2016 Election Attack: ‘The Translator Project’ — Butchers of Reality
Second in a series on 2016 election interference, this investigation focuses on the Mueller indictment exposing “The Translator Project” — the Russian influence operation that attacked US
***Please support my work with a paid membership.***
“It is imperative to intensify criticizing Hillary Clinton.”—Secured Borders Facebook Group, St. Petersburg, Russia, 9.14.2016
“It’s absolutely insane that we allow hostile dictatorships direct access to our citizens.”—Wes Clark Jr., environmental activist and writer
‘Fraud and Deceit’
The first day I slept in after the election of 2016 was the morning after Paul Manafort was indicted. It was Halloween 2017, and I had been working 24/7 since the lead up to the US presidential election to report all that I knew about Trump and those in his orbit being frauds, cons, and foreign assets.
Bette Dangerous is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
In the mid-2000s, I had interviewed a dozen people, who said they’d been victimized by Trump. I had reported on a company he shilled for, ACN, a video phone ‘MLM’ promoted about the same time as Skype. I interviewed people who had dumped their entire life savings into what they said was a pyramid scheme. Trump was the sparkly game show host trotted out in paid testimonials where he told people that ACN was a good investment. He even promoted ACN on his NBC show, another bit of fakery.
I recall the shame in the voices of people who lost their money. They were hurt and confused. Wasn’t he the rich guy on TV who had the secret sauce to making money, the Art of the Deal guy? It was in 2006 that I first learned Trump was a fake rich guy, making more money off endorsements than real estate, an area where he clearly didn’t have the golden touch or why the six bankruptcies?
I later learned he was a fake rich guy because all money launderers are fake rich guys, a great lesson from Canadian academic Michael MacKay, a geopolitical analyst documenting the war in Ukraine.
As I reflect back on how Trump was paid millions to dupe people into relinquishing their life savings on a bad investment, I realize he was promoted to frontman of a much larger crime syndicate — the destruction of US democracy by a transnational mob network actively trying to overthrow America with the help of its own people — some are complicit but millions are being duped.
This series focuses on the complicit.
The first in this series revisiting 2016 election interference began by peeling back the crime scene of Twitter 2016, where grotesque memes of Hillary Clinton littered the Twitter hellscape. A group of US white supremacists spread lies — lies that often originated from the Russian intelligence operation in St. Petersburg.
With one of the operatives Douglass Mackey sentenced to prison last month for interfering in the 2016 election by encouraging Clinton supporters to vote by text, US Putinists are crying foul. Their attempted cover up points to the much larger crime.
It is my belief that America cannot get whole without being forced to examine this hard truth:
Douglass Mackey was part of a larger criminal conspiracy involving a foreign intelligence agency to alter the outcome of a presidential election.
And the criminal conspiracy is ongoing.
Wes Clark Jr, who is the subject of the podcast American Psyop and whose father, General Wesley Clark Sr. was head of NATO, said that allowing retired civil servants and ex-military to work for hostile nations has made us vulnerable to pro-Putin predators.
The Butchers of Reality
So once again, I put on my emotional hazmat suit and returned to the scene of the crime — social media 2016, as directed by Robert Mueller’s indictment of Russian spies and the Internet Research Agency, the Russian influence operation that employed workers operating around the clock to impact the 2016 US presidential election. They butchered reality, hacking the minds of millions of unwitting Americans.
First, let’s re-familiarize ourselves with some pertinent details from the Mueller Report:
Mueller’s team identified dozens of U.S. political rallies that were created and organized on social media by the Russian ‘troll farm’ (IRA) indicted for attempting to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
The IRA organized political rallies in the U.S. both before and after the 2016 election.
Among the Russian-organized protests identified by Mueller’s team: a march attended by thousands of people organized by the IRA in New York City.
Among the details of that march to Trump Tower on Nov. 12, 2016:
It was organized by the Facebook page — “BlackMattersUS” — created by the St. Petersburg, Russia, operatives to exploit racial tensions between black and white Americans.
The event was shared with 61,000 users.
The Mueller report exposed how Trump campaign officials and proxies pushed Russian intelligence messages on Twitter and Facebook, fanning the Kremlin-state sponsored lies in their hacking of American minds.
