The Psy-Group Presentation Suggests Online Trolls Swung Richard Burr’s State of North Carolina

The WSJ reports that Mueller’s team has obtained an analytical document from Psy-Group, the company of Joel Zamel, that was offering to help the Trump campaign both before and after the election.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators have obtained a presentation prepared by an Israel-based private intelligence firm that outlines ways in which Donald Trump’s 2016 election was helped by fake news and fake social-media accounts, according to people familiar with the presentation and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.


Psy-Group’s founder, Joel Zamel, is under scrutiny from U.S. investigators because of his close relationship with the government of the United Arab Emirates and his involvement in a meeting with Mr. Trump’s eldest son shortly before election day, the Journal has reported.

Mr. Zamel met with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower in the weeks before the 2016 election along with George Nader, a top adviser to the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, to discuss an offer to help boost the campaign, according to people familiar with the matter. Erik Prince, a U.S. defense contractor who specializes in the Middle East and had close ties to the campaign, attended the meeting, the Journal previously reported. People involved in the meeting say nothing came of it and the Psy-Group didn’t perform any work for the Trump campaign.

The presentation the Special Counsel is apparently scrutinizing is 9 pages; most pages describe generically how to seed bots to later swing opinion. But there’s one page that purports to show how this works in a swing state. That swing state in North Carolina.

While we can’t measure Psy-Group’s claims without a script, it seems that the group claims social media helped Trump turn a 7 point deficit in the wake of the Access Hollywood tape to a 4 point win on election day.

NC is an interesting choice because Trump also benefitted from the most aggressive voter suppression drive in the state. And because it’s the state for which Russian hacking — of VR Systems and, possibly, of poll books in disproportionately democratic precincts — may have actually affected the election.

It’s interesting for one more reason: it’s the state of Senate Intelligence Committee Chair (and Trump NatSec advisor, during the election) Richard Burr. Burr won his race by more than Trump did, but still within the scope of the swing mapped out by Psy-Group.

As I noted, the election tampering report generated by Burr’s committee, largely failed to address the vulnerability and importance of vendors like VR Systems.

Obviously, if trolls made the difference in NC, they also made the difference in PA, MI, and WI.

But we might not find that out, because the guy in charge of the purportedly responsible investigation of such things has scoped the investigation in such a way that his own re-election could not be questioned.

41 replies
  1. pseudonymous in nc says:

    For comparison’s sake, here’s the RCP polling average for the governor’s race in NC, which turned out much closer than even the final polls:

    The GOP state legislature’s first response to Cooper’s win, before he even took office, was to call a special session and shove through changes to the structure of the SBOE and county boards. That could be read simply as a gerrymandered legislature having no interest in free and fair elections, hacked or unhacked. But the assumption throughout 2016 was that NC would be much closer and more decisive than it was.

  2. Trip says:

    I recall Trump calling a bunch of Republicans to stop, or push back on the Mueller investigation, with Burr being one of them. He made excuses that Trump was new to government or some nonsense. In his lead role of an investigatory committee, he should have never taken any position publicly on the intent/lack of intent. I have not trusted him since.

    • orionATL says:

      given this, i wonder why burr and his senate committee have been willing to pursue the russian investigation? did he not know what was going on?

      • orionATL says:

        did burr know what was going on? apparently so:

        “… the guy in charge of the purportedly responsible investigation of such things has scoped the investigation in such a way that his own re-election could not be questioned…”


  3. orionATL says:

    ah, finally, we are now down to the state level. this had to be the case. and it seems reasonable that this presentation provided guidance for the republican make-up-the-vote effort in n. carolina. florida might have been involved too. we know there have been mutterings about florida and the russians in house races. what about the senate race between rubio and murphy?

    but joel swore he had no involvement.

    anyhoo, now it seems we got a votes-for-foreign-policy-decision bribe.

  4. Rusharuse says:

    A 1000lb bomb just landed softly . . like a butterfly with sore feet

    Is this the day America starts to come apart at the seams?

  5. bmaz says:

    And how do Tau and Bauhaus know what exactly the Mueller shop is doing? Maybe it is in their article, but paywall.

  6. gmoke says:

    The whole Republican Party is complicit, from the leadership on down through individual Senators, Representatives, and, possibly, to Governors and state legislators too.

