Agents of Chaos (2020) s01e01 Episode Script

Part One

1 (CROWD CHANTING) DONALD TRUMP: You know, when I first heard that term, I said "Ugh, that's so hokey.
" The hierarchy of power in Washington D.
is who can raise the money.
and the special interest groups control the money.
-The lobbyists.
-That's the swamp.
I didn't run to unify Washington.
-PROTESTER: Asshole! -Do something! MATT GAETZ: I ran to change Washington.
My husband woke me up and said, "You're not gonna believe it, but apparently, Trump is winning.
" And I thought, "God, now they're gonna blame us.
" (LAUGHS) And I even posted that I think that Russians should go out on the streets and carry an American flag.
Because somebody against whom the whole establishment, and all of the media, and all of the deep state, almost all of them, were, and he still won because the people liked him.
As a young person who still believes in the values that I was taught by Americans, in an American school to me, it was very optimistic to see that.
That it can actually really happen, still.
That is how democracy is supposed to work.
("RHAPSODY IN BLUE" BY GEORGE GERSHWIN PLAYING) ♪ HILLARY CLINTON: I think we know what we're up against.
We do, don't we? DONALD TRUMP: She's guilty of a very, very serious crime.
She should not be allowed to run.
Hillary Clinton has some explaining to do.
(REPORTERS CLAMORING) I'm sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails! -Thank you.
(LAUGHS) -(CROWD CHEERING) BERNIE SANDERS: You know? REPORTER: Bernie Sanders leading Hillary Clinton.
CROWD: (CHANTING) Feel the Bern! Feel the Bern! Bernie Sanders.
You know, I told him.
I said, "The election's rigged.
" It was rigged! "Here's another ballot!" Throw it away, throw-- "Oh, here's one I like.
We'll keep that one.
" (MUSIC CONTINUES) ♪ You could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the "basket of deplorables.
" TRUMP: Isn't this exciting? Don't you love it? I love it! What's more fun than a Trump rally, right? (CROWD CHEERING) I made speeches to lots of groups.
But did you have to be paid 675,000 dollars? That's what they offered.
-So, um -(CROWD LAUGHING) This is the ultimate reality show.
It's the Presidency of the United States.
-the DNC hack -hacking the DNC -exposed by WikiLeaks -and posted on WikiLeaks -Military and civilian -TRUMP: Our country has no idea.
-agencies, well -Yeah, I doubt it.
I doubt it.
he'd rather believe Vladimir Putin.
Vladimir Putin, he called you a brilliant leader.
Do you wanna be complimented by that former KGB officer? Well, I think when he calls me brilliant, I'll take the compliment, okay? And every time Russia's brought up, they say, "Oh, Trump!" What do I have to do with it? ALEX GIBNEY: Okay, I'm not gonna make you relive the entire 2016 election.
It was too chaotic.
Too crazy.
Too much.
But I am interested in figuring out this Trump-Russia thing.
What was that all about? Vladimir Putin's plan to rule the world? A Democrat witch hunt to take down Trump? A Cold War spy game? I've been trying for years to answer those questions, and every time someone asked me what this movie was about, I'd say "Well, how much time do you have?" Fear.
I can't tell you the one thing that explains what Russia did to us or what we did to ourselves.
All I can tell you is what happened.
That's hard enough when you're talking about the most chaotic election of our lifetimes.
And maybe for now, that's one thing I will say.
For some politicians, in Russia and America, chaos isn't something to fear.
It's a way to get by.
Sometimes, with a little help from your friends.
(CROWD CHEERING) (MUSIC CONCLUDES) ♪ (CAR HONKING IN DISTANCE) (MELLOW MUSIC PLAYING) ♪ ALEX: The country spent years telling itself stories to make sense of 2016.
It started in the final days of the Obama administration with a report from the US Intelligence Community.
REPORTER: An American intelligence report finds that Russia used disinformation warfare to try to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
One of the weapons in the Kremlin's arsenal was its state-run news network, RT.
SIMONYAN: I read that report.
Well, I laughed my guts out.
They mentioned my name there 27 times.
It would be laughable if it weren't that scary.
If the Intelligence Community of the most powerful country in the world is that ignorant, the world is in much trouble.
REPORTER 1: The FBI has an open investigation REPORTER 2: The House Intelligence Committee issued seven subpoenas REPORTER 3: an active investigation REPORTER 2: This is a pretty broad investigation, they are following the money REPORTER 4: What next on the Russian investigation? REPORTER 2: so-called Russian collusion REPORTER 4: It'll now be handled by ALEX: There were too many investigations to count.
The FBI, the Justice Department, both houses of Congress.
Everyone wanted to know what Russia had done.
But if anyone was gonna get the goods, it would be the team put together by the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.
ANDREW WEISSMANN: After the announcement that Rod Rosenstein had appointed Bob Mueller, a friend of mine sent me an email that said: "Bye, bye!" He knew that I'd worked with Director Mueller twice before, and he just assumed that I would just go off and work with him.
(MYSTERIOUS MUSIC PLAYING) ♪ People like to think of the Special Counsel's Office as a witch hunt, but this is just not a partisan issue.
Our report has one key finding.
Clear, unequivocal efforts by the Russian government to interfere with our election.
The issue that goes to the core of our democracy is are we doing everything we can to make sure that Americans will decide who is running this country? Oh, so, the DNC knew of the hack on April 19th.
But it wasn't reported until The Washington Post ALEX: I started working on the Russia story at the suggestion of the legendary reporter and producer Lowell Bergman.
We formed a team of reporters and collaborators from the US and Russia to take on different parts of the story.
INTERVIEWER: Uh, did you get hired by a firm that was-- that had a more political interest? No, but thank you.
ALEX: But what exactly was the story? We learned a lot of details about election interference.
The trolling, the hacking, and the alleged collusion.
What I couldn't figure out was, how did these pieces fit together? Or even if they did.
The first piece of the puzzle pointed us toward a cyber trail on the internet, where a motley band of Russian trolls had been busy making mischief on social media.
(DRAMATIC MUSIC PLAYING) ♪ (ELECTRONIC BEEPING) ALEX: The campaign was riddled with disinformation, which travels like quicksilver on the internet.
So we sought out Camille François, who was engaged by the US Senate to study the activities of the infamous Russian troll factory known as the Internet Research Agency, or IRA.
CAMILLE FRANÇOIS: In 2016, people didn't know what a Russian troll was.
I was quite fascinated by this new means of controlling narratives.
My background is in human rights, and I was very concerned with the way digital technology was actually creating new problems in human rights.
What's really interesting with Russia, it exemplifies a new trend in governments using the internet to control and repress.
Members of the committee, thank you for having me here today.
We're here to discuss the growing issue of online imposters and disinformation.
Targeting specific communities at the right time and with the right tactics can have a catastrophic impact on society or on an election.
And I have seen the types of impacts that those disinformation campaigns can have.
The IRA uses what we call "persona.
" A persona is simply an account that's not who they say they are.
They're really doing three types of personas.
Fake people, like, "Hi, my name is Jenna Abrams.
I am an American conservative.
" She doesn't exist.
She's a fake person.
That's a fake persona.
Fake organizations.
"Hi, we are BlackMattersUS.
We are an organization dedicated to fighting racism in America.
" This organization doesn't exist.
It's a fake shop.
And finally, through doing fake local media.
Like a newspaper that's based in Baltimore that has a title that sounds like it could be real.
But it's not.
It's not a real newspaper.
It doesn't have real journalists, and it has zero office in Baltimore.
They have this army of personas, and together they're gonna do campaigns.
(INDISTINCT CHATTER) FRANÇOIS: What does all this social media activity tell us about what the IRA was doing in the United States? What is the story? Initially, the IRA was not focused on the 2016 election.
The first thing that you see is the IRA's seeking to control the Russian domestic conversation.
(DRAMATIC MUSIC PLAYING) ♪ FRANÇOIS: The first target of the IRA really is the Russian people themselves.
The IRA starts in 2013, in St.
ALEX: To tell the story of the troll factory, we compiled hacked and leaked materials and spoke to former employees and journalists who had gotten inside.
MAN: (SPEAKING IN RUSSIAN OVER PHONE) (SPEAKING IN RUSSIAN) The troll farm itself is like, um, a Disneyland for investigative journalists.
There is always something going on there.
It's a very evil organization, but it was very fun to investigate.
JAVIER: When was the first time you heard of this, this thing that we've come to call the troll factory? In the year 2013, I was the first journalist to report about the troll farm.
(MOUSE CLICKING) SOSHNIKOV: I've seen a post on social media.
A woman told about a very strange job, and I decided that I need to check.
So I went undercover.
I bought a new SIM card.
I created a new social media profile.
And I came up with another name.
They rented this big building on Savushkina Street 55.
I went to the interview, and I was asked just two simple questions: "What's your attitude towards Kremlin?" And "What's your attitude towards Russian opposition?" That's how it worked.
