Trump campaign staffer in Florida unwittingly funneled information to Russian trolls in 2016
A low-level Trump campaign staffer in Florida unwittingly communicated with a Russian troll Facebook account who wanted the campaign’s help in planning a “YUGE pro-Trump flash mob in every Florida town.”
The New York Times on Thursday reported that the staffer who ran the “Florida for Trump” page thought they were communicating with an individual named Matt Skiber who turned out to be a front created by the St. Petersburg, Russia-based Internet Research Agency.
Known now as the “Russian troll farm” used to sow discord in the 2016 election, this wasn’t the first time the Kremlin-linked agency tried to plan events on American soil. It does, however, appear to be the first time one of their imposter accounts communicated with the Trump campaign itself.
In the message transcript between Florida For Trump and “Matt Skiber,” which were provided by the Times, the aide in control of the page’s communications passed along the campaign email of the state’s campaign director and also advised the troll account to contact another person who could help plan the flash mobs. It remains unclear whether or not the events, where were referred to as “Florida Goes Trump” in special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment against the IRA, actually happened.
— Amy Fiscus (@amyfiscus) March 8, 2018
Karen Giorno, a GOP operative who directed the Trump campaign’s Florida branch at the time of the August 2016 messages between the campaign and the Russian troll account, defended the employee in a statement to the Times.
“Nobody reasonably would have asked — or even thought to ask — ‘Are you sure you’re not with Russia?’” Giorno, said. “It’s just not something that normally you would think you have to watch out for.”