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Catherine Thompson

Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at catherine@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Catherine

We’ve been combing through a huge new report out today from the Russian news agency RBC, whose investigators previously helped TPM identify a Twitter account, @tpartynews, that was run by the notorious Russian troll farm that purchased $100,000 worth of Facebook ads.

Sam Thielman has been in touch with the RBC team and is finalizing his own story as I write. The key takeaway is that the troll farm recruited as many as 100 U.S. activists to organize events, without those activists’ knowledge of the real scheme behind their organizing.

More to come from us on this shortly.

We tasked Sam Theilman with pulling together the various social media threads of the Russia investigations in a way that would help us—and all of you—better understand how they tie together. He found that the ugly undercurrent of the majority of the Russian-linked ads and propaganda that reporters have surfaced so far, whether they focused on Black Lives Matter or stoking fears about immigrants and refugees, is race. “A lot of it does seem to really prey on identity politics,” Justin Hendrix, the head of the NYC Media Lab, told him.

It’s extremely difficult to measure the effectiveness of the ads given the limited information we have to go on. But exploiting identity politics through ads and other propaganda appears at least to have allowed Russian cyberactors to reinforce, perhaps even invigorate, Trump’s base. It remains an open question whether the same ads successfully swayed undecided voters, or whether they pushed third-party, Sanders or Clinton voters to switch their allegiance to Trump.

We very well may be closer to answering that question after Nov. 1, when congressional investigators are expected to hold a public hearing with tech companies. The House Intel panel plans to release the Facebook ads they’re reviewing after that hearing, and the company’s COO Sheryl Sandberg said just this morning that when those ads are released, Facebook also will supply the information for how each ad was targeted.

How these ads were targeted is a crucial missing piece of this roadmap. So it seems that in a couple weeks we’ll have a much more comprehensive picture of how, and, more importantly, with what degree of sophistication Russians targeted U.S. voters online.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) came out of a Senate-wide briefing Thursday by the U.S. deputy attorney general with the impression that the federal probe into Russia’s interference in the U.S. election has entered criminal territory.

“The takeaway I have is that everything he said was that you need to treat this investigation as if it may be a criminal investigation,” Graham told reporters after the briefing from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

He cautioned that he didn’t get to ask Rosenstein to confirm that the investigation, which includes whether Donald Trump campaign officials colluded with Russian officials, was now a criminal one.

“It was a counterintelligence investigation before now. It seems to me now to be considered a criminal investigation,” he told reporters.

Graham, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, argued that Rosenstein’s appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel in charge of the probe would have the effect of limiting Congress’ ability to carry out parallel investigations.

“What does that mean for the Congress? I find it hard to subpoena records of somebody like Mr. Flynn who may be subject to a criminal investigation because he has a right not to incriminate himself,” he said, referring to Trump’s ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr (R-NC) had signaled earlier in the day that Flynn’s lawyers refused to honor a subpoena from his panel, before correcting himself. The subpoena requested documents related to any of Flynn’s dealings with Russia.

This post has been updated.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior House Republican is calling on the Trump administration to investigate whether criminal charges are warranted against members of the Turkish president’s security detail.

Rep. Ed Royce of California says bodyguards traveling with Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his official state visit to Washington “viciously beat multiple individuals, throwing them to the ground and kicking them in the head.”

Royce, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, detailed his request for an inquiry in a letter sent Wednesday to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The State Department has criticized the Turkish government over violence outside its embassy, where Erdogan’s security staff broke up an anti-government protest. The protesters were chanting anti-Erdogan slogans as he entered the embassy on Tuesday after meeting with President Donald Trump.

 

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The phone calls with the Russian ambassador that led to Michael Flynn's ouster as national security adviser were an afterthought Thursday as Attorney General Jeff Sessions stepped in front of TV cameras and addressed revelations that he had met twice with that envoy during the campaign.

So it was a good moment for the White House to confirm to the New York Times that, in addition to those calls, Flynn met with ambassador Sergey Kislyak for about 20 minutes at Trump Tower in December.

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Working as a deputy assistant to President Donald Trump is not counterterror lightweight and apparent hothead Sebastian Gorka's first rodeo in politics.

The Forward on Friday detailed Gorka's time in Hungarian politics in the aughts, which included trying to get a new political party off the ground alongside former members of the Jobbik party, whose leaders have been accused of stoking anti-Semitism, as well as publishing articles in a newspaper the U.S. State Department says "published anti-Semitic articles and featured articles by authors who have denied the Holocaust.”

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A counterterrorism expert says White House aide Sebastian Gorka rang him up this week to threaten legal action and "berate" him for repeatedly questioning Gorka's credibility on Twitter.

Newsweek on Thursday published what it said was audio of a phone call between Gorka and Michael S. Smith II, a terrorism analyst who's advised members of Congress and, like Gorka, weighed in on the issue as a commentator on TV news.

Smith and Gorka, the former Breitbart News editor whose hardline take on Islam and ties to fringe, anti-Muslim activists have drawn criticism since he was appointed deputy assistant to the President, can be heard trading barbs for more than 14 minutes in the audio of the call.

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