Senate Intel Committee: Russia Is Already Trying to Influence the 2020 Election

In its report, the Republican-led committee pushes back against Trump’s efforts to point fingers elsewhere.

“We uncorked a tiny bottle of champagne…took one gulp each and looked into each other’s eyes…. We uttered almost in unison: ‘We made America great.’”Those were the words of a Russian troll working for the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency, or IRA, on the morning of November 9, 2016, according to a report released Tuesday by the Senate intelligence committee.

Quotes aside, close followers of Russia’s disinformation practices won’t find a ton of new information there, but the report from the Republican-led Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is nonetheless significant. In recent months, President Donald Trump has intensified his efforts to undermine the intelligence community consensus that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. On July 25, Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart to help push a conspiracy theory that the U.S. cybersecurity company Crowdstrike worked with Ukranians and Democrats to frame Russia for election meddling. In issuing the report, the committee chaired by Sen. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, is refuting Trump and his theory.

It also undercuts some popular misperceptions about how Russian influence campaigns operate. For instance, it notes that Russian influence operators generally target Americans across the political spectrum, going after right- and left-wingers with different lines of misinformation and disinformation. Race and racial discord are their most active areas. In fact, the report says, blacks were more likely to be targeted with racial disinformation than whites.

“Evidence of the IRA’s overwhelming operational emphasis on race is evident in the IRA’s Facebook advertisement content (over 66 percent contained a term related to race) and targeting (locational targeting was principally aimed at African Americans in key metropolitan areas),” it says.

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