  7. SpaceLifeForm says:

    [Repost from prior article.  Apparently Marcy was on this and I was too quick]

    In the political blog, Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall pointed out the interconnectedness when it came to legal representation in the Trump probe.  “Zamel is represented by a man named Marc L. Mukasey,” Marshall wrote. “You may recognize the name because he’s the son of the former Attorney General Michael Mukasey. For our present purposes what is important is that Mukasey has been the deputy and the law partner of Rudy Giuliani for years.”

    • bmaz says:

      This is not “helping to stir the pot”, it is obtuse junk without further elaboration.

      What complaint? And what in the world does Clinton v. Jones  have to do with it?

      • SpaceLifeForm says:

        Precedent. Long SCOTUS Ruling, but worth reading.

        To wit:

        This case raises a constitutional and a prudential question concerning the Office of the President of the United States. Respondent, a private citizen, seeks to recover damages from the current occupant of that office based on actions allegedly taken before his term began. The President submits that in all but the most exceptional cases the Constitution requires federal courts to defer such litigation until his term ends and that, in any event, respect for the office warrants such a stay. Despite the force of the arguments supporting the President’s submissions, we conclude that they must be rejected.

        … it is also settled that the President is subject to judicial process in appropriate circumstances. Although Thomas Jefferson apparently thought otherwise, Chief Justice Marshall, when presiding in the treason trial of Aaron Burr, ruled that a subpoena duces tecum could be directed to the President. United States v. Burr, 25 F. Cas. 30 (No. 14,692d) (CC Va. 1807). [n.38] We unequivocally and emphatically endorsed Marshall’s position when we held that President Nixon was obligated to comply with a subpoena commanding him to produce certain tape recordings of his conversations with his aides. United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974).

        In sum, “[i]t is settled law that the separation of powers doctrine does not bar every exercise of jurisdiction over the President of the United States.” Fitzgerald, 457 U. S., at 753-754. If the Judiciary may severely burden the Executive Branch by reviewing the legality of the President’s official conduct, and if it may direct appropriate process to the President himself, it must follow that the federal courts have power to determine the legality of his unofficial conduct. The burden on the President’s time and energy that is a mere by product of such review surely cannot be considered as onerous as the direct burden imposed by judicial review and the occasional invalidation of his official actions. [n.40] We therefore hold that the doctrine of separation of powers does not require federal courts to stay all private actions against the President until he leaves office.

        • bmaz says:

          I am fully familiar with both Jones and Nixon. What the point is here in this thread escapes me. I, and several others, have been arguing those cases forever, literally going back to Clinton, through Bush+Cheney to since the very start of the Trump tenure. What is your point?

  8. Rugger9 says:

    I’m the palace will try it, but as Kellyanne ConArtist’s hubby argued successfully against the concept it will not be the best precedent to use and should fail in a hack-free court. However, there are several complaints to choose from with respect to Caesar Disgustus where this might apply for civil actions from before the election: Summer, Stormy, etc., etc., etc., … ad infinitum. It still fails, though.

  9. Rugger9 says:

    This post does get at why the GOP is not investigating the meddling, because it is their last real hope for maintaining control on government in its various levels.  Their policies suck so they have to rely on snake oil, voter suppression, dirty tricks and election night tampering to prevent a complete wipeout in the available elections.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      In basic terms, large parts of the US are governed at the state level by people who aren’t really big on free and fair elections. Lots of those parts are in the south, but not all of them. (NY state govt is a cesspit.) In that context, a hacked election is no different from a successfully gerrymandered and vote-suppressed one because it produces the “right” result.

    • Trip says:

      Along with all of the other procedural, human rights, constitutional, truth/fact etc. abuses that are blatantly happening before our eyes, it’s truly astounding that many people can’t see this as the steep and rapid descent into authoritarianism/totalitarianism that it is.

  10. aubrey mcfate says:

    After the 2016 election expert witness Alex Halderman voiced his incredulity at the slim margins for Trump in all the swing states. He implied that the results themselves were hacked, not just that the states were “swung” by influence. Fivethirtyeight, on the other hand, took the view that the swing was in the margin of error and comported with the broad trend of Trump beating the polling averages.

    At every stage of this process it’s been correct to assume the worst. Can we interpret Burr’s ostensible cooperation with Warner as a “limited hangout”?

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Rudy 911 on CNN and MSNBC.  His lack of self-knowledge or awareness of his cringing hypocrisy, and how obvious are his self-serving lies and misrepresentations is startling.  About the same as Donald Trump’s.

