- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 19, 2017

President Trump’s closest advisers interacted with a Twitter account connected to a Kremlin-linked “troll farm” accused of meddling in last year’s White House race on behalf of Russia, according to multiple news reports.

The Twitter account @Ten_GOP billed itself as the “Unofficial Twitter account of Tennessee Republicans” and posted political content retweeted by past and present Trump administration officials ranging from Kellyanne Conway, the president’s campaign manager-turned-counselor, to Gen. Michael Flynn, his ousted former national security adviser.

The account wasn’t based out of Tennessee — or anywhere in the U.S., for that matter — but instead was reportedly operated by the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg-based company allegedly used by the Russian government to conduct online influence campaigns like the one targeting last year’s White House race.

Russian news site RBC first linked the Twitter account to the so-called “troll farm” in an article Tuesday, and The Washington Post and The Daily Beast subsequently published reports of their own corroborating its findings — the latest examples highlighting a Kremlin-authorized influence campaign meant to “undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order” during last year’s race, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The @Ten_GOP account was created in November 2015 and accumulated more than 136,000 followers before being shut down by Twitter this past August, 11 months after Tennessee’s actual GOP filed its first of three complaints with the social media company, The Daily Beast reported Wednesday.

“It was in no way affiliated with our office,” Candice Dawkins, communications director for the actual Tennessee GOP, told BuzzFeed News. “It was very misleading.”

In the interim the account’s politically charged messages were repeatedly echoed by some of Mr. Trump’s loudest supporter. Mrs. Conway, for example, retweeted a @Ten_GOP post shortly before Election Day suggesting Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump’s opponent, should be jailed for using a private email server while secretary of state.

Gen. Flynn retweeted the account at least once, The Daily Beast reported, while his son, Michael Flynn Jr., retweeted the account 34 times before its suspension, the report said.

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, followed the account and retweeted at least three of its posts, The Daily Beast reported.

“BREAKING: #VoterFraud by counting tens of thousands of ineligible mail in Hillary votes being reported in Broward County, Florida Please, RT,” read one of the posts retweeted by the president’s son. “This vet passed away last month before he could vote for Trump.. Here he is in his #MAGA hat.. #voted #ElectionDay,” read another retweeted on Election Day.

Other tweets posted by @Ten_GOP were featured in articles published by RT and Sputnik, two Russian government-owned media outlets, as well as The Gateway Pundit and InfoWars, unabashedly pro-Trump, right-wing websites, the reports said.

The Twitter account was permanently banned the same day it shared a photograph of 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Championship parade erroneously captioned as a crowd of Trump supporters outside a rally in Phoenix.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment, citing “privacy and security reasons,” The Daily Beast reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized an influence campaign targeting last year’s White House election and particularly Mrs. Clinton’s unsuccessful campaign, according to U.S. intelligence officials. In addition to using state-sponsored hackers and propagandists to interfere in last year’s race, Russian operatives allegedly exploited U.S. internet companies including Google, Facebook and Twitter to inundate American social media users with politically charged ads and other content in the election’s run up, according to recent reports.

The Kremlin has denied allegations of election meddling.

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