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National Security Expert: Russia Targeted Marco Rubio During 2016 Election

Clinton Watts, a senior fellow at the George Washington Center for Cyber & Homeland Security, said at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Thursday that Russia targeted and directly affected the presidential campaign of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

“Through the end of 2015 and start of 2016, the Russian influence system began pushing themes and messages seeking to influence the outcome of the U.S. presidential election,” Watts said.

“Russia’s overt media outlets and covert trolls sought to sideline opponents on both sides of the political spectrum with adversarial views towards the Kremlin,” Watts said. “They were in full swing during both the Republican and Democratic primary season and may have helped sink the hopes of candidates more hostile to Russian interests long before the field narrowed.”

Watts then looked at Rubio and said, “Senator Rubio, in my opinion, you anecdotally suffered from these efforts.”

Watts described how Russia used a combination of internet trolls and traditional media to spread disinformation targeted at specific candidates.

Much of the media focus regarding Russian interference has revolved around the hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.