Ex-Obama official says he warned of Russian trolls in 2014

Ex-Obama official says he warned of Russian trolls in 2014
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A former Obama administration official says the government could have done more to prevent Russian trolls from interfering in the 2016 election.

Brett Bruen, the White House’s director of global engagement from 2013 to 2015, says in an interview published Monday that he warned the National Security Council in 2014 of the possibility of attacks from Russian trolls after he witnessed Moscow use similar tactics to interfere in Ukraine’s 2014 election.

“I was sitting in the Situation Room saying, ‘Why do we continue to look at this as an issue that only concerns Ukraine, that only concerns Eastern Europe? This is something that's going to march across Western Europe. This is something that's going to march over to our shores, and we need to be ready,’ ” Bruen told CNN.


He said he participated in the U.S. task force that went after Russian trolls in the Ukrainian election.

The task force was effective in abating the Russian trolls by putting out fact sheets and videos to counter the Russians' content, Bruen said.

After his involvement in the task force, Bruen told the State Department that a similar initiative should be implemented in the U.S. but the department failed to act, he said.

Around the time Bruen proposed his plan, Russia had already set up the Internet Research Agency, the troll farm it would use to interfere in the 2016 election via social media.

According to Bruen, the State Department — and specifically Victoria Nuland, then the assistant secretary of State for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs — failed to recognize the threat and didn’t consider his proposals.

Nuland told CNN that carrying out Bruen’s proposal would have required more funding from the White House, which, she claims, wouldn’t have been approved.

"The thinking was to counter this by giving the truth to news outlets rather than just producing more propaganda," Nuland said.

According to other officials, some didn’t think Bruen’s plan could effectively stop Moscow.