(BEEPS) WOMAN: (IN RUSSIAN) (DOOR CLOSES) SOSHNIKOV: I met another investigative journalist there.
We know each other since childhood, and it was very difficult to hide our laughs.
She said, "Oh, hi, Andrei.
Good to see you here.
You also looking for a job?" "Yeah! I will write stuff on the internet about Kremlin and praise Putin and stuff like this.
" And she said, "Wow, I will do the same thing.
" (MACHINE BEEPS) SOSHNIKOV: It shows how unprofessional they were on their first days because they had two investigative journalists in the building.
Same time.
They had several levels.
Some doors has just a hashtag.
A special department creating hashtags, maybe.
(WOMAN HUMMING) They had two types of people, -simple trolls and analytics.
-(BEEPS) SOSHNIKOV: The job of analytics is to create the agenda for the troll.
You have to use these words and these phrases to promote our opinion.
A very short task, we called them technical assignments.
SOSHNIKOV: They were really interested in the comments sections of media websites.
Putin is the best president.
If someone had doubts that Putin is the best president, then after the" SOSHNIKOV: And they had to send their bosses pages of forums with examples of their posts.
(WOMAN LAUGHING) SOSHNIKOV: I spent one day there.
I literally wrote the story, uh, in the evening, and the next morning, it was online.
A very short story.
(INDISTINCT CHATTER) SOSHNIKOV: I thought they are amateurs.
And how people who were hired from the streets could establish such a sophisticated disinformational campaign against a strong Western democracy? Um, absurd.
ALEX: It seemed absurd back then.
The trolls' skills just didn't match their ambition to move fast and break things.
So the people in charge tried to scale up.
They boosted pay to attract better employees and brought in various outside consultants to train them.
OLEG MATVEYCHEV: (IN RUSSIAN) (TENSE MUSIC PLAYING) ♪ ALEX: The trolls were building a machine for influencing conversations on the web.
So what? Every PR firm in the world was doing the same thing in 2013.
But the trolls wanted to do more than monetize social media.
They used their network to help the Russian government in a war against another country.
What they really did, they did with Ukraine, and Ukraine is the main victim.
(MUSIC PLAYING) ♪ Ukraine is fascinating because it is caught between the West and Russia, both politically and physically.
There's the eastern part, which is more Russian, and it's also the wealthier part.
Russia has enormous control there because of oil and gas, which Ukraine needs.
And so, there's this tug of war about Ukraine and whether it's gonna be a Russian sphere of influence or not.
FRANÇOIS: Before the IRA did a major operation in the US, Ukraine became, frankly, the lab for all the latest and greatest from Russia's information operations.
("STATE ANTHEM OF UKRAINE" PLAYING) ♪ (INDISTINCT VOICE OVER LOUDSPEAKER) Yanukovych was the pro-Russian, pro-Putin president.
(SCATTERED APPLAUSE) WEISSMANN: But he was going to sign legislation that would put Ukraine further in the sphere of Western influence.
(SPEAKING IN RUSSIAN) TRANSLATOR: "I believe that we should push on with our partnership with the European Union.
It's an imperative.
" Originally, Yanukovych became president with the promise of signing an EU Association Agreement.
There was a lot of political support 'cause it was gonna be good for Ukrainian business.
It would have given them freedom of movement for their citizens, visa-free.
It would have given them, uh, complete trade preferences.
It would have been a free, prosperous, increasingly European Ukraine.
Putin wakes up in October of 2013 and decides that he has to move very quickly to end that.
(SPEAKING IN RUSSIAN) TRANSLATOR: "Ukraine is not our closest neighbor.
It's our fraternal nation.
" So he offers Yanukovych these big loans and Yanukovych tells his citizens, "We're gonna put this on the back burner.
" This is Ukraine's moment to meet the aspirations of its people or to disappoint them and risk descending into chaos and violence.
It was political for Putin.
He was afraid he was losing Ukraine to Europe and the next step would be that his own citizens would want that, too.
ALEX: Putin needed to show Russians that Ukraine's turn toward Europe was bad news, a perfect opportunity for the troll factory.
While the trolls tried to sway public opinion, Putin invited Yanukovych to the Kremlin for a friendly chat.
WEISSMANN: Rumors are that Yanukovych was paid a bloody fortune under the table.
I mean, he lived this incredibly opulent life that you couldn't possibly live on a government salary.
When he reneged on the European deal, there was this huge popular uprising.
(SHOUTING IN UKRAINIAN) (PROTESTERS CHEER) PROTESTER: (SPEAKING IN UKRAINIAN) It started as peaceful protests in December of 2013.
Those protests turned violent in January of 2014.
(GUNSHOTS) (PEOPLE SHOUTING IN UKRAINIAN) Putin was encouraging Yanukovych throughout this period to do what he himself would have done and has done in Russia, which is to be very heavy-handed on the street against protesters, locking up mass numbers of people.
(SHOUTING IN UKRAINIAN) PROTESTER: CROWD: And he thought that Yanukovych was a chump to allow it to go on as long as he did.
CELESTE WALLANDER: Ukrainian security services, possibly with some outside help, began to shoot at the protesters.
(GUNSHOT) (PEOPLE YELLING IN UKRAINIAN) (INDISTINCT CLAMORING) WALLANDER: You've probably seen the films of the bloodbaths in-- in January of 2014.
(SOMBER MUSIC PLAYING) ♪ TIMOTHY SNYDER: In Ukraine, in 2013 and 2014, people mobilized for a very simple thing.
People, especially young people, wanted to look forward to a future with predictability and the rule of law and Europe in it.
That mattered to them enough to go out on the street and take risks.
And in the end, some of them paid with their lives.
That's the story of the revolution in Ukraine which is thought of as the Maidan.
VICTORIA NULAND: The whole world is watching.
There is a way out for Ukraine.
It is still possible to save Ukraine's European future.
EU finally managed to broker a de-escalation agreement that would constrain Yanukovych's authoritarian trends and power.
But he was gonna stay in as president.
I have no doubt after our meeting that President Yanukovych knows what he needs to do.
There was actually a plan for Vice President Biden to speak to Yanukovych.
I was supposed to be in on that phone call, taking notes.
And they said, "We can't find President Yanukovych.
" We all were like, "Well, that's kind of strange.
" We woke up the next morning to find out that Yanukovych had actually fled to Russia.
And then, the Ukrainians had a vote to create an interim government.
The Russians were not happy about this.
On the next day, I got a call from the Situation Room saying, "You need to come in and see something," and it was the first movement of Russian forces invading Crimea, which is a strategic part of Ukraine for Russia.
Within 24 hours of Yanukovych having run away.
(SPEAKING IN RUSSIAN) WALLANDER: And they managed to cut off Crimea from the mainland within a couple days.
-(GUNSHOT) -(DOG BARKING) WALLANDER: The whole invasion was done within a week.
ALEX: The invasion became a war for Eastern Ukraine with pro-Russian separatists receiving support from Moscow.
From the start, the trolls had a key role to play.
They created fake news websites, which they used to drive a wedge into Ukraine and push the two halves of the country apart.
Targeting Russian speakers in Eastern Ukraine, they portrayed the protestors in the capital as neo-Nazis trying to seize power by coup d'état.
If you were an American or a European following the war in Ukraine, and you were looking at Facebook, if you were on the left, the Russians would be telling you that Ukraine was a fascist or a Nazi regime.
With the lack of peace and stability and the rise of neo-Nazi hardliners, many Jews are considering fleeing the country.
SNYDER: If you were on the far right, the Russians would be telling you that this whole Ukrainian thing was a part of a Jewish international conspiracy and the Ukrainian state was just propped up by Jewish oligarchs.
And of course, those two stories don't go very well together, but it doesn't matter.
People on the left and people on the far right are in their own internet bubbles.
So, they learned that you can do that.
And you can motivate and de-motivate by telling contradictory falsehoods that are targeted to different audiences, and by doing that, get the overall result that you want.
(SPEAKING IN RUSSIAN) SOSHNIKOV: They were preparing the informational background of these operations.
They created so many fake news and videos, like to say that, uh, Ukrainian soldiers torture people who speaks Russian, to cover what was really going on there.
(IN RUSSIAN) FIGHTER: (IN RUSSIAN) WALLANDER: I would watch these videos about, you know, fascists in Ukraine, and Nazis, and all this sort of insane stuff, and be like (SCOFFS) "No one could believe that.
" And I was wrong.
I was insufficiently attuned to how those Russian operations could be persuasive in the context of social media if they were properly targeted.
People who worked on the troll farm, they changed history.
They really influenced the situation.
ALEX: When the troll factory manufactured its campaign on the US election, it used tools developed in Ukraine.
A motive developed there, too.
Before Yanukovych fled, the Russian government was furious about the role played by Americans on the ground in Kyiv.
