Russia’s effort to influence U.S. voters through Facebook and other social media is a “red-hot” focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 election and possible links to President Donald Trump’s associates, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
Mueller’s team of prosecutors and FBI agents is zeroing in on how Russia spread fake and damaging information through social media and is seeking additional evidence from companies like Facebook and Twitter about what happened on their networks, said one of the officials, who asked not to be identified discussing the ongoing investigation.
The ability of foreign nations to use social media to manipulate and influence elections and policy is increasingly seen as the soft underbelly of international espionage, another official said, because it doesn’t involve the theft of state secrets and the U.S. doesn’t have a ready defense to prevent such attacks.
Russia correctly identified one of our greatest weaknesses, which is that many Americans are dumb enough to believe whatever they read on Facebook.
* Kelsey Snell, Mike DeBonis, and Damian Paletta report that all the suspense may soon be over:
The White House and GOP leaders plan to reveal new details of their plan to cut corporate and individual taxes the week of Sept. 25, and they are imploring lawmakers to reach a budget agreement that could smooth its passage, a key lawmaker told his colleagues Wednesday morning.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Tex.) told other House Republicans during a closed-door meeting that they needed to unify or the effort to cut taxes could fail, according to two people in the room.
That was a nod to the GOP’s aborted fight to replace parts of the Affordable Care Act earlier this year, during which the House and Senate tried to pass competing health-care bills, splitting the party and culminating in the effort’s failure. They want a much different outcome in their tax overhaul effort.
Brady told his colleagues that “the stakes are higher than ever that we deliver this year.”
Just think of those poor billionaires looking out mournfully at the ocean from their houses in the Hamptons, wondering, “Will I get my tax cut? Does anyone care about me?”
* Suzy Khimm has the story of Trump’s nominee to be the No. 2 official at FEMA, who had been investigated for charging taxpayers for personal trips, falsifying records, and violating a ban on recently departed officials lobbying their agencies. His nomination was withdrawn once Khimm started asking questions about him.
* With the usual nonsense swirling about how dreamers supposedly take jobs from Americans, Alex Nowrasteh makes a good fiscal and economic case for a new DREAM Act.
* Dedrick Asante-Muhammad and Chuck Collins argue that with inequality increasing and black and Latino families unable to accumulate wealth, we’re on our way toward a society like Brazil’s.
* Perry Bacon, Jr., Clare Malone, and the other folks at 538 have an interesting discussion of the question of whether Clinton is right about why she lost.
* Ari Berman reports that longtime GOP vote suppressor Hans von Spakovsky, a member of Trump’s vote fraud commission, urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to allow emocrats, “mainstream Republicans,” or academics on the commission.
* Jamelle Bouie takes apart Steve Bannon’s bad history and urges the media to stop treating him as a deep-thinking intellectual. Yeah, good luck with that.
* Glenn Greenwald asks whether Hillary Clinton’s hawkishness gave Trump a way to (fraudulently) paint himself as more antiwar than she, and argues this reveals the truth about public sentiment towards endless war.
* And Carol Lee, Julia Ainsley, and Ken Dilanian report that Robert Mueller is now taking a good look at Michael Flynn, Jr. Those juniors, boy, I don’t know.