The unwitting: The Trump supporters used by Russia

A Donald Trump supporter who unwittingly helped a Kremlin-linked operation to meddle in American politics says he onl...

Posted: Feb 21, 2018 10:54 AM
Updated: Feb 21, 2018 10:54 AM

A Donald Trump supporter who unwittingly helped a Kremlin-linked operation to meddle in American politics says he only learned of his part in the Russian plot when the FBI showed up at his doorstep months later.

Harry Miller was paid as much as $1,000 by the Russians to build a cage that was used to depict a person dressed as Hillary Clinton in a prison cell at a rally in West Palm Beach, Florida in August 2016.

The stunt was part of an elaborate scheme run by the Internet Research Agency, a troll group in St Petersburg, Russia with links to the Kremlin, that was designed to undermine the American political system, according to a new federal indictment. The agency and thirteen Russian nationals associated with it were named in the indictment, which was made public by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office on Friday.

In early August 2016, the indictment says, the Internet Research Agency began reaching out to Trump supporters in Florida to organize a statewide "flashmob" that it dubbed "Florida goes Trump."

Related: How the Russians did it

The group used its "Being Patriotic" Facebook page, which was designed to look like it was run by real Americans, along with Instagram and Twitter accounts, to organize and publicize the event.

The people behind the "Being Patriotic" page reached out to Miller, a vocal Trump supporter who lived in Florida at the time. Miller agreed to build a cage on the back of his flatbed truck and was paid somewhere between $500 and $1,000 to cover the cost of materials, he told CNN.

Miller said he had multiple phone calls with people from the group. He noticed that a man with whom he spoke did not speak English fluently, he told CNN, but assumed he was speaking to a first-generation immigrant who supported Trump.

Miller posted pictures on social media that show the cage, and a man and woman dressed as Bill and Hillary Clinton in it, during the August 2016 West Palm Beach event.

He never suspected he was speaking to Russians, he told CNN on Tuesday. "Not one clue. What would you think? A guy calls you and you talk to him and you build up a rapport over a period of time, you're nice to him because you understand he has a dialect and his language is a little hard to understand, but you think he's probably an immigrant here."

"They had that beautiful website, were very supportive of the candidate and there was nothing, nothing at all that lends you to think it was anything other that people trying to support a candidate," he said.

Months later, soon after Miller moved to Pennsylvania, the FBI arrived at his doorstep, he said. He told CNN that the agents who came to his home spoke to him for almost six hours.

The Russians appear to have been happy with the West Palm Beach event. Miller says they offered to pay him to travel to New York with the cage for another event. He declined. But according to the indictment, the woman who dressed as Clinton at the West Palm Beach event took the Russians up on the offer and traveled to New York for a demonstration in September. The woman said Tuesday that she was not available to speak with CNN.

Miller was not the only Trump supporter unwittingly co-opted by the Russians for the "Florida Goes Trump" flash mob that took place in multiple parts of the state.

Team Trump Broward County, a Facebook page run by real Trump supporters, publicized the flashmob in the days leading up to the event, and posted pictures and videos from the event after it took place.

Florine Gruen Goldfarb runs the Team Trump Broward County Facebook page, which posted numerous times about events that were promoted and encouraged by the Russians. Speaking to CNN on Sunday, she said she didn't believe she was influenced by the Russians and said she thought that Friday's indictment was a ploy to distract from the FBI's mishandling of tip-offs it had received about the Parkland, Florida school shooter.

Goldfarb's comments echo a strain of thought on parts of the right that has extended up to the president himself. President Trump tweeted on Saturday night, "Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign - there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!"

One reason Goldfarb was skeptical about the claim of Russian involvement goes back to the Russians' tactics: They were not faking rallies or supporters, but trying to prompt real Americans who already backed a cause to turn out in support of it. Goldfarb attended the Fort Lauderdale "Florida Goes Trump" event. She told CNN that she knew all of the people there, "they were at my meetings. They're all Trump supporters."

