NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — An indictment of 13 Russian Nationals references a fake Twitter account for the Tennessee GOP.
Page 15 of the indictment claims defendants and their co-conspirators created the Twitter account "Tennessee GOP" which used the handle @TEN_GOP. That account got up to 100,000 followers.
That handle falsely claimed to be run by the real Tennessee Republican Party. The suspects then tracked metrics on the accounts to see how their social media posts were preforming, the indictment said.
The indictment, brought by the office of special counsel Robert Mueller, alleges that Russians used bogus social media postings and advertisements fraudulently purchased in the name of Americans to sway political opinion during the race between Republican Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent.
The charges are the most direct allegation to date of illegal Russian meddling in the election.
The Tennessee GOP reported the fake account to Twitter. They were told the handle "doesn’t violate user policy."
Further in the indictment, page 19 says the fake @TEN_GOP handle tweeted on Aug. 11, 2016 that voter fraud allegations were being investigated in North Carolina.
Michael Sullivan, Executive Director of the Tennessee Republican Party, provided FOX 17 News with the following statement regarding the account:
"The Tennessee Republican Party’s official Twitter handle has always been @TNGOP. We have never interacted, supported, or promoted the @TEN_GOP account. The content produced by that account was never representative of the views of the Tennessee Republican Party, and often times was divisive and appalling.
As such, the Tennessee Republican Party, on multiple occasions, filed official reports with Twitter regarding the @TEN_GOP account. Each report was either dismissed by Twitter or never responded to. It is deeply disappointing knowing the true intentions and depth of deception this account was created for, and that despite our multiple attempts to have the account suspended by Twitter, it remained active on the social media’s website.
It is our hope that Twitter, and other social media websites, enforce stricter verification rules, and take more seriously the impersonation of political parties, organizations, and candidates in future." - Michael Sullivan, Executive Director
The Tennessee Democratic Party issued the following statement to FOX 17 News regarding the fake account:
"Tennesseans need to be able to depend on the integrity of our elections. The indictments from the special counsel are extremely troubling and re-confirm that a foreign government actively sought to influence the 2016 election. What is most concerning though, is Tennessee Republicans lack of interest in doing anything whatsoever to protect future elections. Their inaction leaves our state vulnerable to future attacks and is not acceptable." - Mary Mancini, Chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party
Read the full indictment below or click here to view on mobile:
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.