ALARMING

Report: Russian Think Tank Made Plan to Sway 2016 U.S. Election

A Russian think tank controlled by the Kremlin wrote up an elaborate plan on how to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election in the months leading up to the vote, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing U.S. officials. The Russian Institute for Strategic Studies prepared strategy papers that were distributed among high-ranking members of the Russian government, three current and four former U.S. officials told Reuters. U.S. intelligence agencies have openly accused the Kremlin of election meddling, and the claims made by the officials suggest the interference was sophisticated, deliberate, and approved at the highest level of the Russian government. “Putin had the objective in mind all along, and he asked the institute to draw him a road map,” one of the officials told Reuters, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The first paper seen by U.S. officials advised the Kremlin to target U.S. voters with an elaborate propaganda campaign last summer aimed at persuading them to elect a president who would go easier on Russia than President Obama did, the officials said. A second paper, created about a month before Election Day on Nov. 8, focused on Hillary Clinton’s apparent success in the campaign, warning that pro-Trump propaganda should be abandoned in favor of propaganda about voter fraud, intended to undermine faith in the the electoral system in case of a Clinton victory. It’s not clear how U.S. officials obtained the think tank’s documents, and the U.S. intelligence community has yet to comment on the report. But one official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said it was these documents that prompted Obama to warn of a “fake news” campaign by Russia ahead of the vote. Shortly after Trump’s victory last November, a group of independent researchers said Moscow had exploited popular social-media sites to spread “fake news” and propaganda, with the help of thousands of bots and a vast network of U.S. fringe sites eager to lap up questionable reports.