How the Russians trolled the left
The protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, were sacred for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
But for Russian trolls, the protests were another opportunity to sow discord in America — one of a series of social movements, from Black Lives Matter activism to pro-Trump populism, on which trolls appear to have seized.
An Instagram account called @Native_Americans_United_ shared images related to Native American social and political issues — including the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the flashpoint for activists from all over the country, but especially Native Americans.
RBC, a Russian outlet, identified that account as one of 180 connected to a Russian troll farm intent on exploiting existing divisions and social movements in the United States, based on a major investigation into the operations of Russia’s Internet Research Agency.
So far, the accounts uncovered by RBC center around highly visible tension points in American politics: protests against police violence, protests against pipelines that have become a flashpoint between conservatives and progressives, and memes popular with the pro-Trump right.
Those accounts are believed to include a fake Tennessee GOP Twitter account and payments to black activists to organize protests or hold self-defense classes. This, meanwhile, would be the first instance of Russians targeting Native Americans. RBC reported that at least 33,000 people followed the @Native_Americans_United_ account.
Tony Podesta and the Podesta Group are now the subjects of a federal investigation being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, three sources with knowledge of the matter told NBC News.
The probe of Podesta and his Democratic-leaning lobbying firm grew out of Mueller's inquiry into the finances of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to the sources. As special counsel, Mueller has been tasked with investigating possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
Manafort had organized a public relations campaign for a non-profit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU). Podesta's company was one of many firms that worked on the campaign, which promoted Ukraine's image in the West.
The sources said the investigation into Podesta and his company began as more of a fact-finding mission about the ECMU and Manafort's role in the campaign, but has now morphed into a criminal inquiry into whether the firm violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, known as FARA.
As we've said before: Russia is not now, and has never been, our friend. And we tend to agree with U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley that all of these actions amount to "warfare"against the United States.