High-ranking GOP senator open to releasing Russian Facebook ads

Greg Nash

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) says that he’s open to making public the political Facebook ads that are suspected to have been purchased by Russian actors to influence the 2016 election.

Cornyn is the first Republican to express interest in making the ads available to the public.

“I don’t know why the ads [shouldn’t be released],” Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, told reporters on Thursday. “I assume that they were already published, so they’re not secret to my knowledge.”

{mosads}Despite the ads having been published on Facebook’s site after they were purchased by the Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency, Facebook has kept the 3,000 ads tightly under wraps since announcing they existed last month.

The company has cited privacy concerns as its reason for not releasing the ads, and initially hesitated on turning over the ads to Congress. The company eventually relented, giving all 3,000 ads to the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees on Monday.

Reports on the ads describe them as meant to provoke racial and other divisions between Americans.

One ad urged its viewers to attend an anti-Muslim, anti-immigration rally in Idaho, though Facebook deleted the event’s page before it occurred. Another suggested that Black Lives Matter is a growing political threat.

Democrats like Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Mark Warner (Va.) and his House Intelligence counterpart Adam Schiff (Calif.) have called for the advertisements to be released.

“I think [the ads] need to be public,” Warner said on Thursday.

The Virginia Democrat qualified that he also agrees with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who believes that it’s Facebook’s call, not the committee’s, as to whether the ads are made public.

“The Senate Intelligence Committee does not release documents provided by witnesses, companies, whatever the classification — it’s not a practice we’re going to get into,” Burr said during a press conference on Wednesday.

Tags Adam Schiff John Cornyn Mark Warner Richard Burr
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