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McClatchy Report Considers Whether Trump Campaign Helped Russians

Jul 13, 2017
Originally published on July 13, 2017 3:27 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

A new report by McClatchy says the investigations into Russia's interference in the 2016 election have turned to a new question. Did the Trump campaign help the Russians plot their cyber strategy? With us to talk about this is McClatchy reporter Greg Gordon. Welcome to the show.

GREG GORDON: Thanks for having me.

MCEVERS: OK, so your reporting says that the investigations by the House and Senate intelligence committees and the investigation by the Justice Department - all three of them are looking into this question. Explain first just what exactly they're looking into.

GORDON: The gist of this is - so the Russians - they had this massive cyber offensive. They unleashed through operatives maybe in Eastern Europe bots or robotic commands that swept across the Internet and picked up fake news stories or harshly critical news stories about Hillary Clinton and disseminated them across the United States.

And then at the same time, you have a digital operation inside the Trump campaign that was headed by Jared Kushner trying to micro-target voters. They had possession of a vast cache of information about American voters. And the question is, did this campaign operation, with all of the intelligence that it had amassed about what swing states should be targeted, what jurisdictions should be targeted - did they then turn around and direct Russia or guide Russia to those jurisdictions?

MCEVERS: Is there any evidence at all up to this point that the answer to that is yes?

GORDON: Not publicly. What we know and we're learning by the day and the week is about a lot of contacts between the Trump people and the Russians during the campaign, during the transition, the bombshell that came out over the weekend from The New York Times about the meeting with a Russian lawyer by three top Trump campaign people - Don Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner. So we have a lot here to contemplate, but we don't have the goods on anybody.

MCEVERS: You talk about Jared Kushner. He's of course the president's son-in-law, now a senior adviser in the White House. And during the campaign, he was head of digital strategy. What does that mean that his role in this could be?

GORDON: He was overseeing this effort to do micro-targeting of voters. There's nothing illegal about this. But the Trump campaign had obtained through a firm known as Cambridge Analytica, we believe, this huge volume of information on every voter, maybe as much as 500 points of data from what kind of food you - do they eat.

MCEVERS: Wow.

GORDON: ...What are their attitudes about health care reform or climate change and all of this information that enables you to shape a message that you're sending to somebody that you're trying to sway to get on your side so you can win.

MCEVERS: So what's next for this part of these investigations?

GORDON: We don't know exactly what the investigators are going to do next. But I'll just say in terms of complexity, no one knows who sent which bots flying around the internet to try to influence the campaign. And the only source of that may be the National Security Agency. And whether they would tap into their huge store of data about messages coming into the country or going out of the country remains to be seen.

MCEVERS: McClatchy reporter Greg Gordon who worked on this story with freelance reporter Peter Stone, thank you so much.

GORDON: Thank you so much, Kelly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.