Russian-backed trolls took to social media following President TrumpDonald TrumpHarris stumps for McAuliffe in Virginia On The Money — Sussing out what Sinema wants Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — The Facebook Oversight Board is not pleased MORE’s 2016 victory in an attempt to prevent Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyTrump-backed bills on election audits, illegal voting penalties expected to die in Texas legislature The Memo: Conservatives change their tune on big government Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals MORE from being appointed as Secretary of State, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The newspaper’s analysis found that Kremlin linked accounts pushed messages calling Romney a “two-headed snake” and “globalist puppet” and also spread a petition to stop him from being nominated to the high-profile post.
The Wall Street Journal’s findings come after a New Yorker report suggesting that Russia attempted to push Trump toward a more pro-Russia State Department head.
Romney had called Russia the U.S.’s top “geopolitical foe” in the 2012 elections, an idea that many at the time, including President Obama, dismissed.
“It’s not surprising that the Russian troll operation tried to do whatever it could to prevent [Mr. Romney] from being secretary of state,” Ryan Williams, a political strategist and former Romney spokesman, told the Journal.
Trump eventually selected Exxon Mobil CEO Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Supreme Court lets Texas abortion law stand Trump-era ban on travel to North Korea extended Want to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump MORE for the position. Tillerson’s firm has worked in Russia and Tillerson has boasted having a close relationship with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The reported push to keep Romney out of the White House would come as a part of Russia’s larger play at sowing social discord and influencing the U.S. political process on social media.
Congressional investigators and academic researchers found that around the time of the election Russian-linked accounts on social media spread polemic content and in some cases spurred Americans to show up at protests.
The White House didn’t respond to the Journal's requests for comment. The Trump administration has repeatedly pushed back against any reports of working with Russia.