Speed Reads

Russian election meddling

Kremlin trolls 'uncorked' champagne after helping Trump win, Senate Intelligence Committee reports

The Senate Intelligence Committee released its second volume on 2016 election interference Tuesday, and the Republican-led panel bluntly concluded that Russia "sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election by harming Hillary Clinton's chances of success and supporting Donald Trump at the direction of the Kremlin." The Kremlin-directed Internet Research Agency's (IRA) "social media activity was overtly and almost invariably supportive of then-candidate Trump to the detriment of Secretary Clinton's campaign," the report added.

That conclusion matches the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, but President Trump has downplayed Russia's role and embraced a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the election to help Clinton. "Russia's targeting of the 2016 U.S. presidential election was part of a broader, sophisticated, and ongoing information warfare campaign," the committee added, and it was "a vastly more complex and strategic assault on the United States than was initially understood."

Messages obtained by the Senate Intelligence Committee showed IRA operatives celebrating Trump's victory. After the elction, one operative wrote, "We uncorked a tiny bottle of champagne ... took one gulp each and looked into each other's eyes. .... We uttered almost in unison: 'We made America great.'"

The Kremlin's social media operation, which began in 2014 and also hit Trump's GOP primary rivals, targeted black voters more than any other group, before and after the election. "Russia is waging an information warfare campaign against the U.S. that didn't start and didn't end with the 2016 election," Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said. "Their goal is broader: to sow societal discord and erode public confidence in the machinery of government."

The report recommends that Congress require stricter disclosure of ad buyers, presses social media companies to share information about foreign disinformation among themselves, and asks the White House to publicly and forcefully warn about foreign interference in the 2020 election and develop a plan to deter future attacks. White House spokesman Judd Deere said the administration has made election security a priority.