This week, Facebook looks like it’s trying to give Russia the benefit of the doubt. Rob Goldman, vice president of ads at Facebook, used Twitter on Friday to applaud special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments of multiple Russian people and companies for their interference in the 2016 election. Goldman said he also wanted to clear up a few things — namely, that he doesn’t believe Russia’s main goal was to sway the 2016 election.
On Sunday, however, James Clapper, former director of national intelligence under the Obama administration, clapped back: Of course Russia was trying to influence the election, he said. Obviously both can’t be true.
Goldman’s reasoning was based on the fact that a majority of Russian ad spending on Facebook happened after the election. “The main goal of the Russian propaganda and misinformation effort is to divide America by using our institutions, like free speech and social media, against us. It has stoked fear and hatred amongst Americans,” Goldman wrote. “It is working incredibly well. We are quite divided as a nation.” The executive pointed to an anti-Islamic protest in Houston in May: “Americans were literally puppeted into the streets by trolls who organized both sides of the protest,” he said. President Donald Trump picked up on Goldman’s thread on Saturday.
“I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitively that swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal.”— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2018
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On the other hand, to Clapper — a retired Air Force lieutenant general who was director of national intelligence under Obama and served in the Bush and Clinton administrations — Goldman’s logic is naive. In an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union with Dana Bash on Saturday, Clapper hit back at Goldman’s assertion. “Well, it’s false, as far as I’m concerned, because there’s no question what the Russians were trying to do,” Clapper said, noting that all evidence points to that being the case, whether you want to acknowledge it or not. “Clearly, the Russians were trying to affect the election.”
Clapper said the Russians had three main goals in their campaign to interfere in American politics:
First was simply to sow discord and discontent in this country. And unfortunately, we’re a good target for that right now. And secondly, to hurt Hillary Clinton, which starts with this strong personal animus that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has for the Clintons, both, and then, of course, as things evolved, to support Trump.
There is one thing, however, that Clapper and Goldman seem to agree on: Russia is definitely going to try it again. “The Russian campaign is ongoing,” Goldman wrote on Twitter on Friday. “They’re going to continue to do it,” Clapper said on Sunday.
Clapper also said he believes more revelations are coming: “I do think there are other shoes to drop here besides this indictment.”