Sen. Warner Points to Reports of 1,000 Russian Trolls Spreading ‘Fake News’

By Susan Jones | March 30, 2017 | 7:25am EDT
Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate intelligence committee, respectively, hold a news conference ahead of a committee hearing on Russian interference in the U.S. election on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. (Screen grab from C-SPAN)

( - The Senate intelligence committee “will go wherever the intelligence leads us,” committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) told a news conference on Wednesday, the day before his committee planned to hold a hearing on how Russia tries to influence elections in the United States and around the world.

Thursday’s public hearing will focus on Russian “policies” and “technologies,” Burr said.

Ranking member Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) appeared with Burr and previewed some of the things the Russians may have done:

We know about the hacking and the selective leaking of information. But as a former a tech guy, what really concerns me is -- at least some reports, and we've got to get to the bottom of this -- that there were upwards of a  thousand paid Internet trolls working out of a facility in Russia, in effect, taking over series of computers, which is then called a botnet.

They can then generate news down to specific areas. And it’s been reported to me, and we've got to find this out, whether they were able to (affect) specific areas in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, where you would not have been receiving off of whoever your vendor might have been, ‘Trump versus Clinton’ from the waning days of the election. But instead, ‘Clinton is sick,’ or ‘Clinton is taking money’ from some source. Fake news.

We've also seen as well, the fact that if you think about -- if you look, just for example, if you Googled election hacking during the period leading up to the election and immediate(ly) afterwards, you wouldn't get Fox or ABC, The New York Times; what you get is four out of the first five news stories that popped up were Russian propaganda -- RT News, Spotnet, others.

And again, let's be clear. I'm not here to re-litigate the election but the fact we -- I believe part of our responsibility as well is to put the American public on a higher level of alert that this time it was Russia, it could be other foreign nations as well. We are in a whole new realm around cyber that provides opportunity -- huge, huge threats to our basic democracy. You are seeing it right now in France.

Later in the news conference, Warner told reporters he was a technology consultant before he got into politics.

“And the very technology that has made our lives simpler can also be misused in ways to put false information for folks who potentially only get their news off a Twitter feed or a Facebook news feed. And that raises serious questions even beyond this investigation,” he said.

Sen. Burr told the news conference he believes it’s part of the committee’s responsibility “to educate the rest of the world about what's going on because it's now into character assassination of candidates.”

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