Did the Russians really spend 'millions' trying to swing the election?

The effort to explain away Hillary Clinton's loss to Donald Trump began as a propaganda operation the morning after the election results came in.  Defense of the Russia collusion hoax requires a sinister foe that might have swung the election.  There is every incentive for the propaganda masters to present information in ways that lends itself to exaggeration.  So skepticism is warranted toward everything you hear from the media and even from the Mueller probe itself; it is, after all, the spawn of Hillary's campaign-sponsored Steele dossier and staffed by rabid partisans who donate only to Democrats.

Ever since the 13 indictments were announced last Friday, exactly in time to distract public attention from the FBI's bungling that cost 17 people their lives in Parkland, Florida, we have been hearing about "millions" of dollars spent by the Russians "per month."  It's become a major talking point.  For example, the staid magazine Foreign Policy [i]:

The endeavor, at one point, had a budget of $1.25 million a month, allowing it to pay hundreds of operatives to engage in a surreal campaign meant to interfere in American democracy that appears to have been financed in part through a catering company (one that reportedly treats workers poorly, at that).

But what is the source of this contention?  Even if you credit the figure with six zeroes, how many months does it apply to?  The Mueller indictment offers scant evidence.

The indictment (full text here) mentions "million" in connection with "dollars" just two times.

The first mention:

The ORGANIZATION's annual budget totaled the equivalent of millions of U.S. dollars.

The ORGANIZATION in question is earlier described in the indictment as:

Defendant INTERNET RESEARCH AGENCY LLC is a Russian organization engaged in political and electoral interference operations. In or around July 2013, the ORGANIZATION registered with the Russian government as a Russian corporate entity.  Beginning in or around June 2014, the ORGANIZATION obscured its conduct by operating through a number of Russian entities, including Internet Research LLC, MediaSintez LLC, GlavSet LLC, Mixlnfo LLC, Azimut LLC, and Novlnfo LLC.  Starting in or around 2014, the ORGANIZATION occupied an office at 55 Savushkina Street in St. Petersburg, Russia.  That location became one of the ORGANIZATION's operational hubs from which Defendants and other co-conspirators carried out their activities to interfere in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

So the annual budget of an organization that long predates the election, and which encompasses many arms, is in the millions of dollars.  What portion of that was expended on the election is a mystery.

The second mention of "million":

b. By in or around September 2016, the ORGANIZATION's monthly budget for Project Lakhta submitted to CONCORD exceeded 73 million Russian rubles (over 1,250,000 U.S. dollars), including approximately one million rubles in bonus payments.

Project Lakhta is earlier described as:

...a larger CONCORD-funded interference operation...referred to as "Project 'Lakhta."  Project Lakhta had multiple components, some involving domestic audiences within the Russian Federation and others targeting foreign audiences in various countries, including the United States.

What fraction of Project Lakhta's expenditures related to the 2016 presidential election is a mystery.  Does the allegation of "hundreds of operatives" include the Project Lakhta staff working "within the Russian Federation and others targeting foreign audiences in various countries, including the United States"?  Or maybe the entire all-caps ORGANIZATION?  We just don't know.

I've never had a security clearance, but it seems to me that the operation described in the indictment was the 2016 edition of the sort of dezinformatsiya black ops that the Russians have been conducting here since the Bolshevik Revolution.  They were experimenting with social media, but most of the effort was their usual approach of scouting sources of information, talking with people, recruiting dupes, and sponsoring demonstrations or rallies intended to further along the polarization of American society (in Soviet days, this was called "heightening the contradictions").  That's why they sponsored pro- and anti-Trump rallies on November 12.

My skepticism is shared by superstar attorney Cleta Mitchell, the reigning authority on election law and a hard evidence-driven skeptic.  Last night, she appeared on Tucker Carlson's show and pointed out the lack of sourcing for these claims, further pointing out that the only thing on sworn evidence is the $46,000 that Facebook testified it has been paid by Russians.

The first minute of the video below features the embarrassing footage of John Podesta fumbling the question of why the Russians seemed to know more about targeting purple states than the Hillary campaign that he headed did (actually, they weren't that good, even if better than Podesta's operation).  Rick Moran blogged that yesterday, so if you are familiar with the clip, Cleta Mitchell comes on at about the one-minute mark.


[i] Foreign Policy is owned by the Graham Holdings Company, former owners of the Washington Post.

