As unpredictable as the Trump era has often been, there is one truth upon which we can rely: Somewhere in the archives of the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account is an old tweet that corresponds perfectly to the latest news.
On Friday, the Department of Justice announced indictments against the Russian company known as the Internet Research Agency and 13 Russian individuals, accusing them of conspiring to meddle in the 2016 presidential election to attack Hillary Clinton and boost Trump through social media posts, the organization of US rallies, and online ads. Lo and behold, there is a tweet — from September 22, 2017 — implying that attention to “ads on Facebook” was part of the “Russia hoax”:
The Russia hoax continues, now it's ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2017
Obviously, Trump has spent plenty of time fulminating about the investigations into Russian election interference, calling it “fake news.” But usually, he’s confined his denials to the idea that there was deliberate “collusion” between Russia and the Trump campaign. Friday’s indictment doesn’t contradict that; it says repeatedly that any contacts between Trump operatives and Russians named in the indictment were “unwitting.”
But the September tweet is different.
On September 15, 2017, reports broke that Facebook had turned over ads bought by Russian entities during the 2016 campaign to special counsel Robert Mueller. On September 21, after congressional investigators asked Facebook for the ads, Facebook sent them to Congress too. And on the early morning of September 22, Trump decried the move, calling it part of the “Russia hoax” — Trump shorthand for the “Russia-collusion narrative (which) is a hoax.”
In fact, the indictment makes it damn clear that the “ads on Facebook” Trump was referring to in September were not part of some “deep state” hoax to make it look like Russia meddled in the election. They were, in fact, part of a hoax perpetrated by Russia to meddle in the election.
The indictment says that the Internet Research Agency started buying Facebook ads for fraudulent social media accounts in or around 2015. But it identifies several specific occasions on which Facebook ads were bought to help Trump in the general election, whether by attacking Hillary Clinton:
Or organizing pro-Trump rallies in New York, Pennsylvania, and Florida:
President Trump has not, as of this writing, tweeted about the indictments. He doesn’t have to. His September 2017 tweet already says everything it needs to about his heedless insistence not just that there was no deliberate collusion between his campaign and the Russian government, but that there was no Russian meddling in the election at all.