Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team has asked about flows of money into the Cyprus bank account of a company that specialized in social-media manipulation and whose founder reportedly met with Donald Trump Jr. in August 2016, according to a person familiar with the investigation.
The inquiry is drawing attention to PSY Group, an Israeli firm that pitched its services to super-PACs and other entities during the 2016 election. Those services included infiltrating target audiences with elaborately crafted social-media personas and spreading misleading information through websites meant to mimic news portals, according to interviews and PSY Group documents seen by Bloomberg News.
The person doesn’t believe any of those pitches was successful, and it’s illegal for foreign entities to contribute anything of value or to play decision-making roles in U.S. political campaigns.
One of PSY Group’s founders, Joel Zamel, met in August 2016 at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr. and an emissary to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to discuss how PSY Group could help Trump win, the New York Times reported on Saturday.
Marc Mukasey, a lawyer for Zamel, said his client “offered nothing to the Trump campaign, received nothing from the Trump campaign, delivered nothing to the Trump campaign and was not solicited by, or asked to do anything for, the Trump campaign.” He also said reports that Zamel’s companies engage in social-media manipulation are misguided and that the firms “harvest publicly available information for lawful use.”
Donald Trump Jr. recalls a meeting at which he was pitched “on a social media platform or marketing strategy,” said his attorney, Alan Futerfas, in an emailed statement. “He was not interested and that was the end of it.”
(c) 2018, Bloomberg · Michael Riley, Lauren Etter