Former Trump Aide Sought Foreign Help On Campaign, But It Wasn’t From Russia

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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A former aide to the Trump campaign requested proposals from an Israeli intelligence firm to target Hillary Clinton and to use fake online personas to influence GOP delegates toward Donald Trump.

The New York Times reports that Rick Gates, the campaign’s deputy chairman, met in March 2016 with an Israeli political operative who later contacted Psy-Group, an intelligence firm operated by former Israeli spies.

Psy-Group submitted three proposals to Gates aimed at influencing Republican delegates and undecided voters. The firm also proposed compiling dossiers on Clinton and a handful of her closest associates.

The Trump campaign ultimately did not hire Psy-Group, according to The Times. But the proposals are of interest to the special counsel’s office, which is investigating any links between the Trump campaign and Russian government. The Times article presents no evidence that Russians were involved in the Psy-Group proposals. But the interactions do suggest that at least one campaign official, Gates, was open to using legally dubious tactics to influence voters, according to The Times report.

One proposal called for Psy-Group to create and use fake online personas to target Republican delegates ahead of the GOP convention in July 2016. At a cost of $3 million, Psy-Group proposed creating fake online personas with the aim of discrediting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump’s closest Republican rival ahead of the Republican National Convention.

Psy-Group also pitched the idea of compiling dossiers on Hillary Clinton and 10 of her closest associates. The proposal would carry out any “complementary intelligence activities” and provide the campaign with “any actionable intelligence.”

Gates, who joined the Trump campaign as a deputy to his business partner, Paul Manafort, is currently cooperating with Mueller’s team. He pleaded guilty in February to a slew of charges related to his work with Manafort on behalf of a Ukrainian political party well before the start of the Trump campaign. (RELATED: Gates Admits To Stealing From Manafort During Testimony)

Manafort was convicted in a Virginia federal court on Aug. 21 on charges related to the same work. He pleaded guilty in a similar case in Washington, D.C. Manafort is cooperating with prosecutors as part of that plea deal, though it is unclear whether he is providing information related to his time on the Trump campaign.

Gates was provided the Psy-Group proposals following a meeting in March 2016 with George Birnbaum, an Israeli political operative who has worked for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Birnbaum also advised the Ben Carson presidential campaign.

Gates expressed interest in using social media manipulation to win delegates, Birnbaum told The Times.

“He was interested in finding the technology to achieve what they were looking for,” he said.

Birnbaum had contacted Gates to pitch him on technology that Gates and Manafort could use for their Eastern European clients. After the meeting with Gates, Birnbaum worked with Psy-Group employees on Trump campaign proposals.

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