Mueller identified 'dozens' of US rallies organized by Russian troll farm

Mueller identified 'dozens' of US rallies organized by Russian troll farm

Special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE in his highly-anticipated report said his team identified "dozens" of U.S. political rallies organized on social media by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian troll farm that was later indicted for attempting to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.

According to Mueller's report, which was released on Thursday, the IRA organized political rallies in the U.S. using social media starting in 2015 and continued to coordinate rallies after the 2016 election. 

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Mueller wrote that some of the rallies attracted "few (if any) participants," while others drew "hundreds."

The IRA, a Russian troll farm with close ties to Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP Mystery surrounds elusive sanctions on Russia Budowsky: House Democrats are America's team MORE and Russian intelligence agencies, organized pro-Trump rallies, as well as gatherings opposed to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, on U.S. soil for years, including events in New York, Florida and Pennsylvania.  

The Trump campaign put a post on Facebook about one of the rallies the Russian group organized in Miami, Fla., in 2016, Mueller noted.

The troll farm used its Facebook and Twitter accounts to organize and promote U.S. political rallies, often sending direct messages to its followers on social media asking them to participate in the events, Mueller wrote. 

"IRA employees frequently used ... Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to contact and recruit U.S. persons who followed the group," Mueller wrote. 

The IRA targeted and recruited racial justice advocates as well as the moderators of conservative groups. 

The Hill in 2017 reported that thousands of Americans attended a march organized by the troll farm in New York City. The IRA used a group called "BlackMattersUS" to coordinate the event. 

The Mueller report also lays out the ways that Trump campaign officials and surrogates amplified the IRA's messages on Twitter and Facebook as they sought to interfere in public discourse and amplify divisive political rhetoric.

Trump campaign officials, including senior adviser Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayFederal guidance identifying 'go back to where you came from' as discrimination goes viral after Trump comments Kellyanne Conway says she meant 'no disrespect' with question about reporter's ethnicity Kellyanne Conway asks reporter 'what's your ethnicity' while defending Trump's 'go back' comments about minority lawmakers MORE and Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question Trump set to host controversial social media summit Trump associate Felix Sater grilled by House Intel MORE, cited and retweeted content from the troll farm about topics including voter fraud and Clinton's handling of classified information, according to Mueller.   

Mueller's team found that Trump campaign affiliates promoted "dozens" of tweets, posts and other political content created by the IRA.

NBC News previously reported that Trump campaign associates amplified and reposted the IRA's messages.

Donald Trump Jr. in 2016 retweeted a post from @Pamela_Moore13, an IRA-controlled Twitter account, and in 2017, Trump from his personal Twitter account responded to a tweet from IRA-affilaited @10_GOP. 

"IRA employees monitored the reaction of the Trump campaign and, later, Trump administration officials to their tweets," Mueller's report reads. 

Mueller's investigation concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election to boost Trump through a social media campaign coordinated by the IRA. 

The group purchased 3,000 political ads on Facebook’s platform and operated hundreds of accounts attempting to influence the perspectives of Americans during the 2016 elections. 

The reports about Russians' attempts to sow discord using social media over the past few years have ushered in a new era of tech scrutiny, with lawmakers and experts around the world paying more attention to how platforms like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and more seek to prevent the spread of misinformation and the manipulation of their platforms by foreign actors.

All of the platforms have stepped up their efforts to stave off misinformation campaigns, particularly those that seek to interfere in democratic processes, but each of them have conceded that actors continue to try to manipulate their platforms to influence real-world events, including elections.