Cybersecurity expert Malcolm Nance appeared on MSNBC’ “Hardball” on Tuesday to dissect the new report that former Donald Trump deputy campaign manager Rick Gates sought proposals from an Israeli company to manipulate social media during the 2016 election season.
Nance is the author of the 2018 book, The Plot to Destroy Democracy. His book The Plot to Hack America: How Putin’s Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election was published in September 2016, just before the election.
Host Chris Hayes noted the proposal read like “a smaller scale version of the social media campaign that Russia ultimately carried out to benefit Trump and disparage Hillary Clinton. Thirteen Russians were indicted last February for that effort, which included the fraudulent use of fictitious online personas.”
“If you look at the timeline, this conversation took place in March 2016,” Nance noted. “This is just about the exact same time that the Democratic National Committee was discovering that their servers had been hacked into, that George Papadopoulos was out meeting with suspected members of Russian intelligence, and the rumor that Hillary Clinton’s emails were in the possession of the Kremlin, were being floated all around at this time.”
“I think that there were multiple teams,” he concluded. “We’ve already seen evidence that there were multiple teams in the Trump camp, and their sphere, that had been looking for information related to Hillary’s emails, related to psychological warfare and influence warfare operations and what the Russians and Israelis call ‘perception management techniques’ to find and manipulate voters.”
“What do you think, how does it fit into the jigsaw puzzle of Russian collusion — Trump/Russian collusion?” Matthews asked of the Israeli effort.
Nance explained that from the intelligence perspective, the question would be what motivated Gates’ actions.
“That means he had a conversation with someone — or heard a directive from someone — to go out and find this information,” he predicted.
“What’s interesting is Trump had already had Cambridge Analytica for over a year, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon were on the board of the company, already carrying out these operations,” he reminded. “Which means there was something more — specific — they wanted and this side group was out to try to help them acquire that information.”
“Another key point to this is, Robert Mueller went to Israeli with Israeli authorities and they tore Psy-Group apart,” he noted. “They interviewed everybody, went there, seized computers and documents.”
“This group is a black hole in the story of which we can only learn more and see whether they were actually tied to Moscow in some way or just an independent operation that trump funded,” he added.