“Russia, if you’re listening . . .” — Donald Trump, 2016.
It turns out, Russia was all ears.
The day after candidate Trump called on a foreign adversary to “find the 30,000 emails” of his opponent, Russia invested all of its high-tech might to do just that.
As Robert Mueller asserted — and a Washington jury would agree — a team of Russian players hacked into the Democratic National Committee, then shared what they stole with Wikileaks.
More egregiously, said Mueller, Russian hackers got into state voting systems, causing more than one to have to shut down temporarily as a precaution.
Meanwhile, Putin’s info army engaged in a massive disinformation campaign on social media to help Trump.
The clock on the wall says it’s an election year: time to ask if Russia is listening still. And you know it is.
Let’s just say that on just every front, last week wasn’t a good one for Putin. One ray of sunshine for him came when the Conservative Political Action Committee tweeted criticism of continued U.S. funding of Ukraine:
“When will the Democrats put America first and end the gift-giving to Ukraine?”
Included was a nod to Russia’s sham annexation of “four Ukrainian-occupied territories.”
Putin couldn’t have put it better.
CPAC deleted the tweet after it made national headlines, and it issued a statement that was a 180-degree turnaround denouncing Russia’s “illegal war.”
What is the Russian translation for, “Wink, wink”?
The deleted tweet might as well have come from Donald Trump Jr., or Republican heartthrob Tucker Carlson. Check the tape.
Or it could have come from The Man himself: Don Sr. — who extolled Putin’s brilliance in invading Ukraine, and who sought to hang Ukraine out to dry to extort political favors from its new president.
Trump surely expects Putin to come to his aid again should he run in 2024. And why wouldn’t the GOP be hoping Mother Russia will help out in the unreasonably tight midterm race for control of Congress this November?
Considering Russia’s thirst to destabilize this democracy, little doubt exists that it has played a major role in promoting the Big Lie on social media.
U.S. intelligence authorities are convinced of that.
An unclassified intelligence advisory obtained by the Associated Press warned that Russia is working to, in AP’s words, “amplify doubts about the integrity of US elections.” Surprise, surprise.
In the book “LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media,” authors P.W. Singer and Emerson Brooking describe the expanding role that Russia’s massive Internet Research Agency assumed when post-Soviet Russia dealt with its diminished role in the world.
In 2016, they write, the agency’s chief mission overseas was to influence American voters to pull the lever for Trump or not vote at all.
Using a combination of paid Twitter trolls, internet bots, and “sock puppets” (fake social media accounts), the Russian government spared no expense.
As the book reports, in the final month of the campaign, Twitter concluded that “Russian-generated propaganda” had been delivered to Twitter users 454 million times.
All at no cost to the Trump campaign. Talk about “gift-giving.”
So, sure, CPAC deleted a tweet that was music to a despot’s ear. Clearly, however, someone in the GOP wanted to send Russia’s dictator a love note:
Whatever our government might do to undermine Putin’s objectives, rest assured some political parasites will be here for him if he’ll be there for them.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.