For over a year now, we’ve known that Russia did indeed interfere with the 2016 election, using social media, bots, and disinformation in order to favor the Trump campaign. But did all of that meddling actually influence voters to change their minds?
Recent indictments handed down as part of the investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller could not be more clear in what they allege. In one indictment issued on February 16, we find this:
“Defendants and their co-conspirators began to encourage U.S. minority groups not to vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election or to vote for a third-party U.S. presidential candidate.”
The minority vote was essential to Hillary Clinton, especially in key battleground states such as Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, all of which Trump won by razor-thin margins. But the Clinton campaign was under assault on multiple fronts:
“The day before Obama visited Jacksonville, Florida, to support Clinton, Russians purchased an ad for the Instagram account of a fake group called Blacktivist. It urged African-Americans to vote for a third-party candidate. ‘Choose peace and vote for Jill Stein. Trust me, it’s not a wasted vote,’ the ad read, according to Mueller’s indictment.
“It is impossible to know precisely how many voters nationally stayed home or voted for a third-party candidate because of the Russians’ social media campaign. Nevertheless, the details from the indictment raise new questions about the legitimacy of Trump’s victory.”
Trump’s focus in the closing days of the campaign was WikiLeaks, which dribbled out damaging information as the race entered its final days. Even Trump proudly proclaimed:
“I love WikiLeaks!”
Both Democratic and Republican operatives now say Russia’s efforts were essential to Trump’s miraculous victory. As Democratic pollster Mark Mellman noted:
“There’s no question that it mattered. There’s no question that they thought it mattered. There’s no question that the Hillary Clinton folks thought it mattered.”
Rick Tyler, a GOP consultant who worked for Ted Cruz’s failed 2016 GOP primary campaign, agrees with Mellman, saying of Trump’s repeated references to WikiLeaks:
“You clearly wouldn’t do that if you didn’t think that was effective.”
If you still doubt that Russia made a significant difference, consider this example from Michigan:
“60 percent of the electorate was bothered by the [Clinton] email issue, and 75 percent of those voters supported Trump. Relatedly, a quarter of Michigan voters settled on a candidate in the final month. That group broke for Trump 52 to 37 percent, while those who decided earlier voted for Clinton 50 to 47 percent.”
A half percentage point swing is all that gave Trump his victory in the Electoral College. Nationally, he lost by nearly 3 million votes.
Let’s go back to the indictment from the Mueller grand jury, which clearly states:
“[Russia] engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.”
No wonder Trump gets so angry when it’s suggested he’s not a legitimate head of state. The facts prove he isn’t.
Featured Image Via NBC News Screengrab