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Investigators Probing Possible Coordination Between Kushner Digital Operation and Russia

Congressional investigators looking in to potentially illicit ties between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia are probing whether Jared Kushner’s digital operation “helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton,” according to McClatchy.

Investigators believe that the extensive efforts on behalf of Kremlin-sponsored actors to disseminate negative and fake news about Clinton must have had American help coordinating where in the country to target those efforts:

Congressional and Justice Department investigators are focusing on whether Trump’s campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states – areas where Trump’s digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton, according to several people familiar with the parallel inquiries.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), a ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, told McClatchy they’re looking into whether Russia’s fake news stories were “coordinated in any way in terms of targeting or in terms of timing or in terms of any other measure … with the (Trump) campaign.”

The McClatchy report provides an account of how the Russian dissemination of fake news worked, which included targeting the social media pages of “voters in swing states, even in key precincts” with critical or fake news stories about Clinton:

Russia’s operation used computer commands knowns as “bots” to collect and dramatically heighten the reach of negative or fabricated news about Clinton, including a story in the final days of the campaign accusing her of running a pedophile ring at a Washington pizzeria.

Kushner, who now serves as a senior White House adviser, headed the Trump campaign’s digital operation and is now being looked at for his “role as a possible cut-out or conduit for Moscow’s influence operations in the elections,” said a source knowledgeable with the Justice Department’s inquiry.

Former Pentagon staffer Mike Carpenter, who worked on Russia in Arlington until he left last year, told McClatchy there “appears to have been significant cooperation between Russia’s online propaganda machine and individuals in the United States who were knowledgeable about where to target the disinformation.”

The report comes as it was revealed this week that Kushner, Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort met with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer, seeking damaging information on Clinton, which they were told would come from the Russian government.

Clinton made reference to possible coordinated data sharing between the Trump campaign and Russia in an appearance at the Code Conference in May, claiming that Russian actors “could not have known how best to weaponize that information unless they had been guided.”

She also alleged the Russian interference must have been “guided by Americans,” given Google searches for fake news stories “were particularly high in places in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.”

Clinton pointed to Cambridge Analytica — the data firm started by Trump-ally Brad Parscale that raked in $90 million running the campaign’s digital operation under Kushner’s oversight — as potentially having worked with the Russians.

As McClatchy notes, Parscale is “expected to appear before at least one of several congressional committees investigating aspects of Russia’s interference in the election.”

[image via screengrab]

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