NULAND: We had a stream of Americans going out to Ukraine to mediate between Yanukovych and the protesters.
And the US ambassador on the ground called me.
It was an open line.
I knew the Russians were listening.
(OVER PHONE) And at that point, I used this barnyard epithet, never thinking that the Russians would put this out publicly.
In fact, they hadn't dumped a phone call on the street in 25 years.
-REPORTER: (SPEAKING IN RUSSIAN) -(BLEEP) NULAND: I did a great apologia tour, called everybody.
It was pretty impressive tradecraft.
The audio was, uh, extremely clear.
(OVER PHONE) So, uh It sounds like they're playing a game of chess, uh, with the opposition leaders as-- as the pieces on that chess board.
(SPEAKING IN UKRAINIAN) ALEX: The hack and release of the Nuland phone call was a new kind of cyberattack pointed at the US State Department and, by extension, its former secretary, Hillary Clinton.
Only a few years before, Clinton had wondered out loud whether Russia's 2012 election would be rigged in favor of Vladimir Putin.
Putin, like all tyrants, faces a very challenging kind of politics every day.
It's not that, you know, democracy is-- is hard and tyranny is easy, or the other way around.
They're-- they're both hard.
They just have different kinds of challenges.
In 2011 and 2012 in Russia, there were parliamentary elections in December, and then there were presidential elections in the spring.
And the parliamentary elections brought Putin's party a majority in the parliament, and the presidential elections brought Putin back to power.
But in fact, his party only won about 26 percent of the votes and, in fact, Mr.
Putin himself didn't win enough votes in the first round to actually clear and be president after one round of voting.
So everything was faked.
And everybody knew it.
And people did protest.
There were hundreds of thousands of people simultaneously on the street, and the message was a very simple one: for free elections.
(CHANTING IN RUSSIAN) (CHANTING) (SHOUTING) (CHANTING) That was a crucial moment, because it was the last moment where, if you were Russian, you could maybe still believe that voting might make a difference.
There are plenty of Russians who'd like to have their votes counted.
There are plenty of Russians who would like to have the rule of law, who would like to have a free press.
Putin could have said, "Yes, let's have free elections.
" But his reaction instead was 180 degrees the opposite.
-(SPEAKING IN RUSSIAN) -(PROTESTERS CLAMORING) (IN RUSSIAN) SNYDER: Putin's reaction was to say, "All of these protesters are foreign agents.
They've all been inspired by the American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
" (HILLARY CLEARS THROAT) We do have serious concerns about the conduct of the elections.
(IN RUSSIAN) NULAND: Putin was furious, because he believed that it couldn't possibly be the case that the Russian people didn't like what he was offering.
It had to be inspired from the outside.
(IN RUSSIAN) WALLANDER: He blamed her publicly for the protests and also, her foreign policy was very tough on Russia.
The Russian foreign policy elite understood that if she were elected president of the United States, it would be possibly even tougher, and they didn't want that.
(IN RUSSIAN) TRUMP (OVER PHONE): Look, Putin is a smart, calculating guy, you know, just, uh-- he's-- we're talking about a different league of-- I don't know if it's street smarts or intelligence or whatever ALEX: Even before 2016, Putin had a big fan in Donald Trump.
In Ukraine, Putin had done the unthinkable.
He had annexed the territory of another country, something that hadn't been done in Europe since World War II.
But for Trump, Putin's moves were a sign of strength.
TRUMP (OVER PHONE): Ukraine, you know, it's not our backyard.
And it is his backyard.
Just look at the way he did Syria.
Look at what's going on with Iran, where Russia's backing Iran, and big-league backing Iran.
I mean, it is absolutely insane what's happened to this country over the last four or five years.
ALEX: Small wonder that, in Russia, Trump's announcement that he was running for president got rave reviews.
REPORTER: (IN RUSSIAN) I was over in Moscow two years ago TRANSLATOR: (TRANSLATING IN RUSSIAN) I would be willing to bet I would have a great relationship with Putin.
It's about leadership.
Based on what? You're two macho guys? I mean ALEX: Trump's attitude towards Putin was part of a different kind of game.
From the beginning, the only consistent principle of Trump's presidential campaign was that you never knew what would come out of his mouth next.
(CROWD CHEERS) No, it's so great.
This Twitter-- This Twitter, Facebook, is so great because when they lie on television, I type out, you know, ding, ding, ding--- I'll do it myself.
Ding, ding, dong, doong, ding.
And they go, like 12 seconds later, "We have breaking news from Donald Trump.
Here's the story--" It's the craziest thing.
ALEX: Being an agent of chaos was part of Trump's brand.
The more chaos, the better.
And I said, "Somebody should run against John McCain.
" -FRANK LUNTZ: He's a war hero.
-He is a war hero-- LUNTZ: Five and a half years in a POW camp.
He's a war hero 'cause he was captured.
I like people that weren't captured, okay? -I hate to tell you.
-(AUDIENCE LAUGHING) JOHN PODESTA: He made the disparaging comments about John McCain.
For virtually anybody else, that would have been a total career ender.
And yet, he seemed to both be able to absorb that, bounce off it, uh, and actually, to some extent, strengthen from it.
If I didn't have a big speaker system in terms of my mouth, but the people that listened to it, and Twitter, at realDonaldTrump, by the way, but-- (CROWD CHEERING) FRANÇOIS: You know, people ask, "Was the IRA pro-Trump?" I think that's a tricky question.
The IRA was anti-America.
In general, they were interested in any message that weakens the democratic institutions of the US.
"Create chaos" was the primary goal.
Weakening Hillary's messages and position and identity and amplifying Donald Trump's campaign is a good means to create this chaos.
I think the target is trust.
ALEX: Trust is a funny thing.
So hard to earn, so easy to lose.
If the US system depends on trust in democratic institutions, who benefits if Americans lose that trust? TROLL ACTOR: Is it Vladimir Putin? Oh, my gosh, I-- I can't believe it.
ALEX: In Russia, Putin has built a political system that depends on personal loyalty.
Putin can claim that the trolls didn't work for him.
That's true.
But they do his bidding because they work for someone he trusts to serve him.
He is Yevgeny Prigozhin, a former hot dog salesman who worked his way up the Kremlin food chain and earned the nickname "Putin's Chef.
" WALLANDER: It didn't surprise me that Prigozhin had been the source of funding for the Internet Research Agency, given that he had been involved in some other favored Putin operations.
He was a go-to guy.
REPORTER: This is a very powerful Russian businessman who allegedly is very close to Vladimir Putin.
Behind a troll factory operating out of St.
(RUSSIAN NEWSCASTERS OVERLAPPING) ALEX: Prigozhin is well-known in Russia for his close ties to Putin.
But his hidden web of business relationships is hard to penetrate.
He wouldn't speak to us and refuses most interviews.
When he does talk, he denies any wrongdoing.
To solve the mystery surrounding the man, we sought out the former cop turned journalist who's been tracking Prigozhin for years.
It's very tasty.
He also had this famous restaurant called Russkiy Kitsch.
All the Russian stereotypes were gathered in one place.
It was just a museum of Russian stereotypes.
And also he had some luxury restaurants.
SOSHNIKOV: Many Western leaders visited St.
There is one famous picture, for example, of Yevgeny Prigozhin and George Bush.
KOROTKOV: (IN RUSSIAN) JAVIER: Have you ever met Yevgeny Prigozhin? Yeah.
I met him several times.
During dinners with Putin because he usually serves them.
(CAMERA CLICKS) JAVIER: What is he like, out of curiosity? SIMONYAN: I don't know.
He's the man who serves nice food, and you can ask him, "What is this made of?" And he says, "It's veal.
" JAVIER: Is the food good? Yeah.
The food is good.
The food is good.
(IN RUSSIAN) REPORTER: ALEX: Prigozhin kept failing up.
After delivering subpar school lunches, he was mysteriously awarded bigger and bigger government contracts for services including construction, sanitation, and utilities.
Investigators discovered his ties to a web of hundreds of enterprises, loosely connected to a holding company owned by Prigozhin and his mother, called Concord.
Concord eventually got lucrative catering contracts for the Russian armed forces.
(LAUGHTER) Concord is very sophisticated and big networks of companies under control of Yevgeny Prigozhin.
He receives lots of money from public procurement and then he can invest this money wherever he wants.
He wants to establish a troll farm? Okay.
He wants to establish a private military company? Okay.
There's always money for that.
(IN RUSSIAN) WALLANDER: Prigozhin rose with Putin.
Owes his position, his wealth, his protection, to his relationship with Putin.
And those are the people who matter in Putin's Russia.
Someone who really needs to deliver, because if you don't deliver, all that wealth and all that power and all that protection goes away.
It makes perfect sense in terms of mitigating vulnerability and keeping control of an operation.
NULAND: Putin will use folks over whom he has influence.
