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Tag: Congress

Russian Troll Farms Disproportionately Targeted African Americans, Congressional Reports Show

An image posted by a Russian troll farm, Black4Black.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Russia’s campaign to spread misinformation during the 2016 presidential race disproportionately targeted African Americans on numerous social media platforms, more than previously known, according to reports commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Two reports show the extent to which the Russian Internet Research Agency, a troll farm, sought to divide Americans with misinformation and meme content during the election.

One of the primary goals of the campaign, which was launched on every major social media platform, was to support Trump and to stir up racial tensions, according to the reports. 

The social media accounts were designed to look like Africans Americans were running the accounts, when in fact Russians had created and ran them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube and Reddit. The reports emphasized that Russia made an extraordinary effort to target African Americans.

“The most prolific I.R.A. efforts on Facebook and Instagram specifically targeted black American communities and appear to have been focused on developing black audiences and recruiting black Americans as assets,” one of the reports reads.

Black4Black, an account and website created by Russian troll farms.

The report adds that while “other distinct ethnic and religious groups were the focus of one or two Facebook Pages or Instagram accounts, the black community was targeted extensively with dozens.” 

Some of the examples include Facebook ads targeting users interested in black history, Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party. The most popular was an Instagram account called @blackstagram that gained more than 300,000 followers.

In addition, the troll farm created a dozen websites that looked like they were run by African Americans, with names like blackmattersus.com, blacktivist.info, blacktolive.org and blacksoul.us. 

Russian-created YouTube accounts played a big role in covering the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality, creating channels called “Don’t Shoot” and “BlackToLive.”

Simultaneously, the Russians created “Southern pride” accounts with Confederate flags.

The tactic of sowing racial divisions is nothing new with Russians, who decades ago exploited the sensitive topic of race in the U.S. to turn Americans on each other.

Many Trump voters cited anti-brutality protests as a reason they supported the president.

Alarmingly, the reports warned that Russians continue to use the social media platforms and plant to launch similar propaganda during the 2020 elections.

Democratic-Controlled House to Probe Trump’s New AG Matt Whitaker

Rep. Jerry Nadler

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

With Democrats now controlling the House of Representatives, President Trump’s pick for interim attorney general, Matt Whitaker, is likely to face tough scrutiny in the form of hearings.

Rep.  Jerry Nadler, the presumed chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said Whitaker will be summoned early next year as part of the ongoing Russia investigation.

“Our very first witness after January 3, we will summon, if necessary subpoena, Mr. Whitaker,” Nadler told CNN.  

“The very first thing, obviously, is to protect the Mueller investigation,” Nadler said. “The president’s dismissal of Attorney General Sessions and his appointment of Whitaker, who’s a complete political lackey, is a real threat to the integrity of that investigation.” 

The president last week forced the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replaced him Whitaker, a loyalist and critic of the special counsel investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.

“He’s totally unqualified, and his only qualification seems to be that the President wants him to be the hatchet man to destroy the Mueller investigation,” Nadler said.

Congressman Goodlatte’s Son Lambasts Father over Strzok Firing, Says He’s ‘Deeply Embarrassed’

Rep. Bob Goodlatte

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

The son of an influential Republican congressman excoriated his father after news broke about the FBI’s firing of Peter Stzrok, the veteran agent who had played a central role in the investigation of Russia.

Bobby Goodlatte tweeted that he was “deeply embarrassed” that “Strzok’s career was ruined by” Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte’s “political grandstanding.”

During a congressional hearing, the 13-term congressman took Strzok to task over  disparaging text messages that the FBI agent wrote about Trump during the election.

The younger Goodlatte on Sunday also began raising money for the Democrat who’s running in his father’s congressional district. Goodlatte is retiring.

Congressional Infrastructure Plan Would Help Trump Replace ‘Terrible’ FBI Headquarters

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

A recently unveiled infrastructure plan could provide the funding required to replace what President Trump called the FBI’s “terrible” headquarters in downtown Washington D.C. with a new building.

Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., introduced a capital revolving fund last week to help agencies replace or revamp troubled federal buildings, the Washington Business Journal reports

The Trump administration’s first project using the fund would be a new FBI headquarters to replace the current one, which bureau officials said is archaic and can’t meet the demands of today’s technology.

The fund would provide the GSA with $10 billion and allow federal agencies to borrow and repay money for infrastructure projects.

The GSA said in February that the fund is “designed to enable a more effective capital planning process that is similar to capital budgets used by private companies and State and local governments.”

According to the news site Axios, Trump told a source that the “building is terrible.”

Some members of Congress oppose building a new headquarters at the site of the new one, saying the support the original plan to construct the new building in the suburbs in Maryland or Virginia.

