Russia’s social media campaign to boost support for President Donald Trump’s candidacy in 2016 went beyond praising the Republican candidate and disparaging his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton: one arm of the effort sought to bolster support on the left for Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and the effort appears to have paid off.
As former FBI special agent Ali Soufan noted on Saturday:
In PA, Stein received 49,678 votes. Trump won by 46,765 votes.
In WI, Stein received 31,006 votes. Trump won by 22,177 votes.
In MI, Stein received 51,463 votes. Trump won by 10,704 votes.
According to NBC News, two recently leaked reports revealed that growing Stein’s support base was one of a “roster of themes” Russia employed during the 2016 presidential election.
Two days before the 2016 presidential election, an Instagram account called @woke_blacks posted a message in support of long-shot Green Party candidate Jill Stein.
“The excuse that a lost Black vote for Hillary is a Trump win is bs,” it read. “It could be late, but y’all might want to support Jill Stein instead.”
According to a report commissioned by the Senate, the account was a fake, part of the Russian campaign to sway the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump.
New Knowledge cybersecurity firm researchers determined that Stein was repeatedly used during the final days of the presidential election to steal away Clinton supporters and swing the election toward Trump.
An NBC News analysis found that Russians working under the direction of the Internet Research Agency, the St. Petersburg-based firm run by a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, tweeted the phrase “Jill Stein” over 1,000 times around the time of the election.
Andrew Weiss, a Russian expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the Kremlin strategy of promoting Stein has not “gotten enough attention”.
“The fact that the Russian propaganda apparatus helped create awareness and support for her candidacy and promoted her candidacy is critical to our understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“The Russians played this extremely adroitly,” Weiss added.
The reports did not suggest that Stein knew of her campaign’s role in the Russian interference efforts, NBC News noted, but “the Massachusetts physician has long been criticized for her support of international policies that mirror Russian foreign policy goals.”
Stein has been a frequent guest on Russia’s RT and Sputnik news outlets, both of which are state-owned English language broadcasters.
In the closing weeks of the campaign, RT quoted Stein suggesting that Hillary Clinton could lead the U.S. into a nuclear war with Russia and saying Trump was a safer choice.
"On the issue of war and nuclear weapons," Stein said, according to RT, "it is actually Hillary's policies which are much scarier than Donald Trump who does not want to go to war with Russia."
Most famously, Stein was one of two Americans invited to sit with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the head table of the RT 10th anniversary dinner in Dec. 2015. The other was General Michael Flynn, who was advising then candidate Donald J. Trump and is now awaiting sentencing in the special counsel’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.