During the Senate’s first public hearing on the Trump-Russia scandal, a former FBI agent testified that president Donald Trump’s willingness to embrace Russian disinformation was the foundational reasons Russia’s interference in the 2016 election worked, The Guardian reported.
Clint Watts, a former FBI special agent and army officer, told the Senate panel’s first public hearing that social media accounts associated with spreading pro-Russian fake news were visible as far back as 2009, but it was rampant during the 2016 elections.
“Part of the reason [the attack] worked in this US election is because the commander-in-chief has used Russian active measures against his [political] opponents,” Watts told the Senate panel investigating the president’s alleged ties to Russia.
According to the report, the expert said that Russia possessed unreleased hacked information on thousands of Americans it could “weaponize” to discredit inconvenient sources. Those and other measures provided Russia with an inexpensive tool to check its wealthier adversaries in the US and Nato, several scholars and former US officials assessed.
When asked why the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, felt the 2016 US election provided the Kremlin an opportunity to intervene – the consensus position of US intelligence agencies – Watts pointed to Trump.
Trump and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, embraced and promoted false narratives, convenient to Russian interests, including a fake story about a terrorist attack on the Turkish airbase at Incirlik used by US forces and baselessly doubting the US citizenships of former president Barack Obama and Ted Cruz.
“On 11 October, President Trump stood on stage and cited a fake news story from the Russian propaganda outlet Sputnik News that disappeared from the internet. He denies the intel from the United States about Russia. He claimed that the election could be rigged – that was the number one theme pushed by RT, Sputnik News,” Watts testified.
The Senate’s hearings have not yet featured key testimony from serving intelligence and law enforcement officials
The first public hearing by the Senate intelligence committee into its Trump-Russia investigation featured none of the partisan rancor that has defined its counterpart in the House of Representatives, which is under a cloud of a massive cover-up.
The Republican chairman, Richard Burr of North Carolina, himself a Trump ally during the campaign, pledged a “thorough, independent and non-partisan review” of evidence potentially tying Trump to Russia, a commitment echoed by the top panel Democrat, Mark Warner of Virginia.
“If we politicize this process, our efforts will likely fail,” Burr said at the outset of the hearing.