Fake Twitter account ‘TEN_GOP’ mentioned in latest Mueller indictment

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FILE – In this Oct. 28, 2013, file photo, former FBI Director Robert Mueller is seated before President Barack Obama and FBI Director James Comey arrive at an installation ceremony at FBI Headquarters in Washington. A veteran FBI counterintelligence agent was removed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating Russian election meddling after the discovery […]

A Twitter account purporting to be controlled by the Tennessee GOP was mentioned in an indictment handed down Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The Twitter account “@TEN_GOP” that went under the name “Tennessee GOP” falsely claimed to be controlled by a Tennessee political party. Instead, the account was under the control of the Internet Research Agency, a Russian organization generating social media propaganda.

Over time, the Twitter account attracted more than 100,000 followers.

Read more: 13 Russian nationals charged in Mueller investigation

Friday’s indictment charges 13 Russians and three Russian companies in an elaborate plot to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election through the propaganda aimed at helping Republican Donald Trump and harming the prospects of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, prosecutors announced Friday.

The charges are the latest allegations arising from Mueller’s probe and represent the first criminal case against Russians. Before Friday, four people, including Trump’s former national security adviser and former campaign chairman, had been charged.

The account in question, @Ten_GOP, was shut down by Twitter in August 2017, after the Tennessee Republican Party filed three separate complaints with Twitter under the network’s impersonation policy. Michael Sullivan, the party’s executive director, said the first two complaints, filed in September 2016 and March 2017, were denied. When the party filed a third complaint in August, they didn’t receive a response from Twitter, but the account disappeared a few days later.

A search of internet archives on the Wayback Machine revealed the account joined Twitter in November 2015 and featured a Tennessee flag and the Tennessee state seal as its profile picture. The biography hailed it as the “Unofficial Twitter of Tennessee Republicans. Support #TrumpPence16 #MAGA #2A.” After the election, the biography changed to “Unofficial Twitter of Tennessee Republicans. Covering breaking news, national politics, foreign policy and more. #MAGA #2A.”

Tweets from the account included a November 17 tweet featuring a picture of Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton with the caption “Retweet if you are glad the Clinton’s 30 year crime spree is over.” That tweet was shared more than 1,200 times.

Another tweet, on December 17, read “Retweet if you agree Barack Obama has surpassed Jimmy Carter as the worst President of our lifetime.” That tweet was retweeted more than 1,700 times.

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