VVA has discovered foreign entities targeting veterans for the purpose of interference in the 2020 presidential campaign. Admins from Macedonia and the United Kingdom controlled the page “Vets for Trump,” from April 2019 to August 2019, which has amassed over 131,000 followers. This page posts explicitly pro-Trump and anti-Democratic-candidate messages and memes. The page also posts pro-Russia/Putin, pro-Assange/WikiLeaks, as well as anti-Robert-Mueller and anti-FBI content. In terms of anti-Democrat content, the page has been primarily focused on attacking the top Democratic presidential candidates: Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Senator Bernie Sanders, while also going after Congressman Beto O’Rourke, Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Cory Booker, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. While previous reporting revealed in hearings held by committees such as the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) have focused primarily on paid ads by foreign elements – the unpaid, organic posts and comments that appear on pages like this have mostly escaped scrutiny, despite the fact that they have far greater influence because of their tendency to be copied and shared.
While under the control of foreign admins, “Vets for Trump” has also focused on fomenting hatred by using xenophobic and Islamophobic propaganda against the Democratic women of color who are freshmen in Congress. After creating incendiary posts about Representatives Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, these foreign admins then connect them with propaganda to the 2020 Democratic candidates. These insidious tactics sow discord among Americans, providing fuel for conflict on a public forum between veterans sympathetic to the damaging, false message planted and Americans of other political persuasions.
The foreign admins are skilled and sophisticated enough to operate undetected by not only laypersons but those in political life as well: Followers of the “Vets for Trump” page include at least one elected Republican official who was a campaign surrogate of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, as well as an individual who was the inaugural chairman of a veteran-centric GOP PAC closely tied to the White House.
This page had coordinated its behavior with a similarly named Facebook page, “Veterans for Donald Trump,” with identical content that was frequently posted at the same time from a mobile phone through at least April 3, 2019. Identical content was again posted on August 22. The “Veterans for Donald Trump” page currently has 14 domestic admins (with no foreign admins able to be seen).