An analysis by the Wall Street Journal evidences Russian Twitter accounts supportive of Donald Trump and attacking his opponents within weeks of his July 2015 entrance into the presidential race, well before the December 2015 timeline indicated by U.S. intelligence agencies.
The Journal looked at 159,000 deleted tweets from Twitter accounts identified by congressional investigators as controlled by the Internet Research Agency, a known Kremlin-backed organization.
In the three months after Mr. Trump announced his presidential candidacy on June 16, 2015, tweets from Russian accounts reviewed by the Journal offered far more praise for the real-estate businessman than criticism—by nearly a 10-to-1 margin. At the same time, the accounts generally were hostile to Mrs. Clinton and the early GOP front-runner, Jeb Bush, by equal or greater margins.
Numerous tweets were sent out word-for-word by multiple accounts, suggesting the effort was coordinated, says the Journal.
“BOOM! DOWN GOES @jebbush,” wrote @DorothieBell, three weeks after Mr. Trump entered the race. The account, claiming to be run by an American “Conservative wife, mother” who wanted to “take this once great country back!!!,” linked to a Breitbart News article about Mr. Trump attacking Mr. Bush for being soft on immigration.
Some Russian-backed accounts mimicked Americans so well that they gained massive followings and attracted prominent followers, including members of Trump's own campaign.
One such account, @Pamela_Moore13, which claimed to be operated by a Texan who was “Conservative. Pro God. Anti Racism,” amassed an impressive 70,000 followers—including retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn and Fox News commentator Sean Hannity —before being suspended by Twitter in the purge of Russian accounts.