After months and months or claiming either ignorance or flat-out denying any internal evidence of Russian hanky-panky going on during the election on social networking giant Facebook, Facebook finally admitted on Wednesday that a Russian troll farm bought at least $100,000 worth of ads during the 2016 election cycle. Rachel Maddow went on air just hours after that revelation hit the front pages of numerous media outlets and her breakdown of exactly what the ramifications of this admission mean is excellent. First, Maddow gives the history of what we now understand the intelligence community understands about Russia’s online activities surrounding our elections, that date back to May of last year.
Maddow: We know about the timing, about how all these things stacked up. We can put more dots on the map and items on the time line in terms of how they all connect and fall in order. But we’ve known the basics what the Russians did for about nine months now, right? Nine months since that intelligence committee report came out.
On the social media part of what Russia did, though, there have been some outstanding questions that have been aggressively reported on but it’s been hard to get to the bottom of them. For one thing, how did Russian military intelligence or other elements of the Russian government? How did they do this stuff in American social media without us knowing at the time that that’s who it was? Without Americans being able to see bluntly that this was a foreign influence operation? I mean, if the Russian government, the Russian military were using American social media to influence the outcome of our election, that, of course, is a criminal matter, right? You can’t spend foreign money on anything in an American election. There’s this question of how they did it? There’s also a technical legal matter for investigators to look into—into whether or not this was the expenditure of foreign money to influence the outcome of an election. But there’s also this broader counterintelligence question, this treason question about whether or not they had any help in launching that part of their attack.
So while Facebook will attempt to minimize their business operations’ “negligence” in how they sold advertising on their site, the fact remains that they did sell that advertising, and quite a bit of it to shadowy parties that seem to be considered, by our intelligence community, connected to Russia’s counter intelligence scene. The dots here being connected by Maddow are simple enough, but it is the next part that is the most important for actionability. In July it was being reported that Jared Kushner was being investigated in connection to his work during the Trump campaign when Kushner headed the Trump “digital team.” The reason? Russia’s fake news infiltration seemed to benefit greatly from really precise targeting into districts and important areas of the electorate. Information that someone running a digital campaign team would have in spades. And as Maddow reminds everyone, as reporters continued to chase down stories connecting Russian influence on Facebook, Facebook has always denied there were any anomalies that would justify this assertion. Until Wednesday.
Maddow: So, again, the bottom line here is, what this means now is Facebook is finally confirming after months of denying it that Russian fake accounts were shouldn’ting political messaging into the U.S. Election for months. And although they don’t say it in their blog post, an official does admit to reporters working on this story now that some of those Russian posts were tied to something called the internet research agency. And even though that sounds very generic, that is a specific and google-able thing. The research agency is cited in the intelligence community’s report on the Russian attack on our election. They cited essentially a project of Russian military intelligence.
And at the very least, this means that there is an avenue here that needs concrete investigations from more than just Mueller.
Maddow: Now that Facebook is no longer denying it, now that everybody involved, except the Trump campaign, I think, admits to exactly what Russia did here. Can we now look at what they did to see if they had help? If the republican-led congressional investigations aren’t looking into that now, they should have to explain why they’re not. Because now there’s really no more disagreement about what happened here. The only question is whether there were American confederates involved, and now it’s a very investigatable thing. The other reason thing—this is important—is it’s a direct reason which is, that as I mentioned, you can’t spend foreign money to influence U.S. Elections. Even on Facebook ads. This is direct evidence—confirmed by Facebook—of a discreet, clear crime committed in the course of the Russian attack on our election. Now, good luck bringing in the Russian military intelligence service into court to face the music for that particular crime, I know.
But it’s a crime. Clearly. And if any American knew that crime was happening, if any American was part of the effort to make that happen, that American could absolutely be criminally charged on that matter.