NYT: Rick Gates sought plans to use fake online identities in Trump's 2016 campaign

Former Trump campaign adviser Richard Gates, who has pleaded guilty in Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's special counsel investigation, sought proposals from an Israeli company in 2016 to create fake online identities in an effort to aid President TrumpDonald John TrumpForget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Lara Trump: Merkel admitting migrants 'one of the worst things that ever happened to Germany' Financial satisfaction hits record high: survey MORE's campaign, The New York Times reported Monday. 

Gates reportedly solicited plans to use social media manipulation and to gather intelligence to help Trump defeat his opponents in the Republican primary, as well as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonForget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Former senators launching effort to help Dems win rural votes Biden's announcement was a general election message, says political analyst MORE in the general election. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Gates sought a proposal from a company staffed by former Israeli intelligence officers, Psy-Group, to use fake identities to sway 5,000 Republican National Convention delegates by attacking Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO'Rourke to give commencement address at Texas's oldest black college Cornyn campaign, Patton Oswalt trade jabs over comedian's support for Senate candidate MJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid MORE (R-Texas), an opponent of Trump's at the time, according to the Times. 

Mark Mazzetti, one of the Times reporters who authored the story, said Monday on CNN that the firm proposed using “40 to 50 people to create thousands of different identities — fake personas on Twitter, Facebook, et cetera.”

“And these would then target … delegates based on a psychological profile that the company built about the delegates — find out what most interested them. So you build a profile and use these avatars, bots, et cetera to spread messages, to try to influence their votes, to try to make sure that they stay on the Trump side,” Mazzetti added.

The Times reported that other proposals from the company included one that featured a plan to help Trump "by using social media to help expose or amplify division among rival campaigns and factions," and another that offered opposition research about Clinton and her allies.

Psy-Group’s owner, Joel Zamel, reportedly met in August 2016 at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John Trump21 questions for Robert Mueller Oregon governor names big game hunter to board that oversees gray wolf management Trump Jr. slams 2020 Dems as 'more concerned' about rights of murderers than legal gun owners MORE

There is no evidence that the Trump campaign moved forward with the proposals. 

Gates first learned about Psy-Group during a March 2016 meeting in Washington, D.C., with George Birnbaum, a GOP consultant with ties to Israeli government officials, according to the Times.

Birnbaum told the newspaper that Gates “was interested in finding the technology to achieve what they were looking for.”

Following his meeting with Gates, Birnbaum allegedly worked with Psy-Group employees to polish their pitches to the Trump campaign.

Gates, who served as a top aide to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, pleaded guilty to two charges — conspiracy against the United States and making false statements to FBI agents — in Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The Israeli company’s proposals appear unconnected to Russian interference in the election. However, special counsel investigators have received copies of the proposals and have questioned Psy-Group employees, the Times reported, citing sources familiar with the interviews.