- The Senate Intelligence Committee released a report Tuesday about Russia’s social-media disinformation campaign during and after the 2016 election.
- One of the panel’s chief recommendations to the Trump administration is for it to “reinforce with the public the danger” posed by foreign election interference leading up to the 2020 election.
- The recommendation comes days after President Donald Trump publicly called for Ukraine and China to investigate his political rival.
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In a new report released Tuesday on Russia’s social-media disinformation campaign during the 2016 election, the Senate Intelligence Committee advised the Trump administration that it should “reinforce with the public the danger” posed from “foreign interference” in the run-up to the 2020 election.
The 85-page report outlined Russia’s disinformation campaign through social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. It also confirmed much of what the public learned about Russia’s efforts from the former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.
- The creation of an interagency task force to “continually monitor and assess foreign country’s use of social media platforms for democratic interference,” to deter and inform the public of its findings.
- Make the public more aware of Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaign – with the assistance of reputable media organisations.
- Notify presidential candidates and parties if they have been targeted by a foreign entities.
The report comes amid an impeachment inquiry focusing on Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a July 25 phone call to investigate Biden and his son. A whistleblower complaint that a US intelligence official filed against Trump in August accused the president of abusing his power during the call for private, political gain.
Trump ordered his administration to withhold a nearly $US400 million military-aid package to Ukraine days before the conversation with Zelensky.
While the White House’s notes of the call show the US president made no direct mention of offering aid in exchange for Zelensky’s assistance in probing the Bidens, they confirm Trump brought up how the US does “a lot for Ukraine” right before asking Zelensky to do him a “favour, though” by investigating Biden and discrediting Mueller’s Russia probe.
Trump and his allies deny there was a “quid pro quo” arrangement during his discussions with the world leaders.
Speaking to reporters last week, Trump also called on China to investigate Biden: “China should start an investigation into the Bidens,” he said at the White House lawn.
His statements follows reports that during a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping in June, Trump mentioned the political aspirations of Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and noted he would refrain from speaking out about the ongoing protests in Hong Kong during trade talks.
Trump’s own 2020 re-election campaign appeared to be affected by foreign interference. Sources familiar with the matter told Reuters that an Iranian-linked hacking group tried breaking into Trump’s campaign but were unsuccessful.
In a public statement, Microsoft, which investigated the operation, did not specify which presidential campaign had been hit, but said it encountered “significant” cyber operations from the group and listed several politicians affected by the activity.
Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s communications director, said the organisation had “no indication that any of our campaign infrastructure was targeted.”