Russian operatives behind pro-Trump Facebook ads also paid for advertisements promoting Green Party candidate Jill Stein in an attempt to pull voters away from Hillary Clinton, Politico reports.
Facebook revealed earlier this month that Russians bought thousands of ads targeting voters in hopes of influencing the outcome of the election.
Many of the ads were pro-Trump or anti-Hillary, but Politico reports that at least one was promoting Jill Stein, who ran as a more liberal alternative to the more centrist Clinton.
“Choose peace and vote for Jill Stein,” the ad says. “Trust me. It’s not a wasted vote. … The only way to take our country back is to stop voting for the corporations and banks that own us. #GrowaSpineVoteJillStein.”
The Russians also bought ads promoting Bernie Sanders even though it was after his campaign had already ended.
“The ads show a complicated effort that didn’t necessarily hew to promoting Trump and bashing Clinton,” Politico reports. “Instead, they show a desire to create divisions while sometimes praising Trump, Sanders and Stein.”
Many of the ads questioned Clinton’s progressive credentials and pushed liberal criticism against her campaign.
There is no evidence Stein, Sanders, or Trump were aware of the ads.
US officials are probing whether the 3,000 ads paid for by Kremlin-linked Internet Research Agency were a part of an even larger Russian government plot to influence the outcome of the election.
The ads themselves made up much less than 1 percent of all election spending. According to Facebook, the group spent about $150,000 on ads.
“The vast majority of ads run by these accounts didn’t specifically reference the U.S. presidential election or voting for a particular candidate,” Facebook said in a statement. “Rather, the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights.”
Hillary Clinton alluded to Stein’s effect on the race in her new book “What Happened.”
Clinton noted that even though Stein did not capture a large number of votes, her totals in certain swing states “may well have thrown the election to Trump.”
Earlier this year, CNN host Michael Smercornish confronted Stein on his show and grilled her on whether Russia was using her to pull votes away from Clinton.
“Take me inside the dinner you had with Vladimir Putin in 2015 and the prominence it afforded you,” Smerconish said in June. “My question is was that in and of itself a form of meddling along the lines of ‘let me give some attention to green party candidate Jill Stein’ — you know the theory — any vote for Stein that otherwise would have gone to Hillary. What was that dinner about?”
“That picture didn’t start to circulate until long after the election,” Stein told him of a photo showing her at the table with Putin and Flynn. “It essentially wasn’t covered here in the U.S. there was media at that conference, and it was a day-long conference where my message was very clear. It was the message of my campaign. which is that we need a peace offensive in the Middle East.”
“It’s now circulating,” she said of the photo. “It’s funny, Michael, you have to ask why is that picture kicking up a storm right now? I think it’s very related to the fact that the Democrats are looking for someone to blame.”