Trump Team Sought Israeli Firm's Help to Defeat 'Bear'

Mueller looks into Rick Gates' outreach to intel company Psy-Group to wage online attacks
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 9, 2018 7:43 AM CDT
Trump Team Sought Israeli Firm's Help to Defeat 'Bear'
Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at the Barn Door Steakhouse in Odessa, Texas.   (Jacob Ford/Odessa American via AP, File)

Robert Mueller is looking into the Trump campaign's discussions with an Israeli intelligence firm to go after opponents in the 2016 election campaign, reports the New York Times. Specifically, campaign official Rick Gates asked a company called Psy-Group—made up mostly of former Israeli intelligence agents—for proposals on ways to attack Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton and to generally turn GOP voters toward Trump. 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"). For example, one proposal suggested creating fake online personas to bombard delegates to the GOP nominating convention with narratives about Cruz's "ulterior motives or hidden plans." One caveat: It appears that the Trump campaign did not use any of the proposals.

This outreach wasn't connected to any Russian interference in the campaign, though Mueller's team is reportedly looking at all of the pitched proposals as part of their larger investigation. The interest apparently went beyond Gates: Donald Trump Jr. met with Psy-Group owner Joel Zamel in August 2016. The Times describes the Psy-Group pitch as "a broad effort to sow disinformation among Republican delegates and general election voters," adding that "the proposal to gather information about Mrs. Clinton and her aides has elements of traditional opposition research, but it also contains cryptic language that suggests using clandestine means to build 'intelligence dossiers.'" Read the full story here. Gates is cooperating with Mueller after being indicted on fraud and tax evasion charges unrelated to the campaign last year. (More Rick Gates stories.)

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