Russian Interference in American Politics
This is a collaborative knowledge base; feel free to propose edits/additions that you believe are important for others to know. Contributions will be reviewed and approved based on quality and accuracy.
- 1 How You Can Resist
- 2 Recent Updates
- 3 Russian Interference in US Politics
- 4 Why Russia Influenced the 2016 US Elections
- 5 How Russia Attempted to Influence the 2016 US Election
- 6 Communications and Possible Collusion between Trump and Putin
How You Can Resist
- Call your representatives in the Senate and House of Representatives by dialing tel:844-6-RESIST and state:
“As my elected representative, one of your most important jobs is to ensure that we have free and fair elections. We need to know if the Putin regime interfered with the very foundation of our democracy. We need an Independent Commission, like the 9/11 Commission, to fully investigate possible Russian interference and the role that the Trump campaign may have played and to make the evidence publicly available."
- Independent commissions are:
- Rare—only 7 have been formed between 1989 and 2016.
- Expensive—They require paying full-time staff to conduct interviews and hearings. A bill to pay for a commission (an appropriations bill) has to be passed in Congress and signed by the president, or a 2/3 majority of Congress has to vote to override the veto.
- Specific—Congress has to agree on what the commission will cover, who will sit on the commission (usually around 10 representatives total, from both parties) and who will be interviewed
See what your representative has already said here.
- 5/17/17: Robert Mueller has just been named as special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation. order to comply with DOJ rules, most of this investigation will not be public. As special counsel, Mueller will offer a confidential recommendation to the Attorney General about whether or not to prosecute .
- Special (or independent) prosecutors are:
- Appointed by the Attorney General, or in this case the Deputy Attorney General, since Sessions recused himself.
- Independent—the special prosecutor does not work for the government but is an outside lawyer who is appointed specifically.
- Can be fired by the Attorney General's office.
- 5/16/17: The New York Times has reported former FBI Director Comey left behind a paper trail keeping track of Trump’s attempts to influence the Russia investigation. A memo from February revealed that Trump told Comey to “let this go,” referring to ending the probe into Michael Flynn. The New York Times received this information orally from an FBI official .
- 5/15/2017: US Officials have revealed that Trump spoke of highly classified information about counterterror efforts against the Islamic State last week when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak visited the White House. The Trump Administration has taken some steps to control the spread of the classified information after the meeting, including reaching out to the NSA and CIA .
- 5/11/2017: Trump said that he was going to fire Comey regardless of the recommendation from the Department of Justice. A White House spokesperson said that the reason for this was to bring an end to the investigation into Russian interference.
- 5/10/2017: President Trump met with the Russian foreign minister inside the oval office. It was the first time that the Russian foreign minister had been in the White House since 2013.
- 5/09/2017: The Senate Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena to Michael Flynn for documents related to their Russia investigation after he refused to cooperate with them.
- 5/09/2017: FBI Director James Comey was fired from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) by President Trump. FBI Directors are appointed to a 10 year term to avoid any political interference with appointees. But, the President does have the power to fire an FBI director because they are employees of the Department of Justice, which the President oversees. It has only happened one other time when President Bill Clinton fired the director for corruption after a 6 month long independent investigation. This is, in part, because most White Houses create a policy limiting contact between themselves and the Department of Justice to limit the appearance that they are interfering in any investigations as part of a tradition of trying to ensure that law enforcement does not seem politically motivated.
Other Investigations into Russian Interference and Possible Trump Cooperation
- Combined National Intelligence Agency Task Force
- Department of Treasury, Financial Crimes Unit is looking into money laundering by Trump associates.
- Department of Defense, investigating payments received by Mike Flynn
- Department of Justice, investigating Comey dismissal
- Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
- House Select Committee on Intelligence
- Senate Judiciary Committee
- House Oversight Committee
Russian Interference in US Politics
Vladimir Putin is still heavily involved in attempts to influence the US.
Vladimir Putin personally ordered and directed a hostile campaign against the United States during the 2016 elections. This attack was intended to inflict damage to Hillary Clinton and her campaign and to promote Donald Trump's election as president.
Putin directed interference in the primaries of both the Democrat and Republican parties. All the Republican primary candidates except Trump were targeted by Russia in attempts to discredit them. Within the Democratic party, Russia was already actively promoting negative stories about Hillary Clinton during the primaries.
Why Russia Influenced the 2016 US Elections
- Damage Hillary Clinton's campaign and assist Donald Trump's candidacy.
