While much of the discourse surrounding Russia’s effort to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has centered on Donald Trump, Moscow also lent its weight to propping up the candidacy of Green Party nominee Jill Stein.
Not only did Stein appear at the 2015 gala in Moscow honoring the Russian propaganda outlet RT — memorably sitting near Mike Flynn, President Donald Trump’s disgraced former national security adviser — but she spent 2016 describing the outlet’s decision to host a Green Party debate as an “inspiration” for “millions of Americans.”
Now, a new release of tweets from fake Russian Twitter accounts associated with Russia’s Internet Research Agency show how several of these accounts backed Stein’s candidacy — and tried to dampen support for Hillary Clinton in the process.
The new tweets come courtesy of a pair of Clemson University professors, Darren Linvill and Patrick Warren, and were published by FiveThirtyEight last week. With nearly 3 million total tweets, researchers are continuing to comb through the new database for clues about Russia’s 2016 social media interference operations, which has already seen a dozen Russian nationals indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
As more details of Russia’s social media interference campaign have been revealed, there were already hints that the effort sought to boost Stein’s presidential run; last September, Politico reported that one Russia-bought Facebook ad called on viewers to #GrowaSpineVoteJillStein.
The latest tweets, though, flesh out just how these accounts exhorted audiences to ditch other candidates — Clinton, namely — and vote for Stein. It’s unclear how widely the tweets were shared.
Some used simple hashtags, as with the Facebook ad. One, for instance, simply read “#JillStein2016 #GoGreen #GreenParty #Democrats #DemExit #Republicans #GOPexit #USA.” Another, from the Russian @StayWoke88 account, read, “I #voted for #JillStein because I could NOT vote for more war. #ItsInOurHands”
Others, however, pointed directly to Stein’s apparent credentials, along with those of her vice presidential nominee, Ajamu Baraka. (Baraka, for what it’s worth, declared that the destruction of Flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014 was actually a false flag operation against Russia.) Among some of the most notable, and most glaring, examples unearthed by ThinkProgress:
- @Aiden7757: Why waste your vote on lying, corrupt, racist oligarchs? #InvestYourVote in DrJillStein #ElectionFinalThoughts
- @Adrgreerr: This is why I LOVE @DrJillStein SHE knows shit. Libertarian nominee: What is Aleppo?
- @DamaniMiles: Did you know there’s a Woman named Dr. Jill Stein yes DOCTOR who is beautifully educated and actually cares about people instead of money?
- @PeytonCashout: #Latinxs must support @DrJillStein plan to end student debt, #VoteGreen in November. #TodxsConJill #Jill2016 #SteinBaraka
- @PatriotBlake: People, Planet and Peace I am endorsing @DrJillStein for President
- @Muslims_in_USA: Anti-republican and anti-Hillary, Vote green!! Jill Stein 2016 #JillStein #JillStein2016
- @CassIsHere: Susan B. Anthony wouldn’t have voted for Clinton, she would have opted for someone like @DrJillStein, but go ahead and pretend otherwise.
One account in particular, @AmelieBaldwin, seemed to take a liking to Stein’s candidacy, sending out multiple tweets of support in the weeks leading up to the election. A month before the election, the account was promoting a Stein rally in NYC: “Join @DrJillStein and I in NYC on October 12th at 7pm! #ItsInOurHands #letsmakehistory #SteinBaraka #greenparty”. (Baraka tweeted the exact same thing.) And five days before the vote, the account tweeted “#ImVoting4JillBecause the more I dig up info on @DrJillStein, the more I find she’s been fighting for all of our health and peace all along.”
Some of the accounts also spread misinformation about Stein. One, @KenzDonovan, claimed that Stein had even endorsed Trump during the election: “BREAKING: Jill Stein Just ENDORSED Donald Trump! Watch Her Obliterate Hillary!”
Interestingly, after the election, the Russian accounts continued tweeting about Stein — although the post-election tweets appear far more critical of Stein, focusing heavily on her quixotic push for a recount. “Mich voters rejected @DrJillStein’s candidacy and her refusal to accept verified results poses an expensive &a risky threat to MI taxpayers,” read an early December 2016 tweet from @CarrieThornthon. Added another, @Finley1589, “Michigan recount cancelled. Will Jill Stein donate her scam money to environmental causes or just keep it?”
Stein’s recount doesn’t seem to have accomplished much, and the Daily Beast reported last month that some of the donations she received for the recount are actually going toward her legal defense. (Stein has also said that she will not comply fully with a Senate documents request pertaining to the ongoing Russia investigation.)
Perhaps most surprisingly, the Stein campaign’s obvious ties to Russia — including her appearance alongside Flynn in 2015, and her full-throated support for a Russian propaganda outlet — was also a theme picked up by the fake Russian Twitter accounts.
One fake Russian account, @KaniJJackson, which chose a profile picture of Michelle Obama, wrote in 2017, “Jill Stein was sitting right next to Mike Flynn and Putin in Moscow. It wasn’t hard to figure out she was working for the Russians.”