(IN RUSSIAN ACCENT) You do a little bit of this for me, and we will do a little bit of that for you.
(IN NORMAL VOICE) And particularly, if they're not part of the formal intelligence apparat, then he has deniability when things go wrong.
Putin has developed what I would call -the franchise model.
-(SPEAKING IN RUSSIAN) That also gives you a thousand flowers blooming.
You can try lots of different things, throw lots of spaghetti on the wall, and see what's effective.
-(LAUGHTER) -ALEX: Some projects, like the troll factory, generate political support.
Others take a more physical approach to doing the Kremlin's dirty work.
Korotkov's reporting exposed how Prigozhin used disinformation from the troll factory to soften the ground for military operations carried out by his Wagner forces in Ukraine.
Petersburg trolls say, "What we're really doing here is geopolitical marketing.
Russia's a brand, and we need to defend our brand.
" So, the fact that the IRA is focused on the rest of the world, and not just Russia, comes in quite quickly.
VITALY BESPALOV: (IN RUSSIAN) FRANÇOIS: Some of the specialists were pretty funny.
And they were using pop culture references a lot to build an audience and to gather followers.
There were definitely things that they would steal and rebrand, and there's stuff that's original IRA creation.
(SPEAKING IN RUSSIAN) BESPALOV: It's not all overtly political.
Some of it starts as wacky and fun.
("SPIDERMAN" BY ALEX WASTEN PLAYING IN RUSSIAN) ♪ SOSHNIKOV: The guy in the Spiderman costume, running around the streets of St.
Petersburg and harassing people, saying rude things to people.
And in the end, it appears he's Barack Obama.
(SPEAKING RUSSIAN) (PUNCHING SOUND EFFECTS) (SONG CONCLUDES) ♪ Some people who worked for the IRA were thinking, "I signed up for a job in which I was just basically doing digital content.
And I woke up in some James Bond espionage shit.
" BESPALOV: (IN RUSSIAN) (COMPUTER BEEPS) BESPALOV: FRANÇOIS: They start Project Translator, which is the IRA's department that's focused on the US.
It's trying to figure out what types of narratives work in the US.
("AMERICA" BY SIMON & GARFUNKEL PLAYING) ♪ FRANÇOIS: The entire strategy is to influence by pretending to be American.
"Kathy," I said as we boarded A Greyhound in Pittsburgh ♪ And the program coordinators took trips to the US and to very specific cities.
It took me four days To hitchhike from Saginaw ♪ I've gone To look for America ♪ Laughing on the bus Playing games with the faces ♪ She said the man In the gabardine suit ♪ Was a spy ♪ I said, "Be careful His bowtie is really a camera" ♪ FRANÇOIS: They're not Russian spies, but they do intelligence-gathering missions in order to better tailor their influence campaign.
Because the IRA starts with a focus on controlling the Russian domestic conversation, it's really good at VKontakte.
It's kind of the Facebook of Russia.
They quickly (CHUCKLES) realize that, if we're going to bring this into America, we're not gonna go very far with VKontakte.
(BEEPING) FRANÇOIS: Regarding Facebook, we know that the IRA had pages, it had profiles.
We know a lot of what the IRA did on Twitter.
We know they liked YouTube.
We also know that the IRA came to love Instagram.
We know that they used Reddit.
We know that they used Pinterest.
They really were constantly testing new platforms and adjusting their strategies.
This is Jenna Abrams.
On the face of it, she is a woman in her mid-30s and she claims she lives on Main Street, USA.
But of course, she's not a real person.
When Jenna tweets, it's actually a team of specialists in St.
Petersburg who are crafting this persona and thinking, "What should Jenna be saying today? Is it-- Is it a racist tweet, or is it, like, a Kim Kardashian joke?" And they create this sort of mix of pop culture references and damaging political commentary.
She was mostly designed to speak to conservative audiences.
And she has quite a lot of followers online.
She has about 70,000 followers on her Twitter.
So she is in a position to actually shape the political discourse because of how well she has embedded herself within the fabric of American political discussions.
That is also how she managed to get into actual mainstream media.
People would say, "Yes," like, you know, "Political activist Jenna Abrams said on the internet" Of course, they had no idea that there was no such person as Jenna Abrams and this was not a real conservative American activist from Main Street, USA.
They used social media to talk to people directly in private messages.
They used social media to contact campaign officials that they were having conversations with.
They also used social media to talk to activists.
We have this idea that all the content that the troll put out was fake or wrong or bad, but, you know, the trolls also amplified content that they've stolen from elsewhere, which is things that people actually believed in and resonated with.
Before the election, they were focused on specific issues.
And they realized that, if you wanted to make those issues divisive and hurtful for America, you needed to have a hand in both sides of the issue.
They're designing conflict between polarized groups in America online, but also offline.
And so, they conduct protests in the US.
(PROTESTERS CLAMORING) FRANÇOIS: When they organize a protest, they reach out to one group, and make sure that on the other side of the street, there's another group who's gonna do the exact opposite position.
All these things are instruments of white supremacy.
FRANÇOIS: Online, when they talk about immigration, for instance, they encourage messages that are inflammatory against immigration.
But they also encourage, in the same stroke, pro-immigration messages and campaigns.
And then, they have an anti-immigration group do a demonstration, and a pro-immigration group do a demonstration on the very same street, on the same day.
REPORTER: The anti-Muslim protesters were responding to an event called "Stop Islamization of Texas.
" It was organized by a Facebook group named Heart of Texas, generated by Russia.
Posts on the Facebook event page threatened to, quote, "Blow this place up.
" FRANÇOIS: They're designing for violence.
They've done their research, and so the content they curate and how they behave online is unfortunately a reflection of how polarized the actual online political conversation was at that time.
Of course they picked the most egregious parts of the content and the most divisive ones, but they're not injecting in that bloodstream anything that wasn't already there.
They're really holding a mirror to our face.
ALEX: It's hard to look in the mirror.
It's even harder when you don't like what you see.
White power! ALEX: The trolls had spent years tracking the divisions in American society.
They knew that immigration and race were two of our deepest wounds.
PROTESTERS: Hands up! Don't shoot! Hands up! Don't shoot! ALEX: Their fake personas exploited the very real horror of police violence against African Americans.
-ERIC GARNER: Don't touch me, please.
-(BLEEP) -Don't touch me.
-(BLEEP) ALEX: On the anniversary of the brutal killing of Eric Garner by the New York City Police, the trolls tried to exploit Garner's memory to call on Americans not to vote to reform the system but to tear it down.
FRANÇOIS: If you take a group like BlackMattersUS, it had a page on Facebook, but also a Twitter account.
It had a website.
They were slowly gaining influence and traction.
And they became key assets used to manipulate American audiences.
When they target the Black community in the US, they craft messages saying, "Hey, we shouldn't vote.
" ALEX: There's nothing more undemocratic than convincing people not to vote.
But for the trolls, voter suppression was a pragmatic strategy intended to hurt Clinton.
And it may have worked.
In Detroit, Michigan, a city dominated by black Democratic voters, 75,000 people who had turned out for Obama, stayed home in 2016.
Clinton lost that key swing state by only 10,000 votes.
(BEEPING) JAVIER: In terms of trolling, was it effective? You're asking me a question.
"Whether there is life-- If there is life on Mars, do you think they have babies after nine months of pregnancy or 12?" I don't know if there's life on Mars.
How can I possibly think of how they give birth? (CHUCKLES) I don't know what these kids thought or didn't think, or why they worked there, because I don't know if they ever did.
But, uh, apparently, even the people who think it was done see it as a hugely ineffective operation.
FRANÇOIS: It's not a simple answer to just assess the impact on the result of the vote.
It's not something you can just compute.
We know the IRA was pleased with themselves, but we also know that they had all the incentives to celebrate this as a victory.
FRANÇOIS: We know from the Senate report that when election night came through, they uncorked champagne, and toasted, saying that they had "made America great.
" How do you evaluate whether the IRA was a success or not? If you ask that, you have to ask yourself, like, "Who's the audience of the IRA?" They also had internal stakeholders.
The moral panic that unfolded around Russian trolling in America in itself is a strategic win for the organization.
ALEX: After the election, a source provided us with chats from inside Pregozhin's organization in which key executives discussed the best way to promote the accomplishments of the trolls' work in the US.
The reports boasted their numbers state by state.
(REPORTER SPEAKING IN RUSSIAN) TRANSLATOR: "The Heart of Texas Group, the largest internet resource on the theme of secession.
It had an audience of about 300,000 people.
African Americans make up 54 percent of its population.
Our Williams and Kalvin resource had 123,000 subscribers.
" (REPORTER SPEAKING IN RUSSIAN) TRANSLATOR: "BlackMattersUS dot com had more than 500,000 subscribers.
" (REPORTER SPEAKING IN RUSSIAN) TRANSLATOR: "Company work influenced the opinions of citizens in swing states.
Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin.
Trump received 59 electoral votes.
" KOROTKOV: (IN RUSSIAN) ("SUMMER" BY MIKE NAUMENKO PLAYING) ♪ FRANÇOIS: In 2016, you still see that the IRA is a strategic blind spot in America's understanding of what really happened with the election.
We want to think about it in terms of volume, right? Like, "How much did they troll?" The thing that's more fascinating is to see them experiment with different techniques of trolling.
How does it look like to do this trolling on different platforms? How does it look like to do this trolling hand-in-hand with hacking information and more serious cyber operations? There's no evidence to suggest that the IRA ever did the hacking themselves, or, frankly, was able to do so.
So it bears the question, who's doing the hacking and how closely does the IRA coordinate with the hackers on the other side? ALEX: The troll operation was ambitious.
It lasted for years and had clear goals.
But during the campaign, the trolling operation was almost invisible to those Americans who were tasked with protecting the country.
The national security experts inside the White House were focused on a different kind of internet threat.
But instead of being written in memes, it was written in code.
(BEEP) REPORTER 1: The hacking of Democratic National Committee emails, experts say, by the Russian government REPORTER 2: As you know, somebody hacked into the DNC computer REPORTER 3: The latest stolen email REPORTER 4: Another batch of stolen emails, -published today -REPORTER 5: Hacked emails and other information.
REPORTER 6: the avalanche of emails that continue to come out.
REPORTER 7: We have new details now on that email hack at the DNC.
REPORTER 8: inside look at the machinations of the Democratic Party machine are all online for the world to see.
(BEEPING) ALEX: Would you walk me through the hack into the DNC in 2016? MICHAEL DANIEL: Sure.
Imagine that you are Russian intelligence services trying to get access to the DNC network.
The first thing you might try to do is get someone to the DNC to give you their username and password, so you can log into the network using those stolen credentials.
(BEEPING) DANIEL: And then, what you're going to do is reconnaissance.
What does this network look like? What kind of security software is it running? And, based on that, you will customize malware that you will install on that system.
They had a-- a particular malware product we knew as X-Agent.
They could do screenshots of what you were doing.
They could do keystroking.
You're sitting there, typing on your computer, and someone's literally seeing it.
It's coming up on their screen as if it's coming up on your screen.
DANIEL: You're gonna begin moving through the network to other machines and servers, looking for information.
And then you will extract that from the network without being detected.
Maybe a network that you're trying to get into has a rule on its firewall that says, "Yeah, if it's an IP address from Russia, maybe not.
" So then what you might try to do is connect to probably to something here in the United States.
And then use that to connect to another server and maybe to another server, and from there, you're gonna move it back to wherever you are conducting your operations from.
Most of the advanced actors out there, they use a combination of off-the-shelf commercial tools that you can buy from other criminal groups and custom malware that they write themselves.
Sometimes these tools, if they're highly customized, that's almost like a fingerprint for, you know, malicious actors, and it's very hard to fake that.
And in this case, when we assembled all of that information up and you looked at the potential alternatives and other things the most likely result was that it was in fact the Russians carrying out those operations.
ALEX: Using warrants and open source tools, an FBI cyber unit identified the fingerprints of Russian servers and tracked Russian operators, in real time, on their networks and through social media.
Emails with fake links were sent by Aleksey Lukashev.
Nikolay Kozachek, callsign "Cossack," rented servers in Illinois and Arizona.
Artem Malyshev installed an updated version of X-Agent.
Ivan Yermakov burrowed into the flimsy security systems of the Democratic Party networks, then built digital tunnels to exfiltrate troves of data.
All told, they harvested hundreds of thousands of documents, including fundraising records and opposition research.
But stealing secrets was nothing new.
DANIEL: Espionage is part of international relations.
It always has been, and it always will be.
We conduct espionage as well, across the world.
We are looking for and collecting information and bringing that back.
And so as a government, you try to prevent as much espionage from happening, but you don't really get your nose out of joint when-- when it occurs, because that's the part of the normal international relations process.
(SUSPENSEFUL MUSIC PLAYING) ♪ MAN 1: (IN RUSSIAN) MAN 2: (IN RUSSIAN) MAN 1: ALEX: For years, countries have silently spied on each other.
Sometimes things got violent, but that was mostly in the movies.
(IN RUSSIAN) ALEX: When the internet came along, spy agencies got into the hacking business, but the old rules mostly still applied.
Armed forces fought wars, while intelligence services just stole secrets.
DAVID HICKTON: Those of us who are my age remember the KGB.
Or, if they watch television, they remember the parodies of it.
In Maxwell Smart, it was called KAOS, and in James Bond, it was called Spectre.
(ALARM BLARING) But it's important to talk about two spy agencies in Russia today.
(MUSIC PLAYING) ♪ DANIEL: There's the GRU, which is the intelligence service that works for the Russian military.
And then there's the SVR.
Typically, the SVR is focused more on what we would consider traditional espionage.
INTERVIEWER: More like the CIA? More like the CIA, correct.
WALLANDER: The SVR is much more of a traditional foreign intelligence service.
It runs its own agents that serve abroad, undercover, whether at embassies or as private citizens.
And it's an intelligence collection operation.
Its job is more to watch and collect.
Not to act.
The GRU is military intelligence.
So, to the extent it collects, it collects more on American defense capabilities, on conflicts.
The GRU had been sent in early in Syria.
The GRU had been one of the lead agencies in the intervention in Ukraine.
I was told that the GRU is a little sloppier than some of the other Russian intelligence services.
(SHOUTS IN RUSSIAN) (CHANTING IN RUSSIAN) DANIEL: Prior to 2014, if you discovered the Russians in a network, uh, they tended to vanish like ghosts.
They're very quiet, they're very stealthy.
They have excellent tradecraft.
Uh, but starting in 2014, they actually became much more aggressive.
I think it was a broader shift in Russian strategic thinking about how aggressive they wanted to be with the West, and the United States in particular.
And the GRU is a reflection of that.
And it's the GRU that carries out more of the activities that actually generate an effect in the physical world.
The GRU used the Ukraine invasion in 2014 as a cyber playground including a power grid attack in December 2015.
ALEX: Two days before Christmas, the lights went out in Western Ukraine.
In a display of Russian cyber power, the GRU hacked into the control systems of the Ukrainian power grid and commanded distribution centers to shut themselves down CONTROL WORKER 1: (IN RUSSIAN) CONTROL WORKER 2: (IN RUSSIAN) ALEX: leaving more than 200,000 people without electricity.
UKRAINIAN CITIZEN: (IN RUSSIAN) DANIEL: The GRU obviously felt like they had a greater degree of freedom operating in Ukraine than in other places.
ALEX: Nothing was off limits for the GRU.
A year earlier, it had caused chaos by hacking into voting computer systems during the election to replace President Yanukovych.
The Russians actually hacked into the main server and, uh, created an outcome in which a very minor nationalist candidate was portrayed as the winner.
And they actually broadcast it on their evening news.
(IN RUSSIAN) SNYDER: Fortunately, the Ukrainian state caught up with that.
They manually counted, they got the right result out.
But imagine if that had worked.
(EXPLOSION) SNYDER: Russia was telling the West over and over again, "Ukraine is a bunch of fascists.
We have to intervene to defend civilization against all of these Nazis in Ukraine.
" And then you pick out a fascist, and you claim that he's won the presidential election? I mean, even if that had only worked for a few days, imagine how that would have affected our impression of Ukraine.
ALEX: The cyberattack that caught the eye of US authorities was an intrusion into a nuclear reactor in Ukraine owned by a Pennsylvania company, Westinghouse.
Marked by the digital fingerprints of the GRU and the potential dangers posed by a nuclear hack, the strike attracted the attention of federal prosecutor David Hickton.
Westinghouse is the designer of about 50 percent of the nuclear reactors in the world.
So, our larger concern is how many Chernobyls do you want to have? Because someone is stealing the technology and building the nuclear reactor backwards.
ALEX: Along with the FBI, he started watching the GRU's activities very closely.
We opened up a criminal case in December 2014, which ultimately became "Fancy Bear.
" -ALEX: Sorry, I-- I'm gonna interrupt you for a second.
ALEX: From a straightforward point of view, who is Fancy Bear? -(LAPTOP BEEPING) -(MOUSE CLICKING) DANIEL: Fancy Bear is a Russian hacker group.
You know, the dudes from that intelligence organization.
Cybersecurity experts will attach a adjective to the word "Bear" for any group associated with the Russian government.
And it's "Kitten" for any group connected to Iran.
ALEX: Fancy Bear was the name for hackers from the GRU.
Fancy Bear liked to show off.
It didn't hide its tracks.
Not surprising for a spy group whose logo is a bat with its wings across the world.