"I don't go with Russians, c'mon, give me a break," she said.

Trump supporters were not the only people duped by the Internet Research Agency. As CNN has previously reported, Black Lives Matter activists and Muslim groups were also targeted.

Micah White, a co-founder of the Occupy Wall Street movement, also fell victim to the Internet Research Agency. In June 2016, he gave a telephone interview to the website Black Matters US, which was run by the group.

He told CNN last fall that Russia's ability to successfully mimic American grassroot movements was concerning.

"If it is true that a Russian-based activist group is indistinguishable from an American-created activist group, that will have negative impacts on our ability to create social movements that are positive, that actually benefit ourselves and not some sort of foreign power."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 69255

Reported Deaths: 2996
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15029724
Lake7139273
Elkhart463077
Allen3662158
St. Joseph320379
Hamilton2543104
Hendricks1774105
Vanderburgh176312
Cass17549
Johnson1667118
Porter120939
Tippecanoe111811
Clark110945
Madison86265
LaPorte84329
Howard82465
Kosciusko82213
Bartholomew74847
Marshall74422
Floyd71845
Monroe69530
Delaware65452
Boone64446
Dubois64312
Noble63729
Hancock62838
Jackson5544
LaGrange54610
Warrick52830
Shelby52226
Vigo50910
Grant50729
Dearborn47328
Morgan43732
Henry36418
Clinton3603
White34710
Montgomery34221
Wayne33410
Lawrence33127
Decatur31832
Harrison30022
Miami2592
Scott25210
Daviess24919
Greene24034
Putnam2338
Franklin22911
DeKalb2214
Jennings21312
Jasper2102
Gibson2024
Steuben2013
Ripley1907
Perry17212
Orange16424
Starke1647
Fayette1627
Wabash1613
Posey1600
Jefferson1522
Carroll1482
Whitley1486
Fulton1472
Knox1340
Wells1342
Huntington1193
Tipton1176
Washington1171
Spencer1123
Newton11110
Randolph1074
Clay1015
Adams822
Owen821
Jay810
Rush804
Sullivan781
Pulaski711
Brown701
Fountain642
Benton600
Blackford552
Ohio514
Parke481
Pike470
Crawford440
Switzerland430
Martin420
Vermillion420
Union330
Warren191
Unassigned0202

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 95106

Reported Deaths: 3570
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin17404515
Cuyahoga12881482
Hamilton9248248
Lucas5035319
Montgomery409280
Summit3338217
Marion289644
Butler274360
Mahoning2437253
Pickaway236542
Stark1713137
Warren166935
Lorain165077
Columbiana158360
Trumbull1451105
Fairfield126427
Delaware121918
Licking115844
Clark109214
Lake105436
Wood95458
Clermont85911
Medina84833
Miami78137
Tuscarawas75614
Portage72460
Allen66742
Greene63511
Belmont59026
Richland54712
Ashtabula54445
Erie53527
Geauga53544
Mercer53513
Wayne50858
Ross4194
Huron3784
Ottawa36125
Athens3501
Sandusky34317
Darke34126
Madison33610
Hancock3332
Holmes3226
Auglaize2265
Lawrence2250
Union2221
Jefferson2103
Muskingum1991
Scioto1991
Putnam19817
Washington19822
Coshocton1856
Knox1857
Preble1722
Crawford1685
Seneca1673
Shelby1644
Morrow1602
Clinton1536
Hardin15312
Champaign1502
Fulton1411
Highland1361
Ashland1333
Defiance1324
Logan1302
Wyandot1257
Williams1243
Brown1181
Guernsey1127
Hocking1119
Carroll1105
Perry1093
Henry1081
Fayette1020
Monroe9118
Pike700
Van Wert701
Jackson680
Paulding620
Gallia581
Adams562
Vinton302
Meigs260
Harrison211
Morgan200
Noble160
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 66°
Angola
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 64°
Huntington
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 62°
Decatur
Broken Clouds
63° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 63°
Van Wert
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 63°
Warmer Thursday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events