- Assist candidates whom Putin thought would be favorable to his agenda.
- Damage candidates whom Putin thought would challenge his agenda.
- Undermine faith in the US democratic process, both in the US and abroad.
- Drive a wedge between the US's Intelligence Community and elected officials.
- Undermine the US's position as the leader of western democracies.
- Decrease the US's commitment to NATO.
How Russia Attempted to Influence the 2016 US Election
Vladimir Putin ordered a wide-ranging and large-scale attack against the US election process. He conducted a version of New Generation Warfare, which was popular during the Soviet era. During the time of the Soviet Union (1917–1991), this type of warfare was used to influence the course of events around the world without the use of active military measures. At that time, it included installing puppet regimes, blackmail, threats and intimidation, and assassination. Today, this type of warfare includes both covert and overt techniques to promote the Putin regime's agenda.
- Weaponizing information
Vladimir Putin’s security services have several teams of hackers, some of which are known as CYBER BEARS.Two of these teams gained access to Republican and Democratic officials, private US citizens, think tanks, and political campaigns.They stole thousands of documents, emails, notes, and even voicemail messages.
Russian hackers targeted the voter registration databases of at least 24 states in the months before the election. At least four states' systems, which were vulnerable via their Internet connection, were successfully breached. (Most voting systems are not connected to the Internet.)The states hacked by Russia include Florida, Illinois, and Arizona.This data may also have been used to shape social media attacks in key swing states including Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
While information theft is common among most nations, in a first of it's kind attack in the United State Russian agents weaponized information in 2016.To turn information into a weapon the Putin regime selected specific stolen documents to release at specific times.Using the persona of Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks.com, agents released information publicly. They also used Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks, where the stolen information was released. Russian agents also released information directly to the media via their own RT and Sputnik newspapers and to members of the mainstream media.
One possible area where members of the Trump campaign, or one of his advisors, might have cooperated with the Putin regime is in the selection and timing of specific material to release via WikiLeaks.Long time Trump advisor *Roger Stone has stated publically that he was able to communicate with Julian Assange, although more recently he has denied that he did.
You can learn more at the Wikileaks Role in Election Interference page.
Propaganda and Putin’s Media Campaign
At least as early as 2014, Putin’s agents were trying to shape the US media landscape through creating fake or biased news and spreading it through Russia-owned media outlets like RT and Sputnik. They then expanded the audience for this propaganda by promoting it over social media, especially Twitter and Facebook.Putin instructed his security services to generate fake news, or propaganda, that could damage Hillary Clinton.
- RT, a Russian- and English-language news network
- Sputnik News
- Breitbart News, which was controlled by Steve Bannon, who is now in the White House.
- Infowars, an online program hosted by Alex Jones
These stories were amplified by internet trolls, people who create fake social media accounts and post and repost links to fake news stories. In St. Petersburg, Russia, just one “troll factory” alone employs about 1,000 such people, who are paid by the Russian government.
According to the authors of the report The Kremlin Playbook, corruption is the use of power, position, or resources to influence business, individuals, or government through non-transparent and questionable means, not necessarily illegal.While there is now no clear evidence that Trump and the Trump Organization have done anything illegal related to Russia, inquiries are now being made into their financial connections with Russia.. Trump has refused to release his tax returns, so it is difficult to detail his financial ties, including with Russia..
See Financial Connections Between Trump Organization and Russia to learn more.
Communications and Possible Collusion between Trump and Putin
FBI Director James Comey stated that the FBI is investigating the Russian government's interference into the US presidential election, including direct communication between Trump's campaign and the Russian government:
"I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed."
Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, stated that there is significant evidence of these links:
“I can tell you that the case is more than that. And I can’t go into the particulars, but there is more than circumstantial evidence now. … I will say that there is evidence that is not circumstantial, and is very much worthy of investigation.”
The connections between Donald Trump, his businesses, his campaign, and Russian businesses and financiers and agents of the Russian government are complex. The following infographics are a helpful guide.
More details about individuals' ties to Russia:
- Rex Tillerson
- Carter Page
- Paul Manafort
- Jeff Sessions
- Michael Flynn
- Jared Kushner
- Roger Stone
- Wilbur Ross
Trump and his associates have repeatedly said that they did not have any contact with Russian officials before the election.Now that campaign members are publicly admitting to having had meetings with Russian officials, Trump and his associates are denying that there was anything inappropriate about the meetings.
For more information, please visit Timeline of Communication between Trump and Russia.