team as they investigate efforts by foreign governments to shape American politics during the 2016 presidential campaign. Joel Zamel, a low-profile Israeli-Australian who started the firm, has deep contacts in Middle Eastern intelligence circles. There are no known publicly available pictures of him. But he met people in the upper echelons of the Trump campaign. In April 2016, senior Trump campaign official Rick Gates reviewed a pitch produced by a company called Psy Group, which Zamel reportedly owns. The pitch laid out a three-pronged election influence campaign that included creating thousands of fake social media accounts to support then-candidate Trump and disparage his opponents, according to The New York Times. After Trump became the party’s official nominee, Zamel met with Donald Trump Jr. and discussed the plan, which echoed both the real election interference already underway by the Kremlin and the scenario Wikistrat gamed out the year before. Zamel took part in at least two meetings in Washington in 2016 and 2017. And his staff at Psy Group made several connections about their social media manipulation plan with individuals who represented themselves as close to the Trump team.
Russian operations meant to polarize American voters continued during the midterm elections, but did not compromise the voting systems used, according to a study by the intelligence community. The assessment by Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, was the result of a request by the White House before the November vote that he examine election meddling by Russia and other powers. The agency did not release that report, but Mr. Coats released a statement on the document. “Russia, and other foreign countries, including China and Iran, conducted influence activities and messaging campaigns targeted at the United States to promote their strategic interests,” Mr. Coats said in the statement.
Russia used every major social media platform to influence the 2016 US election, a report claims. New research says YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram and PayPal - as well as Facebook and Twitter - were leveraged to spread propaganda. The report, released today by the US Senate, exposes the scale of Russian disinformation efforts. Its authors criticise the "belated and uncoordinated response" by tech firms. The report was put together by University of Oxford's Computational Propaganda Project and the social network analysis firm Graphika. It is the first analysis of millions of social media posts provided by Twitter, Google and Facebook to the Senate Intelligence Committee. While Facebook and Twitter have previously disclosed Russian interference, little has been known about the use of other platforms. The report suggests YouTube, Tumblr, PayPal and Google+ were all affected, with Russia adapting techniques from digital marketing to target audiences across multiple channels. "It's a whole family of social media sites," says Dr Philip N. Howard, director of the Oxford Internet Institute. "We think the goal was to make the campaigns seem more legitimate."
If it had stuck with its original mission — digging up dirt on the rich and famous, without a care for the rules of traditional journalism — The Enquirer would have had the tabloid story of a lifetime. The most powerful print publication in America might just be The National Enquirer. It functioned as a dirty-tricks shop for Donald J. Trump in 2016, which would have been the stuff of farce — the ultimate tabloid backs the ultimate tabloid candidate — if it hadn’t accomplished its goal. The Enquirer’s power was fueled by its covers. For the better part of the campaign season, Enquirer front pages blared sensational headlines about Mr. Trump’s rivals from eye-level racks at supermarket checkout lanes across America. This stroke-of-genius distribution apparatus was dreamed up by the man who made The Enquirer the nation’s biggest gossip rag: its previous owner, Generoso Pope Jr. The Enquirer’s racks, under the current chief, David J. Pecker, were given over to the Trump campaign. This was a political gift even more valuable than the $150,000 that The Enquirer paid in a “catch-and-kill” deal with the former Playboy model Karen McDougal for her story of an affair with Mr. Trump. Wondering what The Enquirer’s covers were worth to the Trump campaign, I called Regis Maher, a co-founder of Do It Outdoors, the national mobile and digital billboard company. He said a campaign with that level of national prominence would cost $2.5 million to $3 million a month. - The National Enquirer interfered with the election by prompting false stories about Trumps opponents, while hiding bad stories about Trump at the same time promoting good stories about Trump and not telling the America people they had made a deal to protect Trump from bad stories.
