Russians sought to erode voters' plans to vote against Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election by undermining their confidence in candidates like Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, a newly-released government report states.
The report, obtained by the Washington Post and discussed in an article they published Sunday afternoon, is the most detailed explanation yet that sheds light on just how aggressive Russians were in attempting to sway the election in favor of Trump.
Logging into every major social media site and blasting their messages daily, Russians continued their online support for Trump even into his presidency and well into 2017. Their efforts were curtailed when social media sites made efforts to ban known "bots" to their sites in that year, the report stated.
One of the conclusions from the report also stated that the Russian bots that were prevalent on social media sought to engage and encourage Trump supporters based on issues they supported, such as gun rights and immigration. The bots also attempted to dissuade voters opposed to Trump from voting, such as suggesting to African-American voters that Clinton didn't hold their interests at-heart, or attempting to confuse her supporters by spreading misinformation about how, where, and when to cast a vote.The Senate report was clear in its findings: the efforts by the Russians were meant to benefit one party, as well as their presidential candidate.
"[A]ll of the messaging clearly sought to benefit the Republican Party — and specifically Donald Trump," the report noted. "Trump is mentioned most in campaigns targeting conservatives and right-wing voters, where the messaging encouraged these groups to support his campaign. The main groups that could challenge Trump were then provided messaging that sought to confuse, distract and ultimately discourage members from voting."
It is illegal for foreign entities to try and sway an election toward a candidate that they prefer. Special counsel Robert Mueller last year charged 13 Russian citizens with attempting to do so, according to reporting from Tech Crunch.
The report's release comes on the same day that Trump spent most of his time online deriding the Russia investigation. Trump authored at least eight tweets on Sunday criticizing the inquiry, including four where he specifically called the investigation led by Mueller a "witch hunt" or some variant of that term, according to a search at the TrumpTwitterArchive.
In the tweet Trump wrote just before the Washington Post's article was published, Trump denounced the Russia investigation as an "insurance policy" by Democrats to use in the event he won the election in 2016.
It should be noted that the document the Washington Post cited in its article was a bipartisan report finding.