Trump aide sought social media manipulation from Israeli intelligence firm

Richard Gates leaves the Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington DC after a hearing

The Times said Gates sought a proposal from Psy-Group, a company founded by Israeli intelligence officers.

Rick Gates, a Trump campaign official, requested proposals from an Israeli company to create fake online profiles and gather intelligence against Republican opponents and Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to The New York Times. A third proposal describes a long-term plan to use social media to expose divides in rival campaigns. 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.

There is no evidence to suggest that the Trump campaign went forward with any of the Psy-Group proposals and a source with knowledge of the discussions claims that Mr Gates was unimpressed by the company's work.

As part of the Mueller probe, Gates pled guilty past year to charges of conspiracy against the United States and making false statements, related to the work his former boss and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort did in Ukraine. Donald Trump was known as "Lion" Cruz was "Bear" and Clinton was referred to as "Forest".

Psy-Group's owner, Joel Zamel, did meet with Donald Trump Jr.in August 2016, according to the Times. Gates had joined the Trump campaign days earlier with Paul Manafort, his longtime business partner, to try to prevent a revolt of Republican delegates from Trump toward Cruz. He faces a possible six years in prison, though the plea deal he agreed to with the special counsel could reduce the sentence.

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Zamel and George Nader, an emissary from the United Arab Emirates who was at the meeting with Trump Jr., gave different accounts as to whether Zamel ever implemented his proposal.

Though it appears that Trump campaign officials declined to accept any of the proposals, Zamel pitched the company's services in at least general terms during a meeting on August 3, 2016, at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr.

Former Psy-Group employees said that, in anticipation of the Trump Tower meeting, Zamel asked them to prepare an updated version of the third proposal.

While the media has been focussed on Russia's social media manipulation and election interference efforts in 2016, it appears that Russian Federation was not the only ones trying to distort America's views with fake social media profiles.

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