President Donald Trump amplified a “civil war” threat that was pushed by Russian trolls charged as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
The president quoted right-wing Pastor Robert Jeffress in a series of tweets Sunday night warning that civil war would break out if he was impeached.
Trump’s threats shocked and alarmed the public, but they sounded familiar to former FBI special agent Asha Rangappa — who pointed to similar language in a criminal complaint filed against the chief accountant of a Kremlin campaign to influence foreign elections.
Don’t forget that one of the talking points pushed by Russia’s troll farm was that there would be a civil war if Democrats tried to impeach Trump. An interesting coinkydink, right?
— Asha Rangappa (@AshaRangappa_) September 30, 2019
Elena Alekseevna Khusyaynova kept detailed payment records for the Internet Research Agency and other Russian “troll farms” which pushed divisive and inflammatory content on social media designed to influence U.S. politics.
That campaign, known as Project Lakhta, set up accounts posing as Americans that pushed pro-Trump propaganda.
One of those themes, according to the complaint, piggybacked on a piece by right-wing broadcaster Michael Savage warning that civil war would break out if Trump was removed from office as part of the Mueller investigation.
“Any attempt to remove Trump is a direct path to civil war in the United States,” Savage warned. “In case Republicans will not stop acting as traitors, they will bring upon themselves forces of civil retribution during the 2018 elections.”
Accounts associated with Project Lakhta promoted that message, which Trump pushed himself months later on Twitter.
That’s not the only time Trump’s talking points overlapped with Project Lakhta propaganda, according to Rangappa.
The former FBI investigator shows several points in the complaint against Khusyaynova that align with themes Trump promotes on his own social media accounts, such as voter fraud, “fake news,” attacks on the late John McCain and dismissing Mueller as a “partisan” operative.