A TOP official in Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign requested proposals from an Israeli company to help defeat Republican primary opponents and Trump's challenger, Hillary Clinton, with online manipulation, The New York Times reported yesterday.
There is no evidence Trump's campaign acted on any of the proposals by Psy-Group, a company staffed by former Israeli intelligence operatives, the Times reports, citing interviews and copies of the proposals the paper obtained. A third proposal describes a long-term plan to use social media to expose divides in rival campaigns.
The report comes as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation on Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates were involved or engaged in illegal election intervention.
Gates is Trump's former deputy campaign chief, and among more than 30 individuals - including other ex-administration officials - indicted by Mueller. Though the Israeli company's pitches were narrower than Moscow's interference campaign and appear unconnected, the documents show that a senior Trump aide saw the promise of a disruption effort to swing voters in Trump's favor.
Gates, the longtime business associate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, earlier this year pleaded guilty in special counsel Robert Mueller's Russian Federation investigation. Psy-Group's owner, Joel Zamel, did meet in August 2016 with Donald Trump Jr., Trump's eldest son.
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The Trump campaign was already employing "embeds" from social media companies such as Facebook in order to inform its social media strategy.
The special counsel's office indicted Manafort and Gates a year ago on multiple charges of financial fraud and tax evasion. Psy-Group came up with several proposals, which it dubbed "Project Rome". He faces a possible six years in prison, though the plea deal he agreed to with the special counsel could reduce the sentence.
"Mr. Zamel never pitched, or otherwise discussed, any of Psy-Group's proposals relating to the USA elections with anyone related to the Trump campaign, including not with Donald Trump Jr., except for outlining the capabilities of some of his companies in general terms", said the lawyer, Marc Mukasey.
One was to use fake accounts to sway thousands of delegates.