Building a Border Wall in Rio Grande Valley Is Fraught with Challenges, Potential Lawsuits

The Rio Grande in Big Bend.

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

Building a wall along the busiest stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border – the Rio Grande Valley – has proven to be much trickier than Donald Trump suggested during his presidential campaign. 

That’s because land along the Rio Grande River in this area is essentially a floodplain where construction is prohibited under water treaties with Mexico. Much of the land also is owned by resident and businesses.

The Los Angeles Times examined communities along the river and found that erecting a wall presents a monumental challenge fraught with potential lawsuits from landowners, environmental groups and even Mexico. 

Congress approved $1.6 billion in March to build a border wall and fencing along 100 miles of land in Texas, California and New Mexico. About 33 miles of that is in the Rio Grand Valley, where Border Patrol most needs the help.

But which border towns along the Rio Grand Valley get a wall is still unclear.

Israel Cantu Amador, who lives along the Rio Grande, said he’d rather see more Border Patrol agents than a wall.

“It’s nonsense,” the 65-year-old said. “Iron gates, wooden gates — they’re going to come through.”

NSA Head Testifies Trump Failed to Order Action to Combat Russian Meddling

Adm. Michael S. Rogers, head of the NSA and military’s Cyber Command

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

A top U.S. intelligence official told lawmakers Tuesday that President Trump has not ordered his agencies to combat Russia’s continuing inference in the American election process, despite what he called the Kremlin’s “sustained aggression.”

Adm. Michael S. Rogers, head of the National Security Agency and the military’s Cyber Command, said his agencies have not been directed by the White House to counter Russian meddling.

“President Putin has clearly come to the conclusion that there’s little price to pay and that therefore ‘I can continue this activity,’” Rogers, who plans to retire in April, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Clearly what we have done hasn’t been enough.”

Rogers is the second senior intelligence official this month to warn that Russian interference continues and the Trump administration has failed to adequately combat the propaganda campaign.

After Trump won the election, he suggested Russian meddling was a “hoax” peddled by the fake media, ignoring his own intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Moscow waged a disinformation campaign to further divide Americans on hot-button topics like race, gay rights and immigration.  Earlier this month, 13 Russians were indicted on allegations that they ran an unprecedented smear campaign to help Trump get elected.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed by the Justice Department to investigate Russian interference, is probing whether Trump or his campaign colluded with Moscow to undermine the election.

Trump Finally Mulling Sanctions Against Russia After Election Interference

Russian President Vladimir Putin

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump, facing mounting criticism for his failure to repudiate the Kremlin for interfering the 2016 presidential, is now considering new sanctions against Russia.

Three senior administration officials told Reuters that imposing sanctions is a slow legal process and not an indication that the president is unwilling to act against Russia. 

“The process on sanctions is long; it’s arduous; it’s not pretty, but when the evidence is there and we’re ready, we go ahead with the sanctions,” one official said.

They didn’t provide details of the plans.

A bi-partisan bill in Congress last summer was overwhelmingly approved to impose sanctions against Russia after Republicans and Democrats accused the president of being soft on the Kremlin.

Trump officials fired back Wednesday, saying sanctions were imposed in July against two Russian entities accused in an indictment of interfering in the election.

Trump Directs Justice Department to Propose Regulations to Ban Bump Stocks

File photo of guns, via ATF

By Steve Neavling
Ticklethewire.com

President Trump, in a significant departure from his uncompromising, pro-NRA stance on guns, is directing the Justice Department to propose regulations to “ban all devices” such as the bump stocks used in the Las Vegas mass shooting.

Under intense pressure to address the alarming proliferation of mass shooters using assault-style rifles, Trump has indicated it’s time to move swiftly on guns designed to kill a lot of people.

“We must move past clichés and tired debates and focus on evidence based solutions and security measures that actually work,” Trump said during a White House ceremony.

The Florida school shooting that left 17 people dead at Majority Stoneman Douglas High School has placed on pressure on NRA-supporting Republicans to finally get tough on assault-style guns. They failed to act on a ban bump stocks last year.

Even the predominately conservative Florida state legislature, after many years of reluctance, is drafting legislation to reduce access to semiautomatic rifles.

“The Parkland shooting seems to be a change moment in terms of the way Republicans view gun control measures,” said Mac Stipanovich, a longtime Florida Republican lobbyist and operative.

On legislation drafted by state Senate President Bill Galvano, Stipanovich said, “None of these are necessarily earth-shaking, but all of them, at least in recent times, are unprecedented in the Florida Legislature.”

Protests broke out across the country over Republicans’ failure to address gun control.