Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) took a move from President Donald Trump's playbook on Wednesday when he asked Russian Twitter bots to help him spread an article from conservative The Federalist.
Whether Nunes was joking -- as Trump indicated he was after asking Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's emails during the 2016 presidential election -- is arguable, but it highlights the trivial manner in which Nunes treats the idea of Russian interference in U.S. politics.
The nature of the article Nunes shared makes his comment all the more insulting, as it claimed to debunk various left-wing conspiracies about Russian-linked Twitter accounts spreading propaganda across the platform.
The Russian bots Nunes is referring to are Twitter accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian organization that stood at the center of the multifaceted effort by groups close to the Russian state and President Vladimir Putin to interfere in the 2016 US election. Special counsel Robert Mueller handed down a detailed indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities last week, including the IRA, for "violating US criminal laws in order to interfere with US elections and political processes."
Russian bots also were found to have helped popularize the ReleaseTheMemo hashtag around the time Nunes was seeking Trump's go ahead to make public his memo regarding alleged misconduct within the FBI and Justice Department.
Although the article argues that #ReleaseTheMemo was not pushed by IRA-linked Russian bots, data from Hamilton 68, a website launched last year that says it tracks Russian propaganda in near-real time, seems to suggest otherwise — during a two-day period in January, the frequency with which these bots tweeted the hashtag skyrocketed by 233,000%. The article though also casts doubt on Hamilton 68's methodology, and points to the fact that the site does not disclose which specific accounts it is tracking.