    What is gobsmacking, though, is why he is given such a soapbox for free.  Rudy talking is not news.  It is a demonstration that he should pursue his true calling: stand-up comedy.  He and Donald can pay for as many soap boxes as they want.  Let them.

    • Bob Conyers says:

      In light of Trump’s lying attack on the NY Times for publishing the words of a White House briefer, it’s pretty obvious what the White House press corps needs to do.

      They need to develop a unified front and issue a stern statement of condemnation, and then send it to Michelle Wolf demanding she apologize for this incident.

      • Trip says:

        Maggie Haberman is actively splitting hairs on Trump’s words and intent, so she is a first class enabler (for access). There is no united front when reporters value their special status above all else (whether they realize or not).

        bmaz and (I think) emptywheel among others, were reading her the riot act, but she doesn’t get it, or denies it.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Maggie is doubling down, like the Don.

          CNN, too, came up with its “Lie-o-meter” to do the same.  Falsehoods, you see, fall along a spectrum, which includes mistakes, ignorance, marketing puffery, exaggeration, and what not.  CNN forgets to tell its viewers when and how it will decide among the options it has given itself.

          Despite a five-decade career of proudly lying to screw all comers and to make a buck, Mr. Trump deserves the benefit of the doubt. No amount of experience or context could sway her to the contrary, which seems different than how willing she was to label Hillary’s statements “lies”. 

          Donald Trump is allowed to deal with the American public as if he were selling it a condo in a badly built building with no sprinklers, in a lousy neighborhood, for three times the market price, without anyone crying foul.  That’s OK by Maggie.

          • harpie says:

            EoH:which seems different than how willing she was to label Hillary’s statements “lies”. 

            As Dan Gillmor tweeted:

            Well, now we know that the NYT’s chief Trump scribe does know how to use the word “lie” — when she’s talking about Clinton, anyway”

            Links to this Maggie tweet from 4:07 PM – 24 Oct 2017

            Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony, for a year >>>”Clinton campaign, DNC paid for research that led to Russia dossier”; WaPo; October 24, 2017

        • harpie says:

          One of my favorite responses to Maggie so far is from Chrissy Teigen  [emphasis added]:

          If you said “lies” instead of “demonstrable falsehoods” (although I applaud this blend of simultaneous trump ass kissing and Twitter trolling) you could have spelled out both “morning” and “including” – sorry, making the best of character usage is one of my passions. Now I’m out.

          …also, I think she could have spelled out “background”

        • Bob Conyers says:

          Well, looks like it’s clear when there’s the slightest bit of ambiguity in what Trump says when launching an idiotic attack on the NY Times, it’s time for the NY Times op ed page to run a stern piece blaming the intolerant left for making Trump supporters feel bad.

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Note to CNN. Donald Trump is not the Commander-in-Chief of the United States. He is the President of the United States, a political not a military role. He is C-in-C only of the armed forces of the United States, not of its citizens.

    That distinction, set in stone for over two hundred years old, could be described by any talented high school debater. The talented graduate schooled members of the MSM should take note.

    As for Trump’s lies, falsehoods, “exaggerations”, marketing speak, ignorance and mistakes. Stop the falsehoods. Forget your pretentious, distracting, lie-o-meter.

    It’s not that complicated and Trump has amply demonstrated he deserves no benefit of the doubt. He has spent fifty years devising ever more creative ways to lie and get away with it. He brags about it, it’s a core part of his business model. That corporations and other politicians use similar “marketing” jargon to excuse their lies is no excuse. It’s a further indictment.

  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I’m happy that Mr. Trump is worried about the lives, dozens of them, badly affected by the continuing criminal probe into his 2016 campaign.  How sad that any of his aides should face criminal liability for working with him and the Russians. Compassion is a good thing, Mr. Trump has heard.

    Personally, I’m more concerned about the millions of lives damaged by his presidency.  The millions of people with no or less or much more expensive health care.  The millions of people affected by his empowering overt racism, violence and discrimination, and his authorizing workplace and environmental degradation.  The millions affected by his anti-labor and anti-union policies, those will suffer from adhesion contracts requiring secret, private forced arbitration of wage theft among them.  The list is as long as the number of Mr. Trump’s lies, and growing just as fast.

  14. harpie says:

    Chain Link fencing—like a kennel, …or Guantanamo,

    teenagers in handcuffs…AZ Central dot com has a series of photos called
    First glimpse of immigrant children at holding facility 
    The first caption reads:
    [quote] Two female detainees sleep in a holding cell. Children are separated by age group and gender. CPB provided media tours Wednesday of two locations in Brownsville, Texas and Nogales, that have been central to processing the more that 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally since Oct.1. [end quote] 

    • harpie says:

      Sorry-the above article is from 2014! 

