It was a surprise and no surprise when Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced indictments of 13 Russian nationals in the 2016 presidential election meddling probe. The surprise was Mueller's fingering of one of the prime tactics that the shady probably Kremlin controlled Internet Research Agency used to try to tip the election to Trump. This was to massage, manipulate and out and out subvert the Black vote. This was deemed so crucial that a lot of time, money, and effort was put into this disinformation scam.
It included establishing dummy groups, running fake news hatchet job ads about and against Hillary Clinton, dumping some cash into the pockets of some unwitting black activists, and even posing as a surrogate Black Lives Matter group. Black voters were a special target of the patently illegal, fraudulent voter scam for a good reason. Their Trump phobia was off the charts. That potentially translated into a big vote total for Clinton.
This spelled special danger to Trump in the must win states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida and Wisconsin. Obama won all four of these states twice. There was a good chance Clinton would win at least three of them. The Russian ploy was not to try to get a majority of Blacks to vote for Trump. That was impossible. But to damp down the turnout. The best way to do that was to sour as many Blacks as possible on Clinton. The more that stayed home Election Day in the four key battleground states would vastly up the odds for Trump to bag the White House.
So, the Russian vote scam trolls went to work. They concocted a bogus group named "blacktivist" and a phony Instagram account called "Woke Blacks." Sure enough the message that the dummy groups churned out played hard on the notion that Clinton was no better than Trump for Blacks. And the best way to protest this was to stay home on Election Day. The trolls also made the pitch to Blacks to vote for third party candidate, Jill Stein as a way to voice their displeasure at Clinton. "Blacktivist" upped the ante in Baltimore. It latched onto the anti-police sentiment among many Blacks in the city, following the death at police hands of Freddy Gray. It
took out a Facebook ad blasting the cops on the anniversary of the death of Gray. This almost certainly drew sympathy from some Blacks.
There may be more, much more, in the underhanded dirty, fraud that the Russians mounted in their use of Black front groups and dummy accounts and ads on Facebook and Instagram. For instance, at several Trump rallies a shadowy group of Blacks regularly showed up enthusiastically and very visibly waving "Blacks for Trump" signs behind him. The black Trump boosters didn't stop there. They promoted and ballyhooed their website, primping Trump's presumed re-election campaign in 2020, complete with a re-election website, Gods2.com.
In a perverse way this boosted the case that Trump repeatedly made that he got more Black support than anyone thought humanly possible. The truth is that he did. He edged close to getting into double figures with Black votes. His talk about Blacks being used and spit out when they were no longer needed for Democratic votes along with his non-stop trash of Clinton played to the antipathy of more than a few Blacks toward her.
These coincidentally were the exact same talking points that the Russian election meddling Gerry rigging effort pounded away on in their scam ads through their front Black groups. The final payoff was that the Black vote did noticeably drop in 2016 from 2012. Trump quickly lashed back at the Mueller indictments of the Russians that it still didn't prove that he, or anyone connected with his campaign, colluded with the Russians on the election. That's true so far. However, there was really no need to produce a smoking gun to tie him to the Russian election scam campaign. The whole dirty was had only one purpose and that was to help elect him. He got the full benefit of that effort.
There's lots of worry on Trump's part that Muller will tie even more dangling ends together about just how widespread and effective the Russian meddling campaign was. Those threads will continue to lead directly back to a severely wounded Clinton and a triumphant Trump.
Whether the Russians struck pay dirt with their filthy play of the race card to nail Clinton still isn't known for certain. However, Mueller's Russian indictments and ongoing probe certainly proved that they spent a lot of money and energy trying mightily.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book, Forty Years Later: Why the Murder of Dr. King Still Hurts (Middle Passage Press). He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.