The puzzling prominence of the Twitter-famous Krassenstein brothers

Federal raids and questionable practices stalk the Twitter celebrity twins.

If you're on Twitter, you've likely encountered the Krassenstein brothers. CREDIT: YOUTUBE
If you're on Twitter, you've likely encountered the Krassenstein brothers. CREDIT: YOUTUBE

Since they burst onto the Twitter scene a year ago, observers have struggled to figure out what exactly to make of the Krassenstein brothers.

Are they simply a pair of prolific twins trying to maximize social media after a harrowing run-in with federal authorities? Are they the latest in a line of Twitter quasi-celebrities hunting for the missing link tying President Donald Trump to Russian collusion efforts? Are they scam artists, trying — like so many others — to swindle gullible Trump opponents into handing over their money?

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Ed and Brian Krassenstein, 30-something brothers based out of Florida, have spent the past year becoming two of the most prominent voices on Twitter calling for the removal, and the imminent downfall, of Trump. It’s difficult to gauge their impact, let alone their point; Twitter, even with the patronage of the most powerful man in the world in Trump, is still mostly ephemera.

But the Krassensteins are a sort of sui generis actor on the platform, shamelessly blasting the president while marketing themselves and tweeting with abandon — and, given that there’s two of them, doing it at double-speed, gaining over a million followers combined along the way.

Ed, who has over 700,000 followers, describes himself on his Twitter profile as an entrepreneur, writer, editor, investor, and “HUMAN.” He has offered some variation of “Impeach!“, “IMPEACH!” and “IMPEACH TRUMP!” dozens of times. Brian, with over 400,000 followers of his own, called to “IMPEACH TRUMP 2018!!” 11 times in a single tweet not long ago.

Both Krassensteins follow over 400,000 accounts themselves, and on his LinkedIn profile, Brian describes himself as a “Twitter Personality.” The two are popular enough to have already prompted a parody account, with one post calling for followers to “Retweet if BOOM!” — a parody that the Krassensteins took in stride. (Twitter suspended the account this week.)

When it comes to Twitter, “we never really had a goal, I don’t think, other than just get the word around out there about our opinions and such,” Ed told ThinkProgress. “We never really expected our Twitter accounts to take off like they did.”

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Added Brian, “There’s just so much disinformation out there, that… even though most people that are following us are already against Trump, we can kind of at least point things in the right direction and try and clarify some of the things that are going on.”

According to the Krassensteins, their rapid rise under Trump stemmed from drafting onto the president’s tweets — responding directly to Trump allowed them to reach that many more eyeballs. The twins tentatively affiliate themselves with the broader #Resist movement. “I guess we’re part of the community,” Ed said. “You know, the whole Resistance thing — I don’t know if I like that word. It kind of sounds a little ominous to me.” Added Brian, “A little anti-American, maybe.”

Given the timing of their rise, the brothers appear to fit in with a cohort of self-appointed citizen-investigators on Twitter in pursuit of the final, missing link tying Trump directly to Russian collusion. While many of those personalities — Louise Mensch, Claude Taylor, Eric Garland — have spectacularly imploded over the past year, and while others have been outed as simple grifters, the Krassensteins have thus far managed to escape wholesale criticism.

But that may be changing. Over the past few weeks, journalists have begun denouncing the brothers, namely at their habit of spending their day farming for retweets — capitalizing on the latest scandal, revelation, or development with calls to “RETWEET!” (Neither are verified on Twitter, but Ed has placed a blue diamond next to his name, while Brian had a blue dolphin next to his name through late April.)

Nor are their tweets always accurate. Just a week ago, Ed received rounds of scorn for claiming Michael Cohen’s move to invoke his Fifth Amendment rights was akin to “basically admitting that he’s a criminal.”

“You can never satisfy everyone, and I think as we get more and more followers, it’s becoming harder and harder,” Brian said. “It’s like, some stuff I say, I completely think it’s coming off in an innocent fashion, but there’s always somebody out there that’s going to be offended by it. It’s just something we have to be extra careful about, I guess.”

News that’s fit to recycle

Like others who have achieved Twitter fame by opposing Trump, the brothers currently run their own self-described news site, called “Independent Reporter” and located at IR.net. With ad space sales, the site is in line with their past history as website and content creators.

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The site simultaneously pledges to “[p]rovide our readers with the most entertaining and informative news as it’s happening” and to “use social media signals and citizen journalists to report on the news that many within the mainstream media may have ignored or simply avoided.”

