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Russia Picked Donald Trump and Ran Him for President, Former Israeli Intelligence Officer Says

Russia chose Donald Trump as the U.S. presidential candidate who would be most advantageous to Moscow, and used online tactics to win him the presidency, according to a former agent of the Israeli intelligence agency the Mossad.

"Officials in Moscow looked at the 2016 U.S. presidential race and asked, ‘Which candidate would we like to have sitting in the White House? Who will help us achieve our goals?’ And they chose him. From that moment, they deployed a system [of bots] for the length of the elections, and ran him for president,” former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo told the audience at the Marker’s digital conference in Israel on Monday, where experts gathered to discuss online disinformation campaigns and bots.

“What we’ve seen so far with respect to bots and the distortion of information is just the tip of the iceberg. It is the greatest threat of recent years, and it threatens the basic values that we share—democracy and the world order created since World War Two,” Pardo noted, according to Haaretz.

Earlier this month, two Senate-commissioned reports determined that Russia had used every social media tool available to influence the U.S. 2016 presidential election in favor of Trump. One of the reports, completed by the company New Knowledge, detailed the wide reach of the Russian troll farm called the Internet Research Agency (IRA).

“Run like a sophisticated marketing agency in a centralized office environment, the IRA employed and trained over a thousand people to engage in round-the-clock influence operations, first targeting Ukrainian and Russian citizens, and then, well before the 2016 US election, Americans. The scale of their operation was unprecedented—they reached 126 million people on Facebook, at least 20 million users on Instagram, 1.4 million users on Twitter, and uploaded over 1,000 videos to YouTube,” the New Knowledge report stated.

gettyimages-1074777070-594x594 President Donald Trump makes a video call to service members. Russia chose Trump as the U.S. presidential candidate who would be most advantageous to Moscow, former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo told the audience at the Marker’s digital conference in Israel. Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Indictments from the Department of Justice recently revealed that the Internet Research Agency had a budget of over $25 million and continued to operate well into 2018.

The second report, authored by Oxford University and the company Graphika, noted that Russian influence operations attempted to sow divisions in U.S. society and promote Trump’s candidacy.

“On Facebook, the five most shared and the five most liked posts focused on divisive issues, with pro-gun ownership content, anti-immigration content pitting immigrants against veterans, content decrying police violence against African Americans, and content that was anti-Muslim, anti-refugee, anti-Obama, and pro-Trump,” the report read.

It is unclear, however, whether these efforts succeeded in swaying voters.

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