Israeli firm pitched social media manipulation to Trump campaign

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The Times reports there's no evidence Gates acted on Psy-Group's proposals.

Specifically, campaign official Rick Gates asked a company called Psy-Group-made up mostly of former Israeli intelligence agents-for proposals on ways to attack Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton and to generally turn GOP voters toward Trump.

Gates wanted to use fake social media personas to ensure Trump was the favorite of delegates at the Republican National Convention.

The Times reports that the Israeli company's pitches appear unconnected to Moscow's interference campaign.

Then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks as then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listens during the second presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis, October 9, 2016. The company is staffed by former Israeli intelligence officials.

The Trump campaign's interest in the work began as Russians were escalating their effort to aid Trump. Donald Trump was known as "Lion" Cruz was "Bear" and Clinton was referred to as "Forest". Its owner, Joel Zamel, met with Donald Trump Jr.in August of 2016.

The misinformation campaign, dubbed 'Project Rome, ' was produced by the Israeli private intelligence firm Psy-Group, which was founded and run by former members of the Israeli intelligence services and pitched to Rick Gates, the former deputy campaign manager for Trump, serving under Paul Manafort.

A separate proposal related to opposition research and "complementary intelligence activities" about Clinton and people close to her, according to copies of the proposals obtained Times and interviews with four people involved in creating the documents.

In February, Gates pledged to cooperate with Mueller as he pleaded guilty to defrauding the USA by failing to report offshore banking accounts, as well as to one count of lying over his work as a foreign agent for Ukraine.

Zamel's lawyer tells the Times that the Trump Tower meeting was cursory. The meeting also included Blackwater founder Erik Prince and George Nader, the adviser to the UAE Crown Prince and the go-between for Prince's meeting in the Seychelles with a powerful Russian businessman.

Nader and Zamel have given differing accounts over whether Zamel ultimately carried out the social media effort to help the Trump campaign and why Nader paid him $2 million after the election, according to people who have discussed the matter with the two men.

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