Senate Witness: Rubio, Ryan Were Targets Of Russian Influence Attempts

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March 30, 2017 1:17 p.m.

A witness revealed Thursday at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) had been targeted by Russian actors attempting to influence U.S. politics.

Clint Watts, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told the committee in his opening statement that Russia has used propaganda and generated social media trolls to try to undermine the political process and American institutions.

He said that he believes Rubio, as a presidential candidate, was a victim of Russian propaganda aimed at influencing the U.S. presidential election.

“Russia’s overt media outlets and covert trolls sought to sideline opponents on both sides of the political spectrum with adversarial views towards the Kremlin,” Watts said. “They were in full swing during both the Republican and Democratic primary season, and may have helped sink the hopes of candidates more hostile to Russian interests long before the field narrowed. Senator Rubio, in my opinion, you anecdotally suffered through these efforts.”

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Rubio did not return to the subject when he questioned the expert witnesses later in the hearing. A spokesman for Rubio did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment.

In a later hearing held by the Senate Intelligence Committee, Rubio acknowledged that the witness mentioned him while discussing Russia’s attempts to influence the election, but he would not comment further.

“One of the people who appeared before us earlier mentioned the 2016 presidential primary, I’m not prepared to comment on that, hopefully information on that will be reflected in our report, if any,” Rubio said.

Later in his opening statement, Watts added that Russian actors were still trying to influence American politics and recently targeted the House speaker.

“This past week, we observed social media accounts discrediting Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, hoping to further foment unrest inside U.S. democratic institutions,” Watts said.

This post has been updated.

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