Much of the material on the site is recycled clickbait aimed at anti-Trump readers. (“Watch as Betsy DeVos Flops in Her ’60 Minutes’ Interview,” reads a recent headline.) A few tweets from the site remain up that point to the page’s original, less-than-newsy background.

However, the site does publish posts described as “exclusive.” In addition to an interview with Sam Nunberg, one “exclusive” post wrote that a “source who claims to be a close family member of a former SCL Group employee-turned-whistleblower” — that is, a family member of a former employee at the parent firm of Cambridge Analytica — shared with IR.net a “shocking and incredibly disturbing story.”

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The source claimed that the SCL Group had worked in Iraq, where “SCL would literally fly in individuals working within the media to craft propaganda, which it then distributed anonymously using the very same techniques used in the U.S. election by Cambridge Analytica.” Another “exclusive” claimed that “there is evidence to suggest that hackers may have infiltrated the Georgia voter registration system.” 

None of these “exclusives” have been reported elsewhere, nor have they been cited in any other coverage of the ongoing investigations into the Trump campaign’s relationship with the Kremlin.

Another post claimed to contain the “deepest exploration of the big picture of Trump’s crooked Russian business ties you can get from a single account” — including a chart that offers one of the most convoluted attempts at mapping links between Trump and the Kremlin thus far.

One of the maps the Krassensteins have featured on their "news" sites. CREDIT: IR.NET
One of the maps the Krassensteins have featured on their "news" sites. CREDIT: IR.NET

The Krassensteins admit that their site has been less than thorough, and that their focus on regular updates has slipped. “We do it when we have time,” Ed said.

According to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, IR.net was as recently as last year called “Investor Relations.” A few months before that, it was called “Inside Reality,” where it “scour[ed] the planet each and every day, in search of the most interesting, intriguing, and amazing news in the world.”

At all junctures, the site boasted almost identical rosters of writers. However, many of these writers — including those listed as writing for “Independent Reporter” — haven’t actually published anything on the site in years. Among the nine writers listed on the site, two are the Krassensteins, three haven’t written anything in six months, and two haven’t contributed anything since 2015. The two remaining writers — Whitney Hipolite and Heidi Milkert — have likewise written nothing on the site since 2015. They are also the Krassensteins’ wives.

Federal raiding

Before they rose to prominence under Trump, the Krassensteins were facing an entirely different facet of the American government. In September 2016, a report in NBC’s Fort Myers affiliate noted that “people in a south Fort Myers community off Iona Road watched as deputies and federal investigators carried dozens of boxes out of a home,” with federal investigators taking “electronics and computers from the home.”

The NBC report added that “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed its agency along with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) executed search warrants in the area.”

The house, per the NBC report, belonged to the Krassenstein brothers.

According to the Krassensteins, the entire raid was a misunderstanding. In a March 2018 post, the brothers wrote that federal authorities believed the two were part of a “$500 million fraud ring being run by an organized crime syndicate in Russia.” Authorities claimed the Krassensteins were “a key player working… to defraud investors by promoting their scams” on their websites, MoneyMakerGroup.com and TalkGold.com. The Krassensteins both denied any wrongdoing, and no charges were filed.

Questions about the Krassensteins’ business model persist nonetheless. Both admit that, prior to gaining notoriety as part of anti-Trump Twitter, they were involved for years with websites involving discussions on multi-level marketing (MLM) programs — business ventures that often run perilously close to pyramid schemes.

Today, the brothers still aren’t straying far from industries that raise certain red flags. Both mention Bitcoin in their Twitter bios; on his LinkedIn profile, Ed mentions “Cryptocurrencies” as one of his specialties. As he wrote the other day, “Cryptocurrency is no different than cash, except it can be transferred electronically.”

All told, and despite IR.net’s claim to be a “news” site, the Krassensteins appear akin to the other Twitter users who gained fame on the backs of the investigations into Trump and Russia: those who offer their followers what they want to hear, and little more. To their credit, they’ve helped promote assorted boycotts, and they don’t appear to be the egregious grifters that have already sapped the anti-Trump contingent of its money, taking them for dupes along the way. And they’re not posing as attorneys or law professors, or claiming that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) is the actual president.

But their presence, at least at this point in the Trump tenure, doesn’t appear to be moving anything forward, or any closer to understanding the details of the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russia. They’ve used their Twitter feeds to gain prominent followings, sure. But they’ve offered little of substance — and any number of reasons for why Twitter has, for so many, become a vapid cesspool, ready to be exploited by those rising to prominence alongside the president.


This piece has been updated to clarify the Krassensteins’ stance on the broader #Resistance movement.