Trump campaign considered Israeli company’s pitch to manipulate social media


WASHINGTON (JTA) — An official of the 2016 campaign to elect Donald Trump president heard a pitch from an Israeli company on manipulating social media.

The New York Times reported this week that Rick Gates took a pitch in 2016 from Psy-Group to use fake online identities to sway delegates at the Republican National Convention should Trump’s primaries rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, mount a challenge to Trump, who had accumulated enough delegates to win the nomination.

Also pitched were plans to dig up opposition research on Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee whom Trump defeated, and use social media to sow division in opposing camps.

Gates, then the deputy to Paul Manafort, the campaign manager, ultimately did not take up the offers from Psy-Group, which according to The Times is staffed by former Israeli intelligence officials.

In May, The Times revealed that Robert Mueller, the prosecutor investigating alleged coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, has sent officials to Israel to investigate allegations that the Trump campaign sought Psy-Group’s assistance.

Mueller has indicted Russian intelligence officials for among other alleged crimes running fraudulent social media campaigns, but has not alleged that this was done with Trump campaign assistance or knowledge.

Mueller’s investigation led Gates to plead guilty to charges of fraud and tax evasion unrelated to his Trump campaign role. Gates’ testimony helped secure the conviction of Manafort on similar charges.

On Thursday, the Forward reported that Psy-Group pitched Jewish donors on a plan to use social media to undermine the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel.

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