For the GRU, it's like, how much effort do you put into obscuring what you're doing? How good is the disguise kit? Is it just kind of glasses with the funny nose? Is it just a bandanna across the face? Or is it actually, like, the full, you know, Mission Impossible mask? At the end, I concluded they were sort of an in-your-face group because they had created their own website in the name we had used for them.
(CHUCKLES) FancyBear dot org.
ALEX: Fancy wasn't the only Bear.
There was also "Cozy Bear.
" Cozy was quiet.
Snug as a bug in a rug.
It haunted networks like a ghost.
It belonged to the traditional spy group, the SVR.
ALEX: In 2015, Cozy Bear hacked into the Pentagon email system.
Then Cozy sneaked into the Democratic National Committee and quietly set about stealing information.
Gigabyte by gigabyte, the FBI watched the data flow -while they tried to contact the Democrats.
-(PHONE BUZZING) ANDREW MCCABE: That was kind of the first interactions we had with the DNC, which is basically the same sort of outreach that we give to private corporations and academic institutions.
Our cyber folks will call and say, "Hey, we've seen some probing activity coming from a particular location.
You should go onto your systems and look through your logs.
If you are seeing any of these things, come back and let us know.
" ALEX: For six months, as spies roamed through the DNC files, no one seemed too alarmed.
DNC tech support didn't return calls from the FBI, and the FBI never bothered to contact senior officials.
Then, Fancy Bear, the group of Russian military hackers, decided to find their own way into the DNC by sneaking through another door.
The two groups may not have even known that they were attacking the same network.
You will often find multiple Russian agencies targeting a similar target to actively encourage bureaucratic competition.
Probably both of them had been given the DNC as a high priority.
In March of 2016, we learned that Fancy Bear, which we had an active criminal investigation into, had hacked the DNC.
And so, then my next reaction to that is, "Well, who else?" I fully expected that we would learn that they were hacking the RNC and the Trump campaign, too.
I later became surprised to learn that they were not.
And then, it was the very next day and it's John Podesta.
PODESTA: There's what looks like a prompt from Google to change your password, saying "your account's being attacked.
" We asked one of our cybersecurity people, "Should we change? Is this real?" Later, he claimed that it was a typo, but email went back saying "yes.
" My assistant clicked on it, changed the password.
The rest is history.
ALEX: Shortly after the initial theft of documents from the DNC, Fancy Bear tried and failed to register a website called ElectionLeaks dot com.
They settled for "DCLeaks" and waited.
-(MOUSE CLICKS) -ALEX: A month later, Hillary Clinton sealed her victory in the Democratic primaries.
We are on the brink of a historic (CROWD CHEERS) historic, unprecedented moment.
ALEX: The next day, DCLeaks went live with its first dump of the Democrats' documents and emails.
HICKTON: I first thought, "Wow, now it's being weaponized, and it might have an impact.
" But I discounted that because I thought, "The only people who are gonna read this are the people who read Politico.
" ALEX: The first dump was small and not widely publicized.
But when it came to the subject of emails, Hillary Clinton was particularly vulnerable.
REPORTER 1: Hillary Clinton is under fire.
This morning's New York Times reports that the former Secretary of State may have violated federal laws.
REPORTER 2: Clinton used personal email to conduct official business for the State Department during her time as the nation's top diplomat.
REPORTER 3: Hillary Clinton's email controversy growing by the day.
You could say her inbox is full.
You could.
PODESTA: There was a backdrop to the email story, obviously, which was the investigation of her private use of emails when she was Secretary of State.
But the hacks and leaking kind of brought the topic of emails (CHUCKLES) back to the campaign.
ALEX: The Clinton campaign knew Russia was behind DCLeaks.
Their cybersecurity firm, CrowdStrike, had reached the same conclusion as US intelligence.
But despite compelling evidence, the US government refused to blame the hack on Russia.
So the campaign took steps of its own.
JAKE SULLIVAN: What we knew in the summer of 2016 was that the Russian government was hacking the DNC, and now making efforts to hack the Clinton campaign and Clinton campaign officials as well.
We were under attack.
And that was a hostile foreign power who was undertaking this operation.
We tried, as best we could, in the days that followed those initial releases of information, to raise the alarm, to make the American press see, uh, just how dramatic this was.
And so, we went public in a Washington Post piece in early June.
(TENSE MUSIC PLAYING) ♪ ALEX: The GRU moved quickly to try to discredit the story.
Eight hours after the Washington Post article went online, hackers were hard at work trying to hide the Russian hand.
To distract onlookers, Fancy Bear had a special card up its sleeve, a joker named Guccifer 2.
("ON THE ROAD TO NEPAL" BY MASHINA VREMENI PLAYING) ♪ ALEX: Guccifer bragged about outsmarting the US Intelligence Community, and even had a Twitter handle.
DANIEL: This persona, Guccifer 2.
0, says, "No, no, no, the DNC intrusion was done by me, I'm a lone hacker in Romania.
" (SONG CONTINUES) ♪ This persona had appeared right out of seemingly nowhere.
You know, when you're in this kind of environment, you're like, "Really? That seems like an interesting coincidence.
" WALLANDER: There probably was a Romanian platform involved in the operation, but it was eventually attributed back to, uh, Russian origin.
DANIEL: Inside the National Security Council, the conclusion came back pretty quickly that this was not a lone Romanian, uh, hacker, that in fact this was a front for the GRU.
ALEX: They based their creation on the original Guccifer, a Romanian who had hacked US politicians like Colin Powell and George W.
Guccifer offered just enough deniability about the origins of the hack.
GLENN GREENWALD: (OVER PHONE) The claim that the Russian intelligence agencies were involved in the procurement of these documents, thus far there's been very little evidence presented.
REPORTER: Russian officials are calling Americans paranoid.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the allegations when he was asked about them today.
ALEX: The public was still at sea for some time in terms of Guccifer 2.
We had decided that we would not, uh that we would certainly not support the idea that it was a lone hacker, but that we weren't going to aggressively sort of try to debunk that from the US government.
ALEX: Guccifer was a flimsy disguise, but it worked.
The identity of the hackers became a sideshow.
The story wasn't that Russia had hacked the Democrats, but that the Democrats were falling apart.
(CROWD CHEERING) REPORTER 1: On the eve of the Democratic Convention, a bombshell.
WikiLeaks released thousands of internal Democratic National Committee emails REPORTER 2: Just when Hillary Clinton was hoping to put the whole notion of an email controversy behind her, here comes an entirely different email controversy, and one that threatens the unity the Democrats are hoping to show.
(MESSAGE ALERT PINGS) REPORTER 3: Seventeen hundred new stolen emails.
(MESSAGE ALERT) REPORTER 4: Thousands of leaked emails show Democratic party officials possibly plotting against Bernie Sanders in his race against Hillary Clinton.
REPORTER 5: In one, a top official wonders, "Can we get someone to ask his belief? Does he believe in a God?" The response, an "Amen.
" (CROWD CHANTING) REPORTER 6: The idea that we have heard, of course, from the Sanders campaign is that the DNC had a finger on the scale to try to help Secretary Clinton, and now you see these emails.
Does this not give credence to their argument? Does this not validate their concerns? REPORTER 7: It has been a tumultuous 24 hours here, at the opening of the Democratic National Convention.
REPORTER 8: This is exactly the kind of tension that the party was hoping to avoid here.
(CROWD CLAMORING) REPORTER 9: Tonight, Sanders's supporters are furious.
(CHANTING) Walk out! Walk out! Walk out! (PROTESTORS CLAMORING) MALE PROTESTOR: The chair of the DNC, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has announced her resignation.
REPORTER 10: (OVER PHONE) She was booed off the stage.
I've never seen anything like this.
REPORTER 11: Could you talk about the controversy around the emails that came out and then how it suggested that the DNC was clearly on the side of Hillary Clinton? The Democratic Party does not care about you.
The Democratic Party does not care about America.
And so we are gonna show the Democratic Party that if they will not have us and they will not welcome us into their party, then we will leave, and they will lose to Trump.
And it will not be our fault.
It will be their fault.
ALEX: I found the content of the emails pretty damning.
The Democratic Party was clearly putting its finger on the scale, favoring Clinton over Bernie Sanders.
The emails were evidence that the system was corrupt and even Sanders couldn't put a good face on it.
We have got to defeat Donald Trump! (CROWD CHEERING) And we have got to elect Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine! (CROWD BOOING) ANCHOR: What's your reaction to these emails? Outrage, disappointed.
And it doesn't matter necessarily that it was the Russians.
It could have been the men from Mars.
ALEX: But it didn't come from Mars.
It came from Russia, and not with love.
That should have been an important part of the story.
You always want to know the source.
But the Russian hand was hidden by the volume of the data and the chaos it caused.
That chaos and confusion was fed by a controversial figure I knew well.
I had already made one movie about him.
You were the one who released these 20,000 emails, Julian Assange.
