Manafort’s Smoking Gun: Words And Actions That Could Be Linked To Russian Facebook Ads

Written by Moguldom Staff

Russian campaign ads on Facebook surgically targeted Michigan and Wisconsin, two blue states that were expected to go to Hillary Clinton but surprisingly flipped in the November 2016 election, CNN reported this week.

Paul Manafort, who served as Donald Trump’s campaign manager from June to August 2016, told Trump to go to Michigan during the final days of the campaign, shocking some political scientists who had concluded that fighting for Michigan electoral votes was a lost cause.

Russian Facebook ads
Erio Gallart

Months after Manafort quit the campaign, Trump was still taking his advice, Bloomberg reported in a Nov. 28, 2016 article entitled “Paul Manafort Is Back”:

In the closing days, according to Politico, Manafort encouraged Trump to go after blue-collar votes in Michigan, which he did. Manafort’s advice, and his loyalty, proved useful until the end.

“To the 11 million voters in the several states we have to target, (Clinton’s) profile is terrible,” (Manafort) said. “People don’t see her as somebody who can solve the problem.”

What’s significant about these quotes is that they pair up Manafort’s campaign strategy with Russia’s pro-Trump social media campaign.

For example, Facebook reported that the Russians reached 10 million users. Manafort told the media he really was after 11 million voters in states that were in play.

Is it a coincidence that 10 million users were reached by the Russians on Facebook in specific states and that this was close to Manafort’s targeted number?

Is it a coincidence that the Russians were targeting Michigan, where Manafort surprisingly pushed Trump to visit right before election day?

“Some of the Russian ads appeared highly sophisticated in their targeting of key demographic groups in areas of the states that turned out to be pivotal, two of the sources said,” according to CNN. “The ads employed a series of divisive messages aimed at breaking through the clutter of campaign ads online, including promoting anti-Muslim messages, sources said.

“It has been unclear until now exactly which regions of the country were targeted by the ads. And while one source said that a large number of ads appeared in areas of the country that were not heavily contested in the elections, some clearly were geared at swaying public opinion in the most heavily contested battlegrounds.

“Michigan saw the closest presidential contest in the country — Trump beat Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by about 10,700 votes out of nearly 4.8 million ballots cast. Wisconsin was also one of the tightest states, and Trump won there by only about 22,700 votes. Both states, which Trump carried by less than 1%, were key to his victory in the Electoral College.” CNN reported.

Sign up for the Moguldom newsletter — the most compelling business news you need to know about reversing inequality in tech, delivered straight to your inbox.

View Comments