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Trump-Russia collusion investigations

Robert Mueller subpoenas social media expert who made ‘Twitter swarms’ to help Donald Trump win election

Jason Sullivan worked for Trump’s political adviser, Roger Stone; his subpoena suggests Mueller may be closing in on Stone amid claims that he had advance knowledge of material allegedly hacked by Russia and given to WikiLeaks

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 3:59am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 4:02am

US Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller has issued two subpoenas to a social media expert who worked for long-time Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone during the 2016 presidential election campaign, creating “swarms” of robots that could promote Trump on Twitter.

The subpoenas were delivered late last week to lawyers representing Jason Sullivan, a social media and Twitter specialist Stone hired to work for an independent political action committee he set up to support Trump, according to Knut Johnson, a lawyer for Sullivan, on Tuesday.

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The subpoenas suggest that Mueller, who is probing Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, is focusing in part on Stone and whether he might have had advance knowledge of material allegedly hacked by Russian intelligence and sent to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who published it.

Stone appeared before the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee last September and denied allegations of collusion between the president’s associates and Russia during the election.

“I am aware of no evidence whatsoever of collusion by the Russian state or anyone in the Trump campaign,” Stone told reporters at the time.

According to sources familiar with the ongoing investigation, Mueller also has been probing whether anyone associated with the Trump campaign may have helped Assange or the Russians time or target the release of hacked emails and other social media promoting Trump or critical of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

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A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment. Russia has denied interfering in the election. Trump has repeatedly denied his campaign colluded with Russia.

Sullivan told Reuters that he heads Cyphoon.com, a social media firm, and “worked on the Trump campaign serving as Chief Strategist directly to Roger J. Stone Jnr”.

“Welcome To The Age of Weaponized Social Media”, said a strategy document Sullivan prepared for Stone and seen by Reuters.

He described a “system” he devised for creating Twitter “swarms” as “an army of sophisticated, hyper-targeted direct tweet automation systems driven by outcomes-based strategies derived from REAL-TIME actionable insights”.

For example, at 6:43am local time on Election Day in 2016, Trump tweeted, “TODAY WE MAKE AMERICAN GREAT AGAIN”. Trump’s message soon was retweeted more than 343,000 times, and in an interview last year, Sullivan said that the swarm helped overcome a surge in pro-Clinton social media postings and boost voter turnout for Trump.

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One of the two subpoenas delivered last week requests that Sullivan appear before a grand jury on May 18 at the Federal Courthouse in Washington. The other orders Sullivan to bring documents, objects and electronically stored information.

Stone on Tuesday repeated his public denials that he had an inside track to WikiLeaks or others who hacked or published Democratic Party and Clinton-related emails and said no one from Mueller’s team has tried to contact him.

But on October 1, 2016, he tweeted “Wednesday @HillaryClinton is done. #Wikileaks.”

The following day, he told Alex Jones’s web radio show, InfoWars: “Now, an intermediary met with [Assange] in London recently – who is a friend of mine and a friend of his, a believer in freedom.

“I am assured that the mother lode is coming Wednesday. It wouldn’t be an October surprise if I told you what it was, but I have reason to believe that it is devastating because people with political judgment who are aware of the subject matter tell me this. So right now, you see a terrible scrambling by the Clintonites to attempt to discredit Assange, to try to soften the blow.”

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WikiLeaks did not begin to leak the hacked Democrat emails – which are now believed to have been delivered to them by Russia – until that Friday. But on the Wednesday, Stone wrote: “Libs thinking Assange will stand down are wishful thinking. Payload coming #Lockthemup.”

On April 8 this year, Stone denied having other knowledge of the hacks in an interview with CNN, saying: “I had no advanced notice of the content source or exact timing of the WikiLeaks disclosures including the allegedly hacked emails.

“ I never received anything whatsoever from WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, anyone associated with them, or anyone else, including allegedly hacked emails, and passed them onto Donald Trump.”