Where did you get them? REPORTER: Can we address the question at hand, and that is whether or not you can say definitively that Russia had no part in this hack? What sort of question is that? Uh, I am a journalist.
We don't reveal our sources.
I don't like leaked emails, but in this one case, God bless you, WikiLeaks, for proving what we suspected.
-Thank you, WikiLeaks! Uh, told us that, um, she doesn't even like Americans.
She hates Americans.
You know, I find WikiLeaks very refreshing.
This is the Hillary Clinton I always knew existed.
I just never had proof of it.
(CHUCKLES) PROTESTERS: Hillary cheats! Thank you, WikiLeaks! Hillary cheats! Thank you, WikiLeaks! (OVER MEGAPHONE) Hillary cheats! Thank you, WikiLeaks! Hillary cheats! Thank you, WikiLeaks! WALLANDER: There was a lot of support for WikiLeaks in the United States as sort of this freedom of information operation which I never really understood.
But some people thought that, so it had that credibility.
That sort of, you know, heroic credibility.
They were one step ahead of us by using a platform that had that kind of aura of legitimacy.
PUNDIT: I mean, right now, we have -a serious, serious allegation! -ANCHOR: Let-- let's talk about WikiLeaks.
-Let's talk about WikiLeaks.
Well, look, we wouldn't have this information right now, the American people would not have this information if not for this.
I certainly do not condone cy-- you know, cybersecurity and hacking, but this all plays into the same thing.
Look at what Hillary Clinton did.
She put an unsecured server in her home, -jeopardizing millions-- -Wait, wait.
But WikiLeaks-- That's not WikiLeaks.
-That's not WikiLeaks.
What's in WikiLeaks-- -And-- No.
A lot of this was, in terms of the public's mind, confusing, confused It's almost impossible for you to keep track of all these emails.
SULLIVAN: We didn't fully appreciate just how insidious the releases of these emails were.
The words "Hillary" and "email" and "revelation.
" It was coming out day after day after day.
YOCHAI BENKLER: There's a Gallup poll that visualized what word was most associated in people's minds.
For Clinton, "email" is this big, much bigger than anything else.
In people's minds, there are secret documents that are authentic and real 'cause they are real emails that show that somehow she's bad.
"And I've never read them, and I don't really know anything about them.
I just have a gut feeling that there is concrete evidence that she's bad.
" She is framed by email the entire campaign.
That makes that particular vector of attack so powerful.
(MACHINERY WHIRRING) BENKLER: It was such an intelligent propaganda operation by the Russians to hack the emails and dump them.
Email is bait.
The professional reporter comes to them as a trove of occult knowledge.
REPORTER: Another batch of stolen emails published today by WikiLeaks, offering an even deeper look at the calibrations of the Clinton campaign.
It's a drip drip drip of distraction, being released on a daily schedule by Julian Assange.
BENKLER: Throughout this time, the journalists make this effort to be objective by being negative equally about both candidates.
For Trump, it's a focus on his issues, because they draw people to them in the same way that things that are on the verge of obscene draw people.
With respect to the Muslims, hey, Maria, there's something going on.
Go to Brussels.
Go to Paris.
It's like living in a hellhole right now.
BENKLER: It's political clickbait.
Clinton's policy agenda is so much more in line with the mainstream.
She's basically a centrist candidate.
The focus to be negative on her was the implication of scandal.
The private server, followed by Benghazi.
Nothing about her substantive agenda.
That's a profound form of failure of these media that the majority of Americans rely on.
(INDISTINCT CHATTER) As these materials were being leaked and washed through the press, I went out to each of the major networks to make a presentation about what we understood had happened.
Russian military intelligence were penetrating various American campaign organs turning that information over to WikiLeaks, who would do their bidding.
PROTESTERS: (CHANTING) Thank you, WikiLeaks! Hillary cheats! SULLIVAN: And then WikiLeaks put it out in the public for the express purpose of trying to undermine Hillary Clinton's campaign for president.
Their initial reaction was, "Some of this is pretty far-fetched, doesn't seem like it could happen here in the United States.
And, by the way, you also have a political interest in pushing this narrative.
" Robby Mook, the campaign manager, went out on television and said, "We believe this is the Russians.
" And the pushback from the press, when Robby did that, was pretty fierce.
That's a very, very strong charge that you're leveling here.
(CLEARS THROAT) You're basically suggesting that Russians hacked into the DNC and now are releasing these files through WikiLeaks to help elect Donald Trump.
Well, this isn't my assertion.
There are a number of experts that are asserting this.
I think we need to get to the bottom of these facts.
But that-- that is what experts are telling us.
Experts have said that it is the Russians that in fact went in and took these emails and-- and then, if-- if-- if they are the ones who took them, we have to infer that they are the ones then-- then releasing them.
REPORTER: From Moscow today, an epic shocker.
Russian president Vladimir Putin denied that his government was behind the hacking of the Democratic Party's emails.
PUTIN: (SPEAKING IN RUSSIAN, CHUCKLES) ALEX: Putin was playing three-dimensional chess.
He was right, the content did matter.
But it also mattered that a foreign power was stealing and leaking data from one campaign while leaving the other candidate alone.
(SPEAKING IN RUSSIAN, CLEARS THROAT) WALLANDER: It was very clear that the purpose of this operation was to harm the Clinton campaign and it was coming from Russia.
At that point, it was still not clear at what level it had been ordered.
Um, but my own take and my own advice at the time was, the Russian military doesn't operate rogue.
ALEX: They take orders from the commander-in-chief.
They absolutely take orders from the commander-in-chief.
(CHUCKLES) SNYDER: The way that oligarchies work is that they substitute a spectacular foreign policy for the, really, absent domestic policy.
If you're Russia, you can't really have domestic policy.
Because a few men have all the money and everything is blocked up by corruption.
How do you get people to think that the government in some way is on their side? You have to generate a foreign policy with clear enemies.
(APPLAUSE) SNYDER: Since Putin came back to power, foreign policy for Russia has been all about creating these spectacular enemies.
The big enemy is the United States.
The United States is a great enemy to have for Russia because of prestige.
The Russians think of themselves as a superpower.
An average Russian might say, "Well, yes, my plumbing doesn't work you know, and no one ever clears the snow, but we're a superpower.
" And having America as an enemy, as it were, proves that you're a superpower.
So Putin has tried to persuade his people that there was a kind of great American-Russian conflict going on.
(IN RUSSIAN) (APPLAUSE) ALEX: The question that haunted the 2016 election was why the White House refused to reveal what it knew about Russian interference.
WALLANDER: The United States is a really powerful country, and it's unlikely that we can be defeated abroad in a military conflict, but in the last couple years, we've seen that we're actually pretty vulnerable at home.
It's a privilege to serve in the government, but it's also a responsibility, and you have to take responsibility.
The American citizens were counting on us, and I think you can say we didn't live up to the highest standards of protecting the country.
2016 was-- was pretty awful.
(CHUCKLES) We were dealing with the growing horror of Syria and the helplessness of our attempts to get the Russians to help end the conflict in Syria.
And trying to get the Russians to end the conflict in Ukraine.
The key to success in government is being able to distinguish between the urgent and the important.
And I think we failed in 2016, and we allowed ourselves to be distracted by the urgent.
It prevented us from really grasping what was important.
The real challenge in 2016 wasn't Syria important though that was.
I regret to say this.
It wasn't Ukraine, compared to Russian interference in the election.
But it's not like one day, you think, "Oh my God, the Russians are interfering in our election," and the next day you go to the president's desk and say, "This is what we need to do.
" NULAND: Patterns that you've seen elsewhere and that you have experience with are clearer at that level of government than they might be at higher levels.
WALLANDER: I was working with Victoria Nuland.
We would kind of put our heads together on what was going on.
She pushed a lot.
She sometimes was impatient with our pace, which was fair.
What I felt at the time was our Intelligence Community was too slow to validate what our experience told us was happening.
They ultimately did, but it would have been far more useful to the president if they had been able to validate more quickly.
What we were seeing bore the hallmarks of Russian tradecraft in Ukraine.
And what we were asking for then was more US intelligence resources so that we could give better information to leadership.
But it was too early for the Intelligence Community to validate with the kind of certainty a president wants.
The standards have to be impeccable, with all strands of the US Intelligence Community in agreement before you can say to the president, "We're confident.
" JOHN BRENNAN: If I'm going to talk to the president of the United States, I wanted to make sure that I was intimately familiar with every detail.
In the summer of 2016, I became exceptionally, uh knowledgeable, put it that way, of all the information that we had access to and all of the analytic work that we had done.
ALEX: No one in the US government had complete knowledge of the Russian operation, but CIA director John Brennan probably knew more than most.
By mid-summer, Obama's national security team decided it was time to send Russia a warning.
Brennan was tapped to reach out to one of his Russian counterparts, an intelligence official named Alexander Bortnikov.
