A few days after the election, Congress, Trump suspected tampering in the counting of votes in some states
WASHINGTON – When US President Donald Trump flew to Paris on Friday for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, he posted a tweet that may have become commonplace in the White House, but made some American intelligence and other intelligence officials shudder..
«That is, they are only now finding votes in Florida and Georgia, although the elections were held on Tuesday, – wrote the president. – Let’s blame the Russians and demand an immediate apology from President Putin!»
This was followed by other similar tweets, in one of which the president questioned the results of the vote in Arizona..
While electoral officials in places like Florida have denied the president’s allegations of fraud, a growing number of US intelligence officials are looking at the situation in another, perhaps more alarming, aspect..
They are concerned that Trump’s tweets might fit well with Russian election meddling tactics.
Indeed, Russian social media has already seized on the election controversy in the two states where the vote was recounted..
«The President, whether intentionally or not, played into the hands of Russia. There is no doubt about it», – says Larry Pfeiffer, 32-year veteran of the American intelligence community.
In the months leading up to the election, senior US intelligence officials, including the director of national intelligence, Dan Coates, warned of «persistent and omnipresent» Russia’s attempts to undermine American democracy.
But from the point of view of some veterans of American intelligence, it was President Trump’s Friday tweets, not Russia, that heightened the doubts..
Counting problems in Florida and Georgia were a topic of discussion on Russian social media even before Trump’s tweets..
The German Marshall Fund’s Hamilton-68 online project, which tracks 600 Twitter accounts associated with Moscow, found that by noon Friday, Russian accounts «Florida» was mentioned 679 times in the previous 48 hours, making her the most mentioned topic.
For comparison, in three hours, President Trump’s first tweet was retweeted about 23 thousand times and collected almost 76 thousand. «likes».
But even before that, Pfeiffer characterized Trump’s behavior as «blameworthy».
Other former employees were more critical.
«Trump – this is a gift that never ceases to please Putin», – retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Hal Beadluck said in an interview with «Voice of America».
White House officials blame critics and media for doing the most damage.
«Russia really wants to divide and fracture America, – stated "Voice of America" senior administration official. – The Trump Administration Continues To Resist These Malicious Efforts».
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«The media’s constant drive to seek out disagreements and blame the administration for this disunity plays into Moscow’s hands», – added the official.
A number of current and former officials believe that the Kremlin’s attempts to influence the midterm congressional elections were less ambitious and intense than Russia’s 2016 campaign of influence, but they also believe that this time Moscow did not need to make such a big effort..
«Perhaps seeing that the impact of their influence operations in 2016 persisted and the political chaos they had created in the United States continued, Moscow decided that another attempt on the scale of 2016 was unnecessary.», – stated «Voice of America» before the election Mark Kelton, former deputy director of the CIA’s National Secret Service for counterintelligence.
At the same time, it would be completely wrong to talk about the fading of Russian influence operations..
US intelligence officials and court documents show that the Kremlin spent more than $ 35 million between January 2016 and January 2018 on a social media campaign designed to inspire and infuriate both sides of the American political spectrum..
«Whatever questions we discuss, they try to push us to extremes., – says former CIA chief of station Daniel Hoffman. – They succeed».