The effort to explain away Hillary Clinton's loss to Donald Trump began as a propaganda operation the morning after the election results came in.  Defense of the Russia collusion hoax requires a sinister foe that might have swung the election.  There is every incentive for the propaganda masters to present information in ways that lends itself to exaggeration.  So skepticism is warranted toward everything you hear from the media and even from the Mueller probe itself; it is, after all, the spawn of Hillary's campaign-sponsored Steele dossier and staffed by rabid partisans who donate only to Democrats.

Ever since the 13 indictments were announced last Friday, exactly in time to distract public attention from the FBI's bungling that cost 17 people their lives in Parkland, Florida, we have been hearing about "millions" of dollars spent by the Russians "per month."  It's become a major talking point.  For example, the staid magazine Foreign Policy [i]:

The endeavor, at one point, had a budget of $1.25 million a month, allowing it to pay hundreds of operatives to engage in a surreal campaign meant to interfere in American democracy that appears to have been financed in part through a catering company (one that reportedly treats workers poorly, at that).

But what is the source of this contention?  Even if you credit the figure with six zeroes, how many months does it apply to?  The Mueller indictment offers scant evidence.

The indictment (full text here) mentions "million" in connection with "dollars" just two times.

The first mention:

The ORGANIZATION's annual budget totaled the equivalent of millions of U.S. dollars.

The ORGANIZATION in question is earlier described in the indictment as:

Defendant INTERNET RESEARCH AGENCY LLC is a Russian organization engaged in political and electoral interference operations. In or around July 2013, the ORGANIZATION registered with the Russian government as a Russian corporate entity.  Beginning in or around June 2014, the ORGANIZATION obscured its conduct by operating through a number of Russian entities, including Internet Research LLC, MediaSintez LLC, GlavSet LLC, Mixlnfo LLC, Azimut LLC, and Novlnfo LLC.  Starting in or around 2014, the ORGANIZATION occupied an office at 55 Savushkina Street in St. Petersburg, Russia.  That location became one of the ORGANIZATION's operational hubs from which Defendants and other co-conspirators carried out their activities to interfere in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

So the annual budget of an organization that long predates the election, and which encompasses many arms, is in the millions of dollars.  What portion of that was expended on the election is a mystery.

The second mention of "million":

b. By in or around September 2016, the ORGANIZATION's monthly budget for Project Lakhta submitted to CONCORD exceeded 73 million Russian rubles (over 1,250,000 U.S. dollars), including approximately one million rubles in bonus payments.

Project Lakhta is earlier described as:

...a larger CONCORD-funded interference operation...referred to as "Project 'Lakhta."  Project Lakhta had multiple components, some involving domestic audiences within the Russian Federation and others targeting foreign audiences in various countries, including the United States.

What fraction of Project Lakhta's expenditures related to the 2016 presidential election is a mystery.  Does the allegation of "hundreds of operatives" include the Project Lakhta staff working "within the Russian Federation and others targeting foreign audiences in various countries, including the United States"?  Or maybe the entire all-caps ORGANIZATION?  We just don't know.

I've never had a security clearance, but it seems to me that the operation described in the indictment was the 2016 edition of the sort of dezinformatsiya black ops that the Russians have been conducting here since the Bolshevik Revolution.  They were experimenting with social media, but most of the effort was their usual approach of scouting sources of information, talking with people, recruiting dupes, and sponsoring demonstrations or rallies intended to further along the polarization of American society (in Soviet days, this was called "heightening the contradictions").  That's why they sponsored pro- and anti-Trump rallies on November 12.

My skepticism is shared by superstar attorney Cleta Mitchell, the reigning authority on election law and a hard evidence-driven skeptic.  Last night, she appeared on Tucker Carlson's show and pointed out the lack of sourcing for these claims, further pointing out that the only thing on sworn evidence is the $46,000 that Facebook testified it has been paid by Russians.

The first minute of the video below features the embarrassing footage of John Podesta fumbling the question of why the Russians seemed to know more about targeting purple states than the Hillary campaign that he headed did (actually, they weren't that good, even if better than Podesta's operation).  Rick Moran blogged that yesterday, so if you are familiar with the clip, Cleta Mitchell comes on at about the one-minute mark.


[i] Foreign Policy is owned by the Graham Holdings Company, former owners of the Washington Post.