Russian election plot touched even minor Trump supporters

A Facebook posting, released by the House Intelligence Committee, for a group called "Being Patriotic" is photographed in Washington on Feb. 16, 2018. "Being Patriotic" was part of an elaborate plot by Russian operatives to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election, says a federal grand jury indictment on Feb. 16. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)
Updated 18 February 2018
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Russian election plot touched even minor Trump supporters

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida: The request was simple: organize or attend a sign-waving rally supporting Donald Trump. But some of the Florida Republicans on the receiving end of those requests now know that they didn’t come from Republican allies, but from Russian adversaries.
Caught up in an elaborate Russian plot without their knowledge, a handful of these small-time Trump supporters said their votes were not swayed and they didn’t do anything they weren’t happy to do. Still, their interactions with the Russians highlight the ways, both big and small, that the nation’s campaign process was infiltrated.
“I was going to do what I was going to do anyway. I was a Trump supporter, they didn’t convince me,” said Jim Frishe, a real estate development consultant and candidate for county office, who organized a sign-waving event in Clearwater that was part of a statewide series of rallies promoted by the Russians.
The Florida rallies are one small facet of the indictment issued Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller charging 13 Russians and three Russian companies with interfering in the 2016 election. The most detailed allegation of illegal Russian meddling to date, it says they assumed US identities, sowed discord on social media, communicated with “unwitting” Americans and even set up political rallies from afar.
As part of that, the indictment says the Russians used a Facebook group, a Twitter account and other “false US personas” to organize coordinated “Florida Goes Trump” rallies on Aug. 20, 2016. They reached out to campaign staff, grassroots groups supporting Trump, and specific individuals to participate.
Frishe, 68, said he was called by someone identifying themselves as with a group called “Florida for Trump” and asked to organize a sign-waving rally. He said between 15 and 18 people showed up and that he didn’t receive any signs or money or other support. He never heard from them again.
He said he was not overly concerned about the indictment, or his minor role in the drama, and that Russian interference is “nothing new.”
“It’s not surprising,” Frishe said. “It doesn’t have a huge impact in this country.”
Still, the indictment details a sizable effort to disrupt the 2016 presidential election, aimed in part at helping Republican Donald Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. It involved creating Internet postings in the names of Americans whose identities had been stolen; staging political rallies while posing as American political activists; and paying people in the US to promote or disparage candidates.
Lilia Morraz was another person who put together an event. She said she got involved after she encountered the @March_for_Trump account on Twitter, one of the accounts the Russians used.
“I am really active on Twitter. They were saying Trump was not going to be elected. I happened to write to them and say it’s not true,” said Morraz, 60, of Miami.
Morraz said that from there, she was asked about good places to hold a rally in Miami and then “they told me, yes, go ahead and do it.” So she organized an event outside a restaurant that both she and @March_for_Trump promoted. She said hundreds attended and she made signs herself and received no money.
Morraz was skeptical about a Russian plot.
“I just don’t believe it. It’s like everything you see on TV. I don’t believe 90 percent of it,” she said.
Another Florida Republican, Betty Trigueiro, says she didn’t attend the Florida Goes Trump rallies. But her name and phone number were included in a Facebook post promoting the event without her permission.
Trigueiro, 62, of Bradenton, said that in August 2016 she started getting some Twitter messages from people she did not know with details on pro-Trump events. She thinks they may have gotten her contact information from her time as secretary of a local Republican club. She said she never attended any of the events.
While she was troubled that there appeared to efforts to “infiltrate and cause chaos,” Trigueiro wasn’t convinced the outcome was impacted.
“There was too many people that wanted him elected,” she said.


UK PM May calls US images of of migrant children ‘deeply disturbing’

Updated 49 min 18 sec ago
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UK PM May calls US images of of migrant children ‘deeply disturbing’

  • "This is wrong,” Prime Minster Theresa May told MPs
  • May said she would raise the issue with Trump next month

LONDON: British Prime Minster Theresa May on Wednesday said images from the United States of migrant children being held in cages were “deeply disturbing” and that she would press President Donald Trump on the issue.
“On what we have seen in the United States, pictures of children being held in what appear to be cages are deeply disturbing... this is wrong,” she told MPs.
May said she would raise the issue with Trump when the pair meet in Britain next month.
“When we disagree with the United States we tell them so,” she told MPs.
“But we also have some key shared interests with the United States in the security and defense field and on other areas as well.
“And it is right that we are able to sit down and discuss those with the president.”
Trump told Republican lawmakers Tuesday he backed their efforts to craft an immigration solution that ends the politically toxic practice of separating illegal migrant families on the US-Mexico border.