On Friday, the Department of Justice unveiled a new indictment targeting a Russian national for involvement in interfering with American elections. This time, though, there was a twist: The Russian was alleged to have interfered not with the 2016 election but, instead, with the current midterms.
What was particularly remarkable about the indictment, though, was that it included, for the first time, an alleged walk-through of how Russian rhetoric aimed at sowing division in the electorate had shifted after President Trump’s inauguration. It included examples of social media posts, but also some blanket rhetoric offered to members of the alleged Russian troll collective in response to news stories and events.
For example, one member of the group offered this bit of advice.
“Posting can be problematic due to time difference, but if you make your re-posts in the morning St. Petersburg time, it works well with liberals- LGBT groups are often active at night. Also, the conservative can view your re-post when they wake up in the morning if you post it before you leave in the evening St. Petersburg time.”
More commonly, though, the instructions were about how to frame political arguments in a way that often aligned with a more extreme version of Trump’s views.
How much overlap was there? We pulled a number of rhetorical examples from the indictment — all allegedly written by those involved in the Russian effort — and some quotes from Trump during the campaign and his presidency. Can you tell which is which? The quiz is below.
Now, don’t feel bad if you don’t do well. The alleged rhetoric from the Russians seems to have largely echoed Trump’s positions and appear to have been designed to reinforce his messages in a more divisive way. That’s the point.
But it also reinforces one of the main points raised when Russia’s interference efforts first came to light: Pushing for a more divided electorate can often look like an effort to amplify some of the president’s more outrageous rhetoric.