      As Jon Favreau says:
      “These awful pictures are from 2014, when the government’s challenge was reconnecting unaccompanied minors who showed up at the border with family or a safe sponsor.
      Today, in 2018, the government is CREATING unaccompanied minors by tearing them away from family at the border.”

        • bmaz says:

          Meh, was no big deal. A lot of people have been pointing out how this is just a bad evolution of previous ICE/INS policies.

          This is true.It is also true that the craven extreme it is now being taken to is beyond the human pale.

          • harpie says:

            Thanks, bmaz. I really try hard to be careful about this kind of thing…often, lately, just can’t seem to manage it…

      • orionATL says:

        the time/administration diference is a very important distinction.

        from small personal knowledge, the obama program could be kind and family-oriented and a great boon to seperated families.

        • orionATL says:

          here is a nytimes summary i think is useful:

          “… Children who show up at the border by themselves are usually apprehended by federal agents. Once they are processed, they are turned over to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services’ refugee office, which provides care until they can be turned over to a sponsor. Sponsors, usually parents or family members already residing in the United States, are supposed to undergo a detailed background check… ”

          this accords with my very limited personal knowledge of an obama admin program that did good works for families.

    • harpie says:

      From NYCSouthpaw:

      I was reading about ICE’s largest family detention facility—Karnes, which is run by a private contractor—and I happened upon this photo on the contractor’s blog. As my friend put it, they’ve got a prison bus for babies down there. [Photo from April 2016]

      • posaune says:

        The number of immigrant children separated from their parent(s) is overwhelming. This government is inflicting trauma with future outcomes that are entirely predictable:  developmental trauma which severely affects the brain development emotions and coping skills of these children.  In a significant number of children, speech and language will be so affected that these children will NEVER catch up to an appropriate developmental level — enough to function minimally in school settings.   Likewise for vision (convergence, tracking, 3D focus), motor skills (fine and gross), auditory processing especially.   And that’s not even touching the psych issues, dissociated identity, bipolar disorder, etc.

        We adopted our son from foster care, with a history of significant trauma:   our son needed treatment for ALL of the above.   He has been in speech/language therapy for 9 years now (age 5-14) and will continue to need this for some time.    His functional vision was “frozen” at age 38 months, the point at which he was severely traumatized and is still not fully resolved (most likely never).   It has taken ALL of our resources, financial, emotional, logistical, physical to help our dear son.   (And he has responded beautifully, fortunately).

        Read the ACE Study from Kaiser (Adverse Childhood Experience) and the lifelong effects of childhood trauma. And look at the epigenetic markers that are carried forward (“the trauma gene”), and start counting how many of these children are in detention, or lost, and without a trusted adult.    There will be an entire generation of these kids with lifelong PTSD.   And how will they get treatment, help, or a safe place and people in their lives.    And it is intentionally inflicted.   I am beyond sick over this, knowing the outcome.

        • Trip says:

          First, I want to tell you that you are a good and decent person. I wish you leaps and bounds in improvement and eventually a well-adjusted and happy kid.

          Secondly, when you contemplate the horrors that Trump and Sessions have in mind for these poor children, and then compare and contrast that their excuse for the meeting with the Russians at the tower was about “Adoption of Russian Children”,  it makes you want to take a frying pan to someone’s head.

        • harpie says:


          I just want to say that I admire you so much, and I wish you and your family all the very best today and always.


          • posaune says:

            Thanks, Harpie and I appreciate your thoughts!  Our son is doing very well (beyond our expectations, actually).   But he and we are the lucky ones:  stable family, two incomes, fed health insurance, state-of-the-art specialists in our area.

            I just wanted to outline the scope of childhood trauma and what this action will mean for thousands of children impacted by separation.   It is almost certain that they will never get the treatment they need;  and the damage of its effects will reach to their families, relations and communities.

            It’s one thing to face trauma from natural disasters, i.e., hurricanes;  it’s a totally despicable thing to see it intentionally inflicted by those in charge of immigration.   Someone did a study, post-ww2, (I think GOSH) on children during the Blitz.   Those who remained with their parents in London were much more sound emotionally that those sent to host families in the countryside.   I’l have to find that study.

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