Rick Gates Solicited Proposal For Online Disinformation Campaign to Help Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives on stage on the first day of the Republican National Convention

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrives on stage on the first day of the Republican National Convention

Psy-Group, a company staffed primarily by former Israeli intelligence officers, proposed using fake online profiles to attack Senator Ted Cruz, a main opponent of Trump's during the Republican primary, and influence 5,000 delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention.

Nevertheless, the Times found no evidence that the Trump campaign ultimately accepted and employed the services of Psy-Group.

Psy-Group's owner, Joel Zamel, did meet with Donald Trump Jr.in August 2016, according to the Times.

Gates first heard about Psy-Group's work during a March 2016 meeting at the Mandarin Oriental hotel along the Washington waterfront with George Birnbaum, a Republican consultant with close ties to current and former Israeli government officials. Psy-Group worked up at least three proposals under the code name "Project Rome" to help Trump ("Lion") defeat Cruz ("Bear") and Hillary Clinton ("Forest").

There was no evidence that the Trump campaign followed through on the proposals to use social media manipulation and intelligence gathering.

The Trump campaign was already employing "embeds" from social media companies such as Facebook in order to inform its social media strategy.

The Trump campaign apparently did not express interest in the proposals, and its unclear whether the activities would have fallen afoul of USA laws prohibiting foreign interference in elections.

George Nader, a longtime close adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed of Abu Dhabi who was also at that meeting, paid Zamel $2 million after the election, according to the reports. Gates pleaded guilty to several of the charges this year, and he is cooperating with Mueller's investigation.

"Mr Zamel never pitched, or otherwise discussed, any of Psy-Group's proposals relating to the U.S. elections with anyone related to the Trump campaign, including not with Donald Trump Jr., except for outlining the capabilities of some of his companies in general terms", Zamel's lawyer, Marc Mukasey, said in a statement as cited by The Times.

US Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating those Russian efforts, as well as possible collusion between Trump's campaign and Moscow.

Mr. Zamel's attorney told The Times the meeting at Trump Tower was just to outline the company's capabilities in "general terms". What makes things even more suspicious is that Nader also met with Donald Trump Jr.in August 2016 at Trump Tower to offer his assistance to the campaign.

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