Russian operatives bought tens of thousands of dollars of advertising on the giant internet search engine Google last year in an attempt to help real estate mogul Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency, according to a new report from The Washington Post.
People familiar with an investigation by Google told the newspaper the global technology company found that the Russian agents aimed to spread disinformation about the 2016 election across several Google platforms, including its YouTube video site, Google search and its DoubleClick ad program.
The discovery by Google, according to the newspaper, appears to show that the ads were not from the same Kremlin-affiliated group that bought election-themed material on the popular social media Facebook site.
There has been no immediate comment on the report by Google or U.S. officials.
The reported revelation about a Russian link to Google operations comes as numerous congressional committees are in the midst of months of investigations about Russian meddling in the election, a campaign the U.S. intelligence community has concluded was directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin to undermine U.S. democracy and help Trump defeat his Democratic challenger, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
In addition, Robert Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is conducting a criminal probe, including whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian operatives during the election season and whether Trump obstructed justice by firing another former FBI chief, James Comey, when he was heading the agency's Russia investigation before Mueller took over.
Trump has denied any campaign collusion with Russia, but told a television interviewer he was thinking of "this Russia thing" when he decided to oust Comey in May. A day after dismissing Comey, Trump boasted to two Russian officials at a White House meeting that he had fired him and called Comey "crazy, a real nut job."
Trump told the Russian officials, "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's taken off."
But a few days later, Mueller, over Trump's objections, was named to handle the independent criminal investigation of the Russian meddling in the election.