Trump adviser sought Israeli intelligence firm for dirty tricks

A senior Trump official solicited an Israeli intelligence firm to generate online propaganda for the 2016 presidential campaign to defeat Hillary Clinton.  

By Jack Gold, World Israel News Staff

A senior Trump campaign official approached an Israeli intelligence company for proposals on building a campaign involving fake social media accounts and social media manipulation to influence Republican party voters in a bid to help defeat then-candidate Donald Trump’s rivals and afterwards Democratic Candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Psy-Group, made up of former Israeli intelligence officers, was approached by Rick Gates, a Trump political adviser. Psy-Group came up with several proposals, which it dubbed “Project Rome.” One proposal that Gates wanted to pursue involved setting up fake online personas to influence 5,000 delegates at the 2016 Republican National Convention, the NY Times reports.

While there is no evidence that the plans were implemented, the fact that a Trump campaign official covertly sought to manipulate social media plays into the claim that Russia used social media to help  Trump. “Though the Israeli company’s pitches were narrower than Moscow’s interference campaign and appear unconnected, the documents show that a senior Trump aide saw the promise of a disruption effort to swing voters in Mr. Trump’s favor,” the New York Times says.

FBI investigators and Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, who is leading the investigation into Russia’s involvement in the US elections, have questioned the company’s employees, according to the report.

Psy-Group owner Joel Zamel met with Donald Trump, Jr., the president’s eldest son, in August 2016. Mr. Zamel’s lawyer, Marc Mukasey denies his client discussed any proposals with anyone in the Trump campaign related to the elections including Donald Trump, Jr.  Psy-Group is currently being dissolved.

Mueller indicted Gates last year on multiple charges of financial fraud and tax evasion. Gates pleaded guilty to several of the charges this year, and he is cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.