(National Sentinel)Â Not a Bombshell: One of the Russian journalists who wrote a story about “trolling” the U.S. elections in 2016 is confounded by the importance of the issue in the United States after special counsel Robert Mueller relied in large part on his story to issue a 37-page indictment of 13 Russians on Friday.
AsÂ The Washington Post reported, journalist Andrey Zakharov, who co-wrote a 4,500-word essay withÂ Polina Rusyaeva titled, “How the ‘troll factory’ worked the U.S. elections,â€ “explained how it was a strange feeling seeing something he had so closely investigated become a major issue in the United States, when it had not been a ‘bombshell’ when he published his report at home.”
In particular, Zakharov’s co-written article explained the functioning ofÂ the Internet Research Agency (IRA),Â a state-sponsored â€œtroll factoryâ€ in St. Petersburg that was mentioned as being behind much of the operation.
When asked what his reaction was to the indictments, he said, “It looks like they just took some employees from the … American department [of the IRA] whose names they could get. But the American department was like 90 people. So my reaction was that, for me, it was like that curious list of oligarchs and Kremlin authorities where they put the whole Forbes list and the whole Kremlin administration on it. Itâ€™s very strange.”
He also noted that most of the attention in the media and in U.S. political circles focused on phony Internet-based groups set up by the IRA that were “pro-Trump.”
“Also, everyone has focused on the pro-Trump groups. What we saw was that they were trying to spread tension in the society, talking about problems people had with black people, Islam and so on,” he said.
“They organized anti-Trump rallies also. Yes, they were active against Hillary [Clinton], but they were not always pro-Trump. They were also active after the election. The story about the Black Fist movement â€” fake movement self-defense classes for black people â€” they started this story in 2017, after Trump was elected,” Zakharov continued.
As for those working in the troll factory, he said, “For them it was really fun: 90 people sitting in St. Petersburg, organizing groups with thousands and thousands of likes. It was a very successful social media marketing campaign.”
He also commented on the small size of the operation in terms of personnel and budget having an outsized effect.
“A lot of Russian conservativesÂ were proud. They said: ‘Look at what Russians can do! Only 90 people with $2 million made America scared! We are strong!'” he said.
U.S. journalists and other political observers were also confused about Mueller’s indictments.
That includes talk radio giant Rush Limbaugh, who noted that Mueller’s indictments further clear President Donald J. Trump of allegedly “colluding” with Russia to hijack the election.
And former U.S. attorney Joe diGenova said that the lack of indictments against any Americans proves that Mueller’s probe “is over.”
“Now there is no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity,” he said. “There is no allegation that the charged conduct altered the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.”
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