Devin Nunes, Ron DeSantis and Russian trolls together again

Devin Nunes, Ron DeSantis and Russian trolls together again

by digby


THE DENSE NETWORK of pro-Kremlin Twitter accounts tracked by the group Alliance for Securing Democracy has spent the last year spreading chaos and discord about topics as diverse as NFL players refusing to stand during the national anthem and Al Franken's alleged sexual misconduct. It was only a matter of time, then, before the troll army set its sights on special counsel Robert Mueller.

On the website Hamilton68, the Alliance tracks some 600 Twitter accounts it says are associated with a Russia-linked influence network. According to newly released figures, in the month of December, by far the most popular articles shared by the trolls aimed to undermine Mueller and the Department of Justice's investigation into Russian interference.

In fact, 16 percent of the articles shared by those accounts between December 9 and December 31 were related in some way to the so-called deep state, the bulk of which aimed to discredit Mueller. That's a lot of tweets, considering the site analyzes some 20,000 tweets a day. It's a volume of conversation that, in late November, was reserved for the right's favorite punching bag, Hillary Clinton. The Hamilton68 team keeps its list of suspected Kremlin trolls secret, but it consists of a balance between openly pro-Russia accounts, like Sputnik and RT, as well as bot accounts run by troll factories, and other accounts that consistently amplify pro-Russia themes.

Founded by former FBI agent Clint Watts and J.M. Berger, a researcher focused on extremist propaganda, Hamilton68 has been up and running since August. But December's onslaught represents the biggest uptick in attacks on Mueller yet. "I don't think we've ever seen as much concentrated activity on that topic," says Bret Schafer, a research analyst with the Alliance. "It's been trending steadily upwards since we started this."

December's onslaught represents the biggest uptick in attacks on Mueller yet.
That the Russian propaganda network would step up its battle with Mueller in December stands to reason. It coincides with a cascade of news stories about the investigation, beginning with former national security advisor Michael Flynn pleading guilty to lying to the FBI on December 1. Later that same month, news broke that two FBI agents associated with the investigation had called the President an "idiot" in a text message exchange, news Schafer says the Twitter troll network was quick to jump on.

It also happens to track almost exactly alongside another infamous Twitter troll's recent interest in Mueller. During the month of December—during which there was a major senate race in Alabama, a new tax bill, and a holiday—the President tweeted about the Mueller investigation in some form or another 17 times. That's up from tweeting about it just three times in November.

Schafer acknowledges there "definitely, occasionally, is a correlation," between the President's tweets and the Hamilton68 network. As is often the case, though, it's difficult to tell where the ever-circulating feedback loop between the President, the press, and the trolls begins. Maybe the media arouses the President's sudden interest in a topic, which then rallies the Twitter trolls to action. Or perhaps the sudden uptick in online noise about a given subject seeps into the media, eventually inspiring the Presidential tweets. Wherever it starts, there's no denying the synchronous relationship between the President's account and this broader network.

It's obvious why Russian trolls would be concerned about the Mueller investigation so I tend to think this is probably legit.

But it's always so interesting how their interests, Trump's and now the Republican Party's always seem to converge.

Coincidence, I'm sure.