Congressional and Justice Department investigators are now probing whether the digital campaign operation run by Trump son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner helped Russia target U.S. voters with fake news stories about Hillary Clinton, according to a new report.
McClatchy News first reported that investigators are looking into whether the Trump campaign helped Russian cyber operatives target areas in key states, "where Trump's digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton."
Law enforcement sources told CBS News' Andres Triay and Pat Milton that investigators are looking at whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and/or its surrogates with fake news sites as part of its overall investigation into Russian interference into the U.S. elections.
Central to Kushner's digital strategy was Brad Parscale, whose company, Giles-Parscale, was paid $91 million by the Trump campaign. Parscale targeted voters with digital ads and social media.
On "CBS This Morning," Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian meddling in the U.S. election, was asked whether his committee was looking into whether the Trump campaign's digital team helped to guide Russian fake news attacks on Clinton.
Schiff thinks it's something the committee should be exploring, specifically "whether there was any help in terms of the fake news the efforts to push negative news by the Russians, whether there was any coordination in the efforts to target that, to identify where it would be useful to push stories out on social media feeds."
And he said the McClatchy report brought to mind.
"[T]o give you some level of analogous piece of evidence here, in those emails it's very significant that Don Jr. says, 'Hey, it would be most helpful to get this in the late summer,'" Schiff said.
In June last year, after publicist Rob Goldstone wrote to Trump Jr. promising material from the Russian government that "would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to [his] father," Trump Jr. replied, "'If it's what you say, I love it especially later in the summer."
Schiff observed, "He's already talking about timing. So if there was any kind of coordination on the timing of the pushing of either negative stories or false stories by Russian social media trolls then that's something that we need to know."
Sen. Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, says that he too has harbored suspicions for months about the ability of Russian actors to target voters that even Democrats failed to identify as vulnerable.
Warner, the ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee -- which is also probing Russian interference in the U.S. election -- told Pod Save America in April that Russia's apparent ability "to target states and levels of voters that the Democrats weren't even aware (of) really raises some questions. How did they know to go to that level of detail in those kinds of jurisdictions?"
Warner said that the Russians were able to game the algorithm so fake news appeared to be the highest read stories on social media, enabling them to surge to the top of searches for election news. There have been charges, Warner said, that the Russians were able to make sure in certain areas -- like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan -- that when women voters searched for Hillary Clinton in the last days before the election, they wouldn't get information about Clinton and Mr. Trump campaigning. Instead, Warner said, these women voters would see stories saying that Clinton was sick or that she was stealing money from the State Department.
Warner found it noteworthy that the Russians were able to target women and African Americans in Wisconsin and Michigan, while Democrats were "too brain-dead to realize those states were even in play." Clinton ended up losing Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
Kushner has volunteered to testify before Congress about his Russia contacts and any other issues for which he's under investigation.