The Mueller report exposed how Trump campaign officials such as Kellyanne Conway and Donald Trump Jr. repeated and retweeted Russian factory lies about voter fraud and lies about Clinton. And Trump campaign affiliates pushed dozens of tweets created by the Russian operation.
Examples: Just like Douglass Mackey, Don Jr. — who is openly defending Mackey — back in 2016 retweeted a post from @Pamela_Moore13, an IRA-controlled Twitter account, and on September 19, 2017, Trump from his personal Twitter account responded to a tweet from the Russian operative account “10_GOP” (TEN_GOP’s alt account) who tweeted, ‘We love you, Mr. President!’ Trump responded: ‘So nice, thank you!’
In addition, the “TEN_GOP” account would appear when Don Jr. retweeted other Russian accounts — fanning lies about fake immigrant ‘riots’ in Sweden and fake voter fraud in swing states.
“IRA employees monitored the reaction of the Trump campaign and, later, Trump administration officials responded to their tweets,” Mueller wrote.
Mueller’s investigation concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election to boost Trump through a social media campaign coordinated by Russian intelligence.
Since so few people read the Mueller Report, I began threading it on Twitter on April 26, 2019. I wanted to give people the opportunity to take in the information in bite-size pieces — something I used to do in broadcast news. If a subject was complex, I would break it down into a series so everyone had a chance to understand. Here are a few screenshots from that thread:
About quarter million people have seen that thread, maybe not enough to sway the wind, but something.
To understand what happened in 2016, we have to go back a few years earlier, when Putin’s Chef — the newly deceased Russian intelligence agent Yevgeny Prigozhin was paying spies to go to America to illegally gather intel to hack American minds — detonating a massive attack on our nervous systems, pushing people to war against each other in the ultimate goal of weakening us to throw an election.
St. Petersburg, Russia, 2015 — ‘That feeling from the Soviet times’
They looked like young professionals — hip, tech savvy 20-somethings — punching a clock at 55 Savushkina Street, where they were paid to make up and promote lies.
“I immediately felt like a character in the book 1984 by George Orwell — a place where you have to write that white is black and black is white. Your first feeling, when you ended up there, was that you were in some kind of factory that turned lying, telling untruths, into an industrial assembly line.”—a former lie factory worker told the Washington Post
Another lie factory worker described a middle manager, who ran around the office with his belly out loudly dangling keys. He said he knew he was in trouble when he was listening to a meeting where he was getting his lying instructions and realized that he no longer cared about truth.
One Russian internet activist — who spent two months working for the IRA — wants people to know that the Russian people are also casualties of information warfare:
"For the public, it is harmful because we are being brainwashed. We won't be able to understand what is really happening. We are put against one another, and we are sliding back into the old ways when we were searching for the enemy among us — our friends and colleagues. That feeling from the Soviet times — I can feel it everywhere."—Lyudmila Savchuk
For Lyudmila Savchuk, who sued the IRA over labor laws forcing documentation to prove it even existed, the reality distortion in Russia is omnipresent — every printed truth is scarred by paid liars.
"It's like half the country is trolls,” she said.
When she read the 37-page Mueller indictment, her response was dismay. She said there were hundreds of people working at the IRA — only 13 were indicted.
My response to the Mueller indictment was quite different. I watched the February 16, 2018 press conference and sobbed. Finally, all Americans would see what I’d been reporting was right — they’d been had.
Isn’t it pretty to think so…
Trump and Moscow got their talking points coordinated and simultaneously laughed it off — both made fun of Mueller.
Looking back now, it’s brutally shocking to see how Trump’s tweet response is a match for the Kremlin pr line.
Their mirror responses were to diffuse the seriousness of the Mueller indictment:
Special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies for interfering in the 2016 U.S. election. The lead defendant is the “Internet Research Agency,” known as Russia’s “troll farm.” They are charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
“Some Defendants, posing as US persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign,” the criminal complaint claims. The document also names specific fake groups or events created by the Russian nationals.
It was a full-service lie factory, complete with Russian spies who traveled to the US illegally in 2014 to gather intel on our weaknesses and triggers — racism, misogyny, religious extremism, government distrust — and then targeted us with our own insecurities — aiming squarely at purple states and anywhere they could encourage us to destroy ourselves from within.
