During the 2018 US midterm election, President Donald Trump personally approved a military cyber operation that blocked internet access for the St.Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency (IRA), NBC News cited multiple sources as saying on Wednesday.
“The action by US Cyber Command against the IRA [, seen by Washington as a so-called Russian troll farm and charged by special counsel Robert Mueller with interfering in the 2016 election] marks the most aggressive known move to date by the Trump administration to combat [alleged] Russian election interference," the sources pointed out.
The remarks come after the Washington Post reported on Tuesday that US cyber operators disrupted internet access for the IRA on the day of the 2018 midterm elections in a bid “to hamper their propaganda operations”.
“They basically took the IRA offline. They shut ‘em down," a source told the newspaper, adding that the IRA remained offline for a few days. The White House declined to comment on the report.
In late January, US intelligence director Dan Coats claimed that Russia will seek to meddle in the US presidential election again — this time with China. According to him, Russia has "learned from its operation in 2016," and will use a wider array of methods in the upcoming 2020 US elections.
Moscow insists that the allegations were made up to excuse the election loss of a US presidential candidate as well as deflect public attention from actual instances of election fraud and corruption.
The Russian president’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, for his part, described the accusations as “absolutely unsubstantiated”, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressing that there is no proof to support the US’ claims.