The Senate Intelligence Committee is set to release two reports on Monday detailing the breadth of the Russian social media campaign to sow discord in the United States. The reports, both of which were commissioned by the committee, are based on troves of data that Facebook, Twitter, and Google handed over to the committee about the Russian campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election and American politics generally. Much of the data has not previously been disclosed publicly. Researchers analyzed more than 10 million tweets, 116,000 Instagram posts, 61,000 Facebook posts and 1,000 videos posted by the Russian government-linked Internet Research Agency (IRA), the troll group indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year.
Facebook Inc.’s Instagram played a much bigger role in Russia’s manipulation of U.S. voters than the company has previously discussed, and will be a key Russian tool in the 2020 elections, according to a report commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The Russian Internet Research Agency, the troll farm that has sought to divide Americans with misinformation and meme content around the 2016 election, received more engagement on Instagram than it did on any other social media platform, including Facebook, according to a joint report by three groups of researchers. “Instagram was a significant front in the IRA’s influence operation, something that Facebook executives appear to have avoided mentioning in Congressional testimony,” the report says. IRA activity shifted there after the media began to write about Russian activity on Twitter and Facebook. “Our assessment is that Instagram is likely to be a key battleground on an ongoing basis.”
The Russian influence campaign on social media in the 2016 election made an extraordinary effort to target African-Americans, used an array of tactics to try to suppress turnout among Democratic voters and unleashed a blizzard of activity on Instagram that rivaled or exceeded its posts on Facebook, according to a report produced for the Senate Intelligence Committee. The report adds new details to the portrait that has emerged over the last two years of the energy and imagination of the Russian effort to sway American opinion and divide the country, which the authors said continues to this day. “Active and ongoing interference operations remain on several platforms,” says the report, produced by New Knowledge, a cybersecurity company based in Austin, Texas, along with researchers at Columbia University and Canfield Research LLC. One continuing Russian campaign, for instance, seeks to influence opinion on Syria by promoting Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president and a Russian ally in the brutal conflict there.
New report on Russian disinformation, prepared for the Senate, shows the operation’s scale and sweepThe report, a draft of which was obtained by The Washington Post, is the first to analyze the millions of posts provided by major technology firms to the Senate Intelligence Committee. A report prepared for the Senate that provides the most sweeping analysis yet of Russia’s disinformation campaign around the 2016 election found the operation used every major social media platform to deliver words, images and videos tailored to voters’ interests to help elect President Trump — and worked even harder to support him while in office. The report, obtained by The Washington Post before its official release Monday, is the first to study the millions of posts provided by major technology firms to the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), its chairman, and Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), its ranking Democrat. The bipartisan panel also released a second independent report studying the 2016 election Monday. Lawmakers said the findings “do not necessarily represent the views” of the panel or its members.
Shane Huntley has seen every form of state-sponsored cyberattack, first as an Australian intelligence officer and now as director of Google’s most advanced team of threat detectors. So when he was asked what surprised him the most about the 2018 midterm elections, his response was a bit counterintuitive. “The answer is surprisingly little on the hacking front, at least compared to two years ago.” He paused, and added: “And that reassures some people, and it scares some people.”
A new book makes a not very skeptical case for Russia’s impact on the 2016 race. In her new book, Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President, Kathleen Hall Jamieson argues that the Russian-government directed interference campaign likely provided Donald Trump with his winning margin in the crucial states that allowed for his 2016 Electoral College victory. But in an election with so many moving parts, how can we really know, or even be confident, that the Russian operation made the difference?
the Justice Department announced that Russia and the world’s most interesting catering company continue to attack the United States online—and that Russian Twitter trolls had even defended the efforts of special counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year. Prosecutors unsealed a September criminal complaint against Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova, a 44-year-old Russian woman from St. Petersburg. According to the charges, Khusyaynova is employed by the Internet Research Agency, the “troll farm” directed by a Russian oligarch known as “Putin’s Cook,” Yevgeniy Viktorovich Prigozhin, and two companies he controls, Concord Management and Consulting LLC, and Concord Catering. Those companies, in addition to handling school lunches for Russian children and overseeing the Internet Research Agency, also reportedly supply mercenaries to support Russia’s interests in the Syrian civil war.
