Dig­i­tal team’s role ques­tioned

Sen­a­tor wants look at Trump cam­paign ef­forts, fake news


The top Demo­crat on the Se­nate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee called for more in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the dig­i­tal ac­tiv­i­ties of Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign, over con­cerns about Rus­sian-di­rected mis­in­for­ma­tion ef­forts to in­flu­ence the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Trump’s lawyer, speak­ing on sev­eral Sunday news shows, de­fended him in light of last week’s de­vel­op­ments in the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said he wants to look into the ac­tiv­i­ties of Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica, a data firm that ad­vised Trump’s cam­paign, as well as Trump’s dig­i­tal ef­forts dur­ing the elec­tion be­cause of the way false elec­tion sto­ries about Hil­lary Clin­ton were cir­cu­lated and tar­geted on­line.

“The abil­ity to ma­nip­u­late these search en­gines and some of these so­cial me­dia plat­forms is real; it’s out there,” Warner said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. “We need in­for­ma­tion from the com­pa­nies, as well as we need to look into the ac­tiv­i­ties of some of the Trump dig­i­tal cam­paign ac­tiv­i­ties.”

Sep­a­rately, on CBS’ Face the Na­tion, Warner said there were “trolls,” or paid in­di­vid­u­als who worked for Rus­sian ser­vices, who tried to in­ter­fere in the elec­tion and dis­sem­i­nate fake news.

The com­ments come as con­gres­sional com­mit­tees

and the FBI con­tinue to in­ves­ti­gate Rus­sian ef­forts to in­flu­ence the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion — and whether mem­bers of Trump’s cam­paign co­op­er­ated.

Ques­tions in­ten­si­fied af­ter rev­e­la­tions last week that the president’s son, Don­ald Trump Jr., met in June 2016 with a Rus­sian lawyer whom Trump Jr. be­lieved to have in­for­ma­tion dam­ag­ing to Clin­ton. Also at the meet­ing was Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kush­ner and then-cam­paign man­ager Paul Manafort.

Jay Seku­low, one of Trump’s per­sonal at­tor­neys, ap­peared on mul­ti­ple Sunday talk shows to say the meet­ing didn’t vi­o­late the law and that the president wasn’t aware of the meet­ing and didn’t par­tic­i­pate.

“Noth­ing in that meet­ing that would have taken place, even if it was about the topic of an op­po­si­tion re­search paper from a Rus­sian lawyer, is il­le­gal or a vi­o­la­tion of the law,” Seku­low said on Fox News Sunday.

On ABC’s This Week, Seku­low said: “I won­der why the Se­cret Ser­vice, if this was ne­far­i­ous, why the Se­cret Ser­vice al­lowed these peo­ple in. The president had Se­cret Ser­vice pro­tec­tion at that point, and that raised a ques­tion with me.”

The at­tor­ney’s fo­cus on the le­gal­ity of the meet­ing ap­peared aimed at mov­ing be­yond the shift­ing ac­counts of the meet­ing given by Trump Jr.

At first, the June 2016 meet­ing was said to be about a Rus­sian adop­tion pro­gram. Then, it was to hear in­for­ma­tion about Clin­ton. Trump Jr. later re­leased emails that re­vealed he had told an as­so­ciate that he would “love” help in ob­tain­ing in­crim­i­nat­ing in­for­ma­tion about the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee, even though the emails said the help was com­ing from a Rus­sian gov­ern­ment at­tor­ney.

The num­ber of peo­ple known to have been at the meet­ing also changed over time. On Fri­day, Ri­nat Akhmetshin, a Rus­sian-American lob­by­ist and for­mer Soviet mil­i­tary of­fi­cer, con­firmed his par­tic­i­pa­tion.

The president him­self came to the de­fense of his son, who he said “is be­ing scorned by the Fake News Me­dia.” The president ended a se­ries of Sunday morn­ing tweets by writ­ing: “With all of its phony un­named sources & highly slanted & even fraud­u­lent re­port­ing, #Fake News is DISTORTING DEMOC­RACY in our coun­try!”

On CNN, Warner pointed to what he called a “con­ve­nient pat­tern” of Kush­ner, now a se­nior White House ad­viser, and other mem­bers as­so­ci­ated with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion hav­ing to amend dis­clo­sure forms to add meet­ings with Rus­sians that they had ne­glected to report ear­lier.

“I’m not sure why we take any­body in the se­nior level of

the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion at their word,” he said. “That’s why it’s so im­por­tant that we’re go­ing to get a chance to ques­tion these in­di­vid­u­als and try to ac­tu­ally nail down the truth.”

Warner has said Trump Jr. is likely to be called to tes­tify, and he said on CNN that he would also like to hear from Kush­ner and oth­ers.

The emails — which the younger Trump pub­lished on Twit­ter, pre-empt­ing their re­lease by The New York Times — were re­leased as the White House con­tends that in­ves­ti­ga­tions of pos­si­ble cam­paign col­lu­sion with Rus­sia are noth­ing more than a “witch hunt.”

“This is about as clear of ev­i­dence you could find of in­tent by the cam­paign to col­lude with the Rus­sians, to get use­ful in­for­ma­tion from the Rus­sians,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said of Trump Jr.’s emails. Schiff is the se­nior Demo­crat on the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee. He spoke on ABC’s This Week.

As Jus­tice Depart­ment spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller deep­ens his probe into cam­paign ac­tiv­i­ties, the White House on Satur­day con­firmed it had hired Ty Cobb, a vet­eran Washington lawyer, as a spe­cial coun­sel. Cobb is ex­pected to over­see the White House’s le­gal and me­dia re­sponse to in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Rus­sian med­dling in the 2016 cam­paign.

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