New York Times: Top Trump campaign official requested online manipulation plans from Israeli company

A top Trump campaign official requested online manipulation proposals by an Israeli intelligence firm in 201...

Posted: Oct 9, 2018 10:39 AM
Updated: Oct 9, 2018 10:39 AM

A top Trump campaign official requested online manipulation proposals by an Israeli intelligence firm in 2016 to help defeat Hillary Clinton and Republican primary opponents, The New York Times reports.

There is no evidence Trump's campaign acted on any of the proposals by Psy-Group, a company staffed by former Israeli intelligence operatives, the Times reports, citing interviews and copies of the proposals the paper obtained. The campaign official, Rick Gates, was ultimately not interested in the company's work, a person with knowledge of the discussions told the Times.

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Special counsel Robert Mueller and his team, who are investigating Russian interference and possible coordination with the Trump campaign in the 2016 presidential election, have obtained copies of the proposals and questioned Psy-Group employees, according to people familiar with those interviews, the Times reports.

The Times reports that the Israeli company's pitches appear unconnected to Moscow's interference campaign.

Psy-Group's owner, Joel Zamel, did meet with Donald Trump Jr. in August 2016, according to the Times.

Marc Mukasey, Zamel's attorney, said in a statement that Zamel is not a target of Mueller's investigation.

"Mueller has clarified from day one that Joel and his company have never been a target of the investigation and that Joel provided full cooperation to the government to assist in their investigation and we've never heard from them since," Mukasey said in a statement to CNN. Zamel was interviewed by Mueller's team last winter.

"Mr. Zamel never pitched, or otherwise discussed, any of Psy-Group's proposals relating to the U.S. elections with anyone related to the Trump campaign, including not with Donald Trump Jr., except for outlining the capabilities of some of his companies in general terms," Mukasey added.

Gates sought one proposal to use fake online profiles to attack Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Trump's main opponent at the time, in order to sway 5,000 delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention in Trump's favor.

A separate proposal related to opposition research and "complementary intelligence activities" about Clinton and people close to her, according to copies of the proposals obtained Times and interviews with four people involved in creating the documents.

A third proposal by Psy-Group outlined a plan to use social media to expose or amplify division among rival campaigns and factions, the Times reports.

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