The U.S. government warned about the continued threat of foreign interference on Friday as it unsealed a new criminal complaint against a Russian woman described as the paymistress for Moscow's program of information war — a scheme targeting next month's midterm elections in the U.S.
The Justice Department on Friday charged a Russian woman for her role in a conspiracy to interfere with the 2018 U.S. election, marking the first criminal case prosecutors have brought against a foreign national for interfering in the upcoming Midterms. Elena Khusyaynova, 44, was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States. Prosecutors said she managed the finances of “Project Lakhta,” a foreign influence operation they said was designed “to sow discord in the U.S. political system” by pushing arguments and misinformation online about a whole host of divisive political issues, including immigration, the Confederate flag, gun control, and the NFL national anthem protests.The charges against Khusyaynova came just as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence warned that it was concerned about “ongoing campaigns” by Russia, China and Iran to interfere with the upcoming Midterm elections and even the 2020 race — an ominous warning that comes just weeks before voters head to the polls.
Complete coverage of Russia’s campaign to disrupt the 2016 presidential election.
Crystal's tweet praising the former first lady's Ivy League education was shared more than 120,000 times and liked by 325,000 users, according to a CNN analysis of data released by Twitter. In fact the post, the day after the awards show, went viral more than any tweet she and her colleagues ever posted. Her colleagues at Russian intelligence, that is. Crystal1Johnson," since suspended form the social media platform, was a fake Russian account run by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), according to Twitter. It's one of thousands released this week by Twitter as part of a huge 9-million-tweet collection of the Russian group's activities -- the most comprehensive accounting to date of the so-called IRA's efforts to use fake social media posts to inflame American society and influence its elections.
Here's a look at hacking incidents during the 2016 presidential campaign and Russian meddling in the election. For details about investigations into hacking and efforts to interfere with the election, see 2016 Presidential Election Investigation Fast Facts.
The Russian government interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in order to increase political instability in the United States and to damage Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign by bolstering the candidacies of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. A January 2017 assessment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) stated that Russian leadership favored presidential candidate Trump over Clinton, and that Russian president Vladimir Putin personally ordered an "influence campaign" to harm Clinton's chances and "undermine public faith in the US democratic process"
In the wake of the Mueller indictment of a Russian troll farm, any attempt to claim that the 2016 presidential election wasn’t affected by Russian meddling is laughable. For some time, there has been a conflation of issues—the hacking and leaking of illegally obtained information versus propaganda and disinformation; cyber-security issues and the hacking of elections systems versus information operations and information warfare; paid advertising versus coercive messaging or psychological operations—when discussing “Russian meddling” in the 2016 US elections. The refrain has become: “There is no evidence that Russian efforts changed any votes.” But the bombshell 37-page indictment issued Friday by Robert Mueller against Russia’s Internet Research Agency and its leadership and affiliates provides considerable detail on the Russian information warfare targeting the American public during the elections. And this information makes it increasingly difficult to say that the Kremlin's effort to impact the American mind did not succeed.
For two years, cybersecurity researchers, spies and federal prosecutors have laid out a stunningly thorough chain of evidence to support one simple conclusion: The Russian government sought to sway the 2016 presidential election. Federal agents have traced data and currency trails across continents, revealed inside knowledge of Russian spies’ computer network, and quoted the private emails of employees at a Russian internet firm working to influence voters. Cybersecurity researchers analyzed malware and followed clues buried in the details of stolen emails.
The Justice Department announced indictments against 12 Russian nationals as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, accusing them of engaging in a "sustained effort" to hack Democrats' emails and computer networks. All 12 defendants are members of the GRU, a Russian federation intelligence agency within the main intelligence directorate of the Russian military, who were acting in "their official capacities."