Wheeler: Russia may be meddling in Portland politics
Mayor Ted Wheeler isn't saying that Russia is meddling in Portland politics — but he's not say it isn't, either.
Wheeler wrote the U.S. Department of Justice on Tuesday asking that it investigate apparent fake social media accounts that appear design to "sow discord" in local politics in America, including Portland. Among other things, the letter cites fake followers of his official city Twitter and Facebook accounts who are suspiciously active on hot button political topics.
"[B]ased on the nature of some posts to city social media accounts and Russian propaganda accounts made publicly available, I believe it may be likely that Portland Twitter and Facebook accounts may have been, or currently are, being used by foreign conspirators in an attempt to sow political discord in our local politics in Portland," Wheeler wrote in the letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Loren Cannon, the special agent in charge of the Portland FBI office.
According to Wheeler spokesman Michael Cox, the fake followers and suspicious activity was first noticed by a social media manager hired by the mayor's office last year. Cox says activity spiked during especially contentious events, such as the planning for the Patriot Prayer rally after the fatal attack on a MAX train by an alleged white supremacist.
"We're not saying Vladimir Putin is obsessed with Portland, but it's consistent with other activities reported about Russian meddling in U.S. politics," says Cox.
The letter cites similar activities in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's indictment of Russians operating a so-called troll farm during the 2016 presidential election. Among other things, the indictment charges the Russian conspirators "[C]reated and controlled numerous Twitter accounts designed to appear as if U.S. persons or groups controlled them" to "[S]ow discord in the U.S. political system."
Cox says Rosenstein and Cannon did not immediately respond to the letter.
Wheeler has posted the letter on his city website. You can read it at www.portlandoregon.gov/wheeler/article/679713.