BRENNAN: Bortnikov had direct and immediate access to Mr.
I think I was the first senior US official to confront them directly.
I must say, Mr.
Bortnikov is a very smooth and slick individual.
He said, "Oh, no, we would never do something like that, Mr.
We are ready to work with whomever is going to be elected.
" He, uh, lies with the best of them.
WALLANDER: Brennan calling Bortnikov on this was a pretty extraordinary signal of how important this was viewed.
But there wasn't a lot of credible threats you could make.
Other than, you know "Relations between the United States and Russia are gonna be really, really bad.
" Well, relations between the United States and Russia already are really, really bad! And there was an increasing trend of Russian intelligence agents to harass American diplomats, including a physical assault outside the American embassy.
He was trying to walk into the embassy and he was assaulted by a Russian security officer, which was outrageous.
ALEX: She called the American a diplomat, but he was actually a CIA officer with diplomatic cover.
Even so, the extraordinary assault became an international incident.
BRENNAN: I said to Mr.
Bortnikov, in no uncertain terms, that some of the tactics that the FSB, uh, thugs were using against US diplomats in Moscow was intolerable and that there are limits to the espionage and intelligence profession.
ALEX: Those limits are often flexible.
But between spies, there is a rough equilibrium, and when the tacit rules are broken, spies wonder why.
(SIREN WAILING) ALEX: In 2016, Russia was breaking the rules of the game and stability was giving way to a kind of chaos.
SNYDER: You have to think about this the way that they think about this.
This is not a legalistic process or a bureaucratic process.
This is not a diplomatic process.
This is making a play.
(CHUCKLES) You make a play, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't work, and then sometimes it works better than you think.
WALLANDER: We needed an effective threat.
You deter actions by raising the costs, and one of the most effective ways to raise costs is to threaten reciprocal and more costly retaliation.
That's one of the reasons why I developed options for steps that could be taken or things that could be signaled that could make it a more effective threat.
One of the steps one sensibly might consider would be to release embarrassing information about Russian officials.
ALEX: But was it something that was under consideration? Those options were explored.
DANIEL: We put together particularly aggressive options that we could use to counter the Russians.
Things like sanctions on individuals.
Could we identify Russian operatives in the United States and kick them out? Are there Justice Department options? You know, actors that we could bring legal charges against? ALEX: The Justice Department was already investigating one crime they could charge, the hacking of the DNC.
In Pittsburgh, David Hickton wanted to target Fancy Bear for a federal indictment.
He'd gone after foreign actors like this before.
Years earlier, his unit had named and charged Chinese government hackers for stealing industrial secrets.
The hackers never saw the inside of a courtroom, but the indictment itself did curb China's hacking for a time.
I really wanted to bring a case.
But the historical position of the Department of Justice is, "You do not get involved in election litigation.
" We weren't even allowed to appear with candidates sixty days before they were elected.
So, if a case was not brought two months before the November election, it was not gonna be brought in any form or fashion till after the election.
But, in simple terms, the case was not gonna be ready unless we did something Herculean to do it.
(KEYBOARD CLACKING) WALLANDER: After I had written up that options paper, Susan Rice, the National Security Advisor, discussed it with some of the principals.
And their reaction was, "Too risky.
" Uh "Too edgy.
" (CHUCKLES) "Too aggressive.
" There were options in terms of what we could do even in the cybersphere.
Rattle the Russians' cyber cages.
Very uncertain as to what the Russians then might have decided to do in response.
Would we have then engaged in some type of escalatory war with the Russians in the cyber realm? There were things that they could have done that would have been even more serious and potentially more impactful.
And so we didn't wanna make it a self-fulfilling prophecy about what the Russians were trying to achieve.
By escalating, that could be cathartic on our part, but really would have, again, further undermined the election.
There was a-- a reluctance to take steps that would undermine the Syria negotiations, supposedly (CHUCKLES) which were not going well anyway, uh, undermine the chance to rescue arms control, um, or take actions that might not deter Russian interference but actually escalate Russian interference.
And those arguments won the day.
HICKTON: It became pretty clear to me the election case was gonna be deferred.
I thought that if we had said, "Pittsburgh's gonna do the case," surged resources into Pittsburgh we would have been able to identify and indict the people.
But what would that have done? Would that have changed anything? (CROWD CHEERING) HICKTON: The Democratic nominee for president was President Obama's Secretary of State.
It would look like the president was putting his hand on the scale of the election, if he was more active than precedent had dictated about this.
The better weight of wisdom would be to wait till after the election.
It's not for me to evaluate his decisions.
He was the president.
(CHUCKLES) SNYDER: Traditionally, war is a way of one sovereign state making another sovereign state do what it wants.
War doesn't have to be carried out by way of traditional military force.
I can break your will, my nation can break your nation's will, in other ways.
I try to figure out what makes you tick.
I try to figure out your strengths, and above all, your weaknesses.
And then I appeal to those weaknesses to try to get you to do something that's not really in your interest to do.
What Russia did in 2016 was understand and take advantage of a new technical environment faster than anyone else.
They used an instrument that allowed them to get inside the will of a country that they understood as their enemy.
And they succeeded.
They were also very lucky.
I mean, they were lucky to have Mr.
He does things for them in public which they can't do themselves.
You know, they can pretend to be Americans on the internet, but they can't pretend to be Americans in real life.
He's got the accent.
He's a white guy.
He can wear a tie.
He gives a good off-the-cuff speech.
He knows how to work an audience.
It's pretty clear that cooperation is taking place.
ALEX: At what point did you become concerned or conclude that-- that the Russians had also reached out to the Trump campaign? During the summer of 2016, we were seeing reports of Russian officials claiming contacts with individuals in the Trump campaign.
And I was explicitly told that the White House cannot be involved in tracking what Americans are doing, that it is illegal, it is not constitutional.
I was told by my leadership to stand down, and I took that seriously and I stopped.
I also remember, um walking back to my office thinking feeling helpless.
They did make clear to me that the proper authorities were looking into it.
We started immediately identifying direct connections between campaign people and Russians.
Paul Manafort was an obvious target.
General Michael Flynn, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos.
A lot of questions about their behavior, connections, network of friends and associates.
The combination of those things brought to a head this idea that we needed to now investigate potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
It was just like stepping off the roller coaster into the rocket ship.
Is there somebody disturbing us up here? -(CROWD CHEERS) -Where? ALEX: Once inside the Trump rocket ship, it was hard to miss the crazy way he seemed to be steering a course guided by the Kremlin.
Those who suspected collusion played one particular clip from 2016 over and over.
-(MOUSE CLICKS) -What do I have to get involved with Putin for? I have nothing to do with Putin.
I've never spoken to him.
I don't know anything about him other than he will respect me.
ALEX: See? He starts by saying he doesn't know Putin.
Trump loves saying this, almost as much as he loves saying the opposite.
DAVID LETTERMAN: Well, there's Vladimir Putin.
Have you ever met the guy? He's a tough guy.
I met him once.
LETTERMAN: He's -- he stole-- As an example, I own the Miss Universe.
I was in Russia, I was in Moscow, recently.
And I spoke indirectly and directly with President Putin, who could not have been nicer.
If it is Russia, which it's probably not, nobody knows who it is.
ALEX: He's talking now about the hacking of the Democrats.
And he's right.
The US government, at this point, hadn't publicly attributed the hacks to Russia.
But this is where it gets really good.
Now that he's denied Russia hacked the Democrats, Trump spins like a top and openly asks Russia to hack Hillary Clinton herself.
Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.
ALEX: Trump said that this was just a joke.
But less than five hours later, Russian military intelligence, a.
Fancy Bear, was looking for honey in Clinton's email accounts.
So, was this just cartoon collusion? Or a real back and forth hiding in plain sight? It's the hottest thing out there, this hat, you can't get 'em! ALEX: That's the crazy beauty about the politics of chaos.
It's hard to tell a joke from a crime.
Getting help from the Russians? Just part of the game.
It doesn't matter how you play, or who you play with.
As long as you wind up on top, who cares if the whole motherfucking system burns to the ground? (ROCK MUSIC PLAYING) ♪ (SOMBER MUSIC PLAYING) ♪ MAN: In 2016, we faced an attack of a new kind in our democracy.
We now know what the Russians were actually doing during the campaign.
Russian interference only worked because America was a vulnerable target.
MAN 2: This was not just a standard set of espionage.
Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Don Jr.
all there to see what Russia could give them.
You don't give something for nothing.
Any customer whose check clears is a good customer.
The Russians have offered to assist the campaign by dumping negative material on Hillary Clinton.
Of course Russians prefer Trump, because Trump said that he preferred Russians.
Trump was adopting Putin's foreign policy.
These allegations are absolutely preposterous.
We began to see the intrusions in the electoral system.
If I didn't tell some people this story, and something did happen to me, it would never get out.
It was all bullshit.
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