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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Video: Kushner Downplays Russia’s 2016 Actions

In this week’s fact-checking video, CNN’s Jake Tapper examines Jared Kushner’s claim that Russia’s 2016 election interference amounted to little more than “a couple Facebook ads.” That’s contradicted by the report from special counsel Robert S. Mueller, which detailed the Russian government’s “sweeping and systematic” interference. 

Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and adviser, said on April 23 during an interview at the Time100 Summit (starting at the 3:57 mark): “You look at what Russia did, you know, buying some Facebook ads to try to sow dissent and do it, it’s a terrible thing. But I think the investigations and all of the speculation that’s happened for the last two years has had a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple Facebook ads.”

The Mueller report describes how the Russians “carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton,” and “conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton Campaign and then released stolen documents” to damage the Democratic presidential nominee’s campaign.

It also explains the Trump campaign’s eagerness to use the stolen documents for political advantage. However, investigators “did not establish” that the Trump campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia’s “election interference activities.”

The special counsel’s investigation found two units of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, which is responsible for intelligence collection for the Russian military, engaged in a hacking operation involving “specialized” malware and “a large-scale spearphishing campaigns,” targeting the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Clinton’s presidential campaign committee.

As for the social media efforts, they involved much more than buying “a couple” ads. The Mueller report found that Russia’s Internet Research Agency, an online propaganda operation, created bogus social media accounts, communicated electronically with individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities, including the staging of political rallies,” and reached millions of people through these accounts. Facebook said it found 470 IRA Facebook accounts that made 80,000 posts over two years and reached up to 126 million people. 

For more on the Mueller report’s findings on Russia’s extensive efforts to interfere in the election, see our April 24 story, “Kushner Distorts Scope of Russia Interference.”

See all of our fact-checking videos done in collaboration with CNN’s “State of  the Union” on our website.