The lie factory had language instructors, polishing trolls.
Revisiting my own work from this time is painful — we’ve done nothing to stop the reality butchers, emboldened to continue their vivisection of truth.
And yet I force myself to revisit another crime scene. I pulled screenshots from my thread parsing the IRA indictment.
“We had a slight problem here at work. The FBI busted our activity.”—lie factory worker, St. Petersburg, Russia
The point was fraud and deceit, they targeted our US elections. Mueller would later have to drop the charges against Prigozhin’s Concord companies due to national security risks.
"Concord has been eager and aggressive in using the judicial system to gather information about how the United States detects and prevents foreign election interference," the department said in its filing. "The United States will not permit Concord to continue to garner the benefits of its appearance while evading other consequences thereof."
In my thread, I summarized with screenshots the indictment:
Defendants illegally posing as Americans to gain intel
Strategic goal: disrupt presidential election with chaos
Support Trump, destroy Clinton
Millions of dollars were spent at the lie factory — managers, data analysis, graphics, SEO, IT departments, some ex-employees say there were a thousand people doing the work of hacking minds (later, a Senate Intelligence Report noted the IRA even offered an anti-masturbation hotline to blackmail Americans, advertising it on a fake Christian Facebook page)
The Translator Project
Although the lie factory also targeted Russians and Ukrainians, the ‘Translator Project’ was dedicated to attacking Americans.
Set up in 2014 to influence the outcome of the 2016 election, the employees used Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram to wage information warfare against the US.
Object of the Conspiracy: “Defeating the lawful governmental functions of the United States by dishonest means in order to enable Defendants to interfere with U.S. political and electoral processes, including the 2016 presidential election.”
Defendants tracked and studied us.
From Tweet No. 8 in my thread:
8/ FRAUD AND DECEIT: Defendants traveled throughout America—a key takeaway from source in Texas: focus on purple states.
“Specialists” working day and night shifts, created 100s of social media accounts.
To mask fraud, Defendants used stolen identities to open Paypal accounts.
I am including the screenshots to the indictment from my original read to encourage you to see what they were doing to American minds — the poison they were leaching in and how such useful idiots as Don Jr. were tweeting the poison. As noted on page 15 of the indictment above, Ten_GOP had 100,000 followers, and Don Jr. at the time I wrote the thread had 3.6 million followers. Just like Douglass Mackey, Don Jr., Mike Flynn, and Trump campaign staff spread the IRA poison.
The employees were told to “use any opportunity to criticize Hillary.”
It’s important to note the IT department purchased server space inside the US to set up VPNs.
Among the hashtags started by the Russian operation: #Hillary4Prison, and the Facebook group Secured Borders was admonished for having too few Hillary hate posts and it’s administrator was told “it is imperative to intensity criticizing Hillary Clinton.”
On page 18 of the indictment we learn that a St. Petersburg-operated Instagram account called “Woke Blacks” posted this message on October 16, 2016:
“… (a) particular hype and hatred for Trump is misleading the people and forcing Blacks to vote for Killary. We cannot resort to the lesser of two devils. Then we’d surely be better off without voting AT ALL.”
We also learn that the Russians purchased an ad on an Instagram account called “Blacktivist” that read:
“Choose peace and vote for Jill Stein. Trust me, it’s not a wasted vote.”
Trust me smh. Celebrities ranging from Sarah Silverman to Trevor Noah retweeted fake Black accounts from Russia.
Voter suppression and interference aimed at the Black vote were key strategies of the Russian operation, the white supremacist crew working with convicted felon Douglass Mackey, and the Trump campaign, as Bannon famously bragged to Business Insider.
Below you can see some of the anti-Hillary themes promoted by the Russians, which just happened to match the anti-Hillary themes pushed by the Trump campaign. (I force myself to revisit the Russian memes from the Senate Intelligence Report — the content triggers my post-traumatic news syndrome, and I am unable to post.)
