Here’s is an absolutely fascinating piece that I recommend you read. It is one of those stories which is eye-popping in itself but also has a new dangling thread at every turn that just demands tugging. Let me try to summarize as concisely as I can a wild and detailed verging on tangled story.
Bruce Carter was a diehard Bernie supporter and a self-started adjunct of the Sanders campaign with a “Black Men for Bernie” campaign bus making the rounds and the case for Sanders. But the intensity and bitterness of the Democratic primary race followed by the revelations of the DNC/Wikileaks emails drove his enthusiasm for Bernie into a burning enmity toward Hillary Clinton. Enter Dustin Stockton, a Breitbart reporter who struck up a running conversation and courtship which eventually led to Carter rebranding as a pro-Trump advocate in August 2016. He hit key concentrations of African-American voters in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida telling African-Americans either to vote for Trump or not vote at all. How would Carter get the money? Stockton (and Bannon in the background) had well-heeled Trump supporters writing big checks.
Then there were social media specialists with intelligence backgrounds to help (“military-grade influencer marketing and intelligence services”). They were introduced by Mike Flynn.
This passage gives some sense of the weirdness …
A Twitter account for Trump for Urban Communities was created on Sept. 11. Carter, who by his own admission doesn’t tweet, enlisted a colleague who did social media for Black Men for Bernie to start tweeting on behalf of his new pro-Trump group. The account originally pushed messages on topics familiar to his former audience, including the Flint water crisis, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and Black Lives Matter. Soon, the account adopted a more Trumpian voice, blasting a steady stream of tweets highlighting the rolling WikiLeaks dumps of stolen Democratic campaign emails and the latest twists in Clinton’s email server scandal, and retweeting such right-wing provocateurs as Mike Cernovich or Infowars.
More people probably had access to the Twitter account than Carter and his Black Men for Bernie colleague. An analysis showed that it was accessed in at least three different geographic locations and by at least two smartphones. A geolocation function on the account was switched off, suggesting that somebody may have been trying to cover their tracks.
There are various details that make it pretty clear this was being run as an adjunct of the Trump campaign, even though none of the spending was ever reported. There’s also at least some reason to think Carter’s efforts had some effect.
What was Carter thinking? He seems to have genuinely believed that a vote for Trump was the best option for African-Americans and that his business acumen, mixed with a major effort for urban renewal would generate results. In other words, Carter seems to have been hopelessly naive about who Trump was. Immediately after the election, his newfound supporters who were promising to support his on-going campaign for urban renewal disappeared.
Down toward the end of the story there’s this reference to House Democrats wanting to interview Iadonisi and Blanton (the social media guys).
Iadonisi was introduced to the campaign by retired General Michael Flynn, and his work for the campaign involved social media, according to a person familiar with Iadonisi’s role. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee said in a March report about the panel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election that they wanted to interview Iadonisi and Blanton, who is an investor in VizSense. The Republican-controlled committee ended its probe without doing so.
Who knows what the story with these guys is. But it reminded me of one thing that is on the ballot in November. There are so many things that clearly happened in the 2016 campaign, far more than I think we even imagine. We’re never going to really find out what happened until there are real investigations of all this stuff. Democrats have a political interest to do so. It won’t happen until they are in control of at least one house of Congress.
As I noted, each of these parts of the story leaves a handful of questions unanswered. Who exactly were these social media experts? What work did they do? Just how much money was spent? It’s wild. Read the piece.