Former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn followed five Twitter accounts based out of the Russian-backed “troll factory” in St. Petersburg—and pushed their messages at least three times in the month before the 2016 election.
Over 2,750 troll accounts based out of the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency were made public by House investigators on Wednesday. The accounts, some of which had previously been identified by The Daily Beast as Russian-generated, were pulled from Twitter due to their ties to the troll factory over the past three months.
The Daily Beast had previously discovered Flynn, Donald Trump Jr., Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, and Trump campaign digital director Brad Parscale retweeted Ten_GOP several times in the month before the election.
The news that Flynn also pushed Russian propaganda comes at an unwelcome time for the former three-star general and head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Flynn is one of the people under investigation by Robert Mueller’s widespread probe into Russian influence in the 2016 campaign.
During Flynn’s brief tenure as President Trump’s top national security aide, Flynn pushed for cooperation between the Russian and American military that would have been, at best, borderline illegal. Flynn ultimately resigned amidst reports that he had undisclosed meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kisylak during the campaign.
Of course, Flynn wasn't necessarily hostile to Russian agitprop. In December of 2015, he traveled to Moscow for a gala celebrating Russia Today, the Kremlin’s propaganda network. At Flynn’s side for dinner: Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Flynn followed the accounts Jenn_Abrams, LauraBaeley, Pamela_Moore13, SouthLoneStar, and Ten_GOP. Baeley, Abrams and Moore falsely claimed they were female American Trump supporters. SouthLoneStar claimed it was an account by a “Proud Texan and American Patriot” who featured “Islam is against Western culture” in its Twitter bio.
Just three days before the 2016 election, Flynn posted that a Ten_GOP tweet “needs to be RT'd (retweeted) frequently,” tagging Trump campaign social media director Dan Scavino, his son Mike Flynn Jr., and far-right agitator Mike Cernovich.
A day before the election, Flynn cited Ten_GOP again, saying “@realdonaldtrump & @mike_pence will be our next POTUS & VPOTUS.”
The Ten_GOP tweets were two of just 25 tweets by Trump’s future national security adviser in the two days before the election.
When Flynn quote-tweeted Pamela_Moore13 in October, it was one of his three total tweets from that day.
“Let's take our country back from the hands of those who care less about you & I and more about power & money,” his tweet reads.
“Moore” claimed she lived in Texas and said she was “pro-God” and “anti-racism,” but often posted xenophobic rants.
“Today's Marseille, France: Hospitals are so overrun by Muslims gimmigrants that local French can no longer get care,” the account tweeted in August, just weeks before it was shut down by Twitter.
Attempts to reach Flynn to comment for this story were not successful.
Since Twitter has suspended the Kremlin-connected accounts and deleted their posts, including a record of all retweets, only tweets where Flynn comments on the troll account’s posts—or “quote tweets” them—remain. Unlike Trump Jr., Conway, Parscale and Flynn Jr., Flynn Sr.’s deleted tweets are not saved by the political tweet archive service Polititweet.
Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn Jr., was an even more ardent consumer of Russian troll content, retweeting the propaganda accounts 47 times in all, according to data in the Polititweet archive. Ten_GOP, an account he retweeted 37 times, benefited the most, with five retweets defending General Flynn, one purporting to debunk Russian election interference, and another pushing misinformation about a Twin Falls, Idaho assault case that Russia was then using to inflame anti-refugee sentiment in the US. The troll account Pamela_Moore13 got eight retweets, and Jenn_Abrams and rightnpr (“Right and Proud”) each enjoyed a single retweet from the junior Flynn, who also favored the Russian account USA_Gunslinger (“Gunslinger Girl” from “Wisconsin”) with a personal reply on election day.
Flynn Jr. could be subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence Committee after ignoring requests to hand over documents to investigators about the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. The general’s son was active in the spread of Hillary Clinton-related conspiracy theories stemming from the DNC and John Podesta hacks that were distributed by Wikileaks, including the so-called “Pizzagate” conspiracy.
The elder Flynn also tweeted about the Pizzagate, which falsely claims that Hillary Clinton and her campaign chairman John Podesta were running a pedophile ring out of the basement of a pizza shop that has no basement, in the days before the election.
“U decide - NYPD Blows Whistle on New Hillary Emails: Money Laundering, Sex Crimes w Children, etc...MUST READ!” he tweeted, linking to an entirely fabricated news article on a website called TruePundit six days before polls opened.
He later deleted the tweet.
—with additional reporting by Noah Shachtman