We told you this was coming. After last Friday’s indictments against numerous Russian nationals and organizations for their role in subverting the 2016 presidential elections on behalf of Donald Trump, the Denver Post’s John Frank unleashed this morning the first of what we expect to be a wave of exposes–tying the well-documented nationwide effort by the Russian government to influence the 2016 elections to specific local names and faces.
Or, as the case may be, Twitter trolls:
Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election exposed hundreds of thousands of Colorado voters to misinformation and propaganda through media outlets and social networks, a new analysis of Twitter data shows.
The majority of the Colorado-related messages broadcast by Russia-linked Twitter accounts appeared to favor Republican Donald Trump and foster discontent in the nation’s political system, according to a Denver Post review of more than 200,000 tweets sent by the Kremlin-backed operation. And more than a dozen of the posts appeared in news stories published by Colorado media organizations before and after the election, further extending their reach.
The analysis offers a glimpse into how Colorado voters became a target in the Russian effort and echoes an indictment Friday from special counsel Robert Mueller that says Russia tried to “spread distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”
To briefly summarize Frank’s excellent reporting, which everyone should read in its entirety, a massive NBC News spreadsheet of deleted Twitter activity from accounts revealed to be part of the Russian disinformation effort shows numerous instances in which a subset of (we assume) authentic local fringe-right conservatives were systematically amplified. In other cases, Russian propaganda accounts were directly cited by local news outlets as authentic local opinion. Chronologically speaking, the Russian operation to gain and wield influence in American elections via social media does appear to predate Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.
But that’s not really the point. The point is the goal of spreading “distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.” By amplifying fringe voices, and where necessary creating false fronts to directly organize Americans in the service of Russian political objectives–which became the election of Trump after the opportunity Trump presented to disrupt American politics was apparent–they helped create the political chaos that allowed Trump first to win the Republican presidential nomination. And then, via fewer than 100,000 votes in the Rust Belt, the presidency.
With all of this said, we think it’s important to keep in mind that Trump never won the state of Colorado. He did not win the Republican state assembly, in fact being humiliated here in a sweep for Ted Cruz. And he did not carry the state of Colorado in November. We recognize that based on the polls, most Colorado Republicans have gone through their various coping processes of accepting Trump’s victory–and generally support him now that he is President.
Today, there should be two categories of Colorado Republicans: those who were used by the most successful foreign intelligence operation against this nation maybe ever, and know it, and those who are mad as hell.
Because the Russians did not help elect Donald Trump in order to make America great again.