SENATORS HEAR OF RUSSIA’S ‘PROPAGANDA ON STEROIDS’
WASHINGTON • Vladimir Putin personally ordered a campaign that amounted to “propaganda on steroids” as he sought to steal the presidential election from Hillary Clinton, U.S. senators say.
Thousands of “cyber trolls” based in Russia were said to have pumped out “fake news” targeting voters in key states such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, all of which Trump won despite being behind in polls.
Kremlin-backed computer operatives even sought to influence Trump himself, flooding his Twitter feed with conspiracy theories when they knew he was online, the Senate Intelligence Committee was told at its first public hearing.
The hearing focused on tactics Moscow is thought to employ in spreading disinformation to influence the opinions of Americans and U.S. policy. There were a few unexpected revelations in the more than four hours of testimony from historians, cyber experts and former intelligence officials.
Putin issued his most emphatic denial so far, calling the accusations that he meddled in the U.S. election “nonsense, endless, and groundless.” He said: “Ronald Reagan was talking about taxes once and said ‘Read my lips’ ... Read my lips — no.”
The quote was in fact from George H. W. Bush.
Mark Warner, a Democratic senator who is vicechairman of the Senate committee said “Vladimir Putin ordered a deliberate campaign carefully constructed to undermine our election. There were paid Internet trolls working out of a facility in Russia.
“This Russian ‘propaganda on steroids’ was designed to poison the national conversation in America.”
On whether there were links between Russia and Trump’s campaign, Warner said “We are seeking to determine whether there is an actual fire, but there is a great, great deal of smoke.”