Facebook’s recent disclosure to the Senate Intelligence Committee of more than 3,000 Russian-bought political ads designed to make mincemeat out of the truth during last year’s election has already begun to yield some rather eye-opening revelations, including this little chestnut: a great many of them were directly targeted at Michigan and Wisconsin, two of the most crucial battleground states that ceded Trump the presidency.
According to CNN, who broke the story, sources did not specify how many ads were directed in the two states, the particulars of their content, nor when during the election they were running. But Facebook has previously acknowledged that roughly a quarter of all the ads they submitted were geographically targeted and claims that more of them ran in 2015 than 2016. Whatever the breakdown was, it’s difficult to believe that whatever efforts were made in Michigan or Wisconsin didn’t make a difference.
Michigan and Wisconsin were two of the most closely contested states in the election, both of them carrying Trump by less than one percent respectively, barely allowing him to squeeze out an Electoral College victory. Victories that narrow are rare, often more attributable to luck than malfeasance. But given the circumstances and the states in question, the latter is seeming increasingly likely, enough to convince special counsel Robert Mueller and the Senate Intelligence Committee to determine whether the Trump Organization played a guiding role in where to target the ads.
Ranking Intelligence Committee Democrat Adam Schiff is threading this needle very carefully, or so he would like CNN to believe, at least:
Obviously, we’re looking at any of the targeting of the ads, as well as any targeting of efforts to push out the fake or false news or negative accounts against Hillary Clinton, to see whether they demonstrate a sophistication that would be incompatible with not having access to data analytics from the campaign,” Schiff said Tuesday evening. “At this point, we still don’t know.
In defending Schiff’s plausible deniability, it’s important to note that Facebook’s disclosure is barely a week old, which feels like a goddamned eternity under this administration. Lawmakers have only just begun to dive into the data set, which even for a mere 3,000 ads is almost certainly expansive. Compounding matters is the fact that the ads are directed all over the place in a way that seems completely chaotic, which is almost certainly by design. So much so that committee members from both parties, in a rare display of bipartisanship, have stated that “there was a clear sophistication in the Russian ad campaign,” that according to Senator John Cornyn, a Republican on both the intelligence and judiciary committees (both of whom received the Facebook ads) is merely “the tip of the iceberg.”
One thing is for certain: if Mueller and the intelligence committee can establish that Trump’s goon squad was involved in Russia’s disinformation campaign, Trump’s days as president* are seriously numbered. The hounds are closing in, one day at a time. Stay tuned.
This was originally posted on Pink Elephants.