"Russian think tank planned to influence the U.S. Election, new documents reveal" PBS NewsHour 4/20/2017
REMINDER: Russia is doing the same thing to other nations in Europe and Asia.
SUMMARY: A Russian government-controlled think tank had outlined plans on how to swing the 2016 U.S. election toward Donald Trump, according to a Reuters report Thursday. New documents reveal a strategy of using social media to bolster Mr. Trump and undermine faith in America's electoral system. William Brangham learns more from former CIA officer John Sipher and Ned Parker of Reuters.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour): Reuters reported today that a think tank controlled by the Russian government outlined detailed plans how to swing the 2016 U.S. election toward Donald Trump.
In two different papers, the think tank said Russia should use social media and Russian-backed media to bolster Trump and to undermine faith in America's electoral system.
For more on these developments, I'm joined now by Ned Parker — he's one of the reporters who broke the story — and by John Sipher. He served 28 years in the CIA's clandestine service, stationed in Russia and Eastern Europe. He's now with the consulting firm CrossLead.
Gentlemen, welcome to you both.
Ned Parker, I would like to start with you.
Can you tell us a little bit more? What is it that you found? What did you report today?
NED PARKER, Reuters: Right.
Well, we found are that there are two documents drafted by an in-house policy shop for the Kremlin that reports back to President Vladimir Putin. And this organization is also headed by former foreign intelligence service officers.
This organization called the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies drafted two reports last year, one in June and one in October. The first in June talked about, how do you influence the U.S. electorate through a media and social media campaign to overturn the policies of then-President Obama and promote — persuade the U.S. public to chose a new U.S. administration that would promote policies beneficial to both Russia and the United States?
WILLIAM BRANGHAM: And, Ned, just staying with you for a second, is this evidence, is this in line with what U.S. intelligence agencies believe the Russians did, in fact, do during the election?
NED PARKER: Right.
I think that's the significance of these documents. They came in after the election. The second document, which is from October, talked about how Hillary Clinton was likely to win the election, so it made sense to change tack in terms of propaganda, and rather than work for her defeat and a new administration under Donald Trump, instead, they should push for a weak Clinton administration, and to bring question about the integrity of the U.S. electoral process through different media and social media information packets.
Now, getting these two documents after the election, it sort of crystallized what the U.S. already knew about motive and intent, including the hacking, for instance, which there was forensics all over the place linking the hacking of the DNC and the Clinton campaign to Russia's military intelligence.