According to the indictment, the Russians were in direct communication with the Trump campaign and even Trump volunteers such as Harry Miller, who was paid $1,000 dollars by the Russians to build a cage to depict a person dressed as Hillary Clinton in a prison cell for a rally in West Palm Beach, Florida, August 2016.
The Russians had created a Facebook group called “Being Patriotic”, which also had Twitter and Instagram accounts. Miller noticed the person who paid him didn’t speak fluent English, but said he didn’t know he was being paid by the Russians until he got a visit from the FBI. The Russians got their shot — of “Hillary Clinton” in a cage, seen around the world.
But Their Emails
The Russians then tried to destroy the evidence of what they had done.
“We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI busted (us)..preoccupied with covering tracks..I created all these pictures and posts, and the Americans believed it was written by their people.”—Irina Kaverzina, Translator Project, Sept. 17, 2017
The next screenshots are very difficult for me to look at — fake rallies, fake people, targeting Florida, offering money to recruit real people at their fake rallies and to print posters and buy megaphones. Matt Skiber — not a real person — communicating with real people.
Muslim-American rallies for Hillary advertised on Facebook and created by the Russian lie factory — promoted with signage attributed to Clinton that read: “I think Sharia Law will be a powerful new direction for freedom.”
She didn’t fucking say that.
In broken English, the Russians communicate their rallies and their flash mobs to the Trump campaign, and they use cryptocurrencies to pay for their fraud and deceit. They use stolen identities to create PayPal accounts.
Four months later, a Grand Jury indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for 2016 election hacking. The GRU officers hacked the DCCC, the DNC, and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and released the information under the names DC Leaks and Guccifer 2.0, which Roger Stone and his cell of white supremacists helped smear all over the internet, while launching misogynistic and satanic conspiracies based on Russian-hacked material.
And they’re doing it again. And now, Elon Musk — an American Monster — owns a primary battlefield.
“An attempted murderer is still guilty.”—Dr. Charles Kriel
Too often, we hear people questioning whether or not these influence operations had an impact. Let me remind people that both the Russian operation and the US operation used botnets to artificially inflate the reach of their lies. We know votes were suppressed, we certainly know Black votes were suppressed, we know American traitors worked with foreign assets to spread lie factory toxins, celebrities pushed the Russian lies — Trump pushed the lies.
We’ve been naive, and we’ve barely had any accountability. Where is the accountability for those who ran the botnets? Where is the accountability for the so-called trolls that swarmed these influencers and foreign assets? Where is the accountability for Americans working with foreigners to overthrow the American government and who is investigating the software?
Where is the punishment for the lives destroyed by cooked up conspiracies baked with ingredients stolen by Russian intelligence?
Why did we allow a foreign-influence campaign and US white supremacists to deny us our first women President, and where is the full investigation? One that is not buried by William Barr?
“I think a full investigation would show that Trump didn't actually win the election in 2016. He lost the election, and he was put into office because the Russians interfered on his behalf.”—Fmr President Jimmy Carter, June 28, 2019
The fever to burn the witch with the “lock her up” catchphrase so dimmed the minds of those who chanted it, they failed to learn its origin — how it was imported from Ukraine, where Paul Manafort’s client, Russian puppet and convicted traitor Viktor Yanukovych had deployed it to destroy a rival, who he did lock up.
Our willingness to believe the worst in others and our willingness to be wedged away from truth is our failing. We’ve got to be made of tougher stuff.
We’ve been in this war for a decade. What happened in 2016 matters.
Bette Dangerous is a reader-funded magazine. Thank you to all monthly, annual, and founding members. Thank you as well to all those who support my work with your generous coffee tips and who buy my ebooks. Some of you prefer making subsidizing donations via venmo, and it’s always greatly appreciated.
Also, a private link to an annual membership discount for older adults, those on fixed incomes or drawing disability, as well as activists and members of the media is available upon request at bettedangerous/gmail.
More info about Bette Dangerous - This magazine is written by Heidi Siegmund Cuda, an Emmy-award winning investigative reporter/producer, author, and veteran music and nightlife columnist. She is the cohost of RADICALIZED Truth Survives, an investigative show about disinformation and is part of the Byline Media team. Thank you for your support of independent investigative journalism.
Begin each day with a grateful heart.
Bette Dangerous is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.