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Nothing to see here

Remain calm, all is well.

Next Saturday, March 24, hundreds of Texas Democratic Party activists will gather at the Austin Hyatt Regency to nominate candidates for political office in Travis County, a kick-off event leading up to the 2018 midterm elections.

But some people who tried to register will not be attending, among them Candida McGruder. Gustavo Chubb. Geraldo Tinsley. Vincent Amundson. Roxie Male.

That’s because these five individuals and 43 others who signed up to attend don’t appear to be Travis County residents, or Texans, or even Americans. They might not even be real people. They may be pranksters — or they may be Russian trolls, and their appearance in Texas could represent the first public example of foreign probing of the 2018 elections.

Five senior intelligence officers, two current and three former, say the case of the Texas 48 looks like Russian meddling. And they tell NBC News that despite the clumsiness of the failed registrations, the Texas case fits a pattern of Russian behavior seen in its covert operations.


Earlier this year, as Texas party officials prepared for the March 24 county meetings that would nominate candidates for office, Glen Maxey noticed something odd about online registrations for the Travis County meeting in Austin. Some of the people attempting to register either didn’t fully fill out their online form or provided obviously false information.

Maxey, legislative affairs director for the Texas Democratic Party and a former member of the Texas House of Representatives, said that at the time just over 2,500 Texas citizens had successfully registered online for the Travis County meeting. He went through the aborted registrations by hand, checking to see whether the registrations had been “kicked back” because of simple errors, in which case he would follow up with the individuals.

Maxey found a few unfinished registrations that were simple mistakes. But he identified 48 that were problematic, meaning they seemed unconnected to anybody living in Texas. Twenty-five of those 48 were trying to register with email addresses ending in “” Those last two letters, .ru, are the internet designation for domains in Russia.

Maxey told NBC News he and his team hadn’t seen any other examples of pranks or false registrations in past cycles. He also said he didn’t know who to contact in Texas state government and had received no guidance from either state or federal authorities regarding anything to do with potential Russian interference.


So are the Russians coming?

On the surface, said cyberintelligence expert and NBC News consultant Sean Kanuck, “this almost sounds like junior high school students ordering pizzas under fake names.”

But beneath the surface, Kanuck thinks perhaps something more sinister could be afoot.

Despite the ham-handedness that announces an obvious Russian origin, said Kanuck, who served as the first national intelligence officer for cyber issues at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence from 2011 to 2016, the methods and even the in-your-face nature of the trolling fit the pattern of “a Russian strategic campaign to delegitimize the democratic electoral process.”

“I would speculate that Russia is testing the waters for possible interventions or disruptions in the future,” Kanuck said.

Nothing to worry about, I’m sure. Boys will be boys, right? Donald Trump will get his top men right on it.

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  1. Manny Barrera says:

    The Republicans/Trump Party are helping the Russians, have been doing it for years. They are traitors.

  2. Ross says:

    Manny, read the Constitution, it has the actual definition of treason. None of the stuff you whine about meets that definition. Trump et al are idiots, but they aren’t traitors.

  3. mollusk says:

    Of course, there are many, many “high crimes and misdemeanors” that fall short of the Constitutional definition of treason. Obstruction of justice has been one of the more popular ones in articles of impeachment, just to name a single example.

  4. voter_worker says:

    Pre-K level probing easily captured by the vetting process. Even if the trolls had used gmail or outlook and claimed addresses in Travis County, not having a voter registration record would be another tipoff.

  5. Joel says:

    It would appear the definition is outdated.

    We don’t declare war on countries anymore, so we don’t have “enemies.”

    But we clearly have traitors, just as clearly as Russia is whatever is the opposite of an ally.

  6. Manny Barrera says:

    Ross, I think you need a refresher course, other than claiming that someone is whining why not bother getting an education and stick to things you do know.

    noun: treason; noun: high treason; plural noun: high treasons

    the crime of betraying one’s country

    Now Ross take that pompous attitude and use it to educate yourself. I have to admit that you have to take a logical step to reach the conclusion about Senior. I doubt that you are capable of that.

    Maybe if you would watch other than FOX you would know better –

  7. Manny Barrera says:

    Oh Ross, it what is in the “Constitution” is the final word, I take it that you think that Blacks are not full persons? Or that women should not vote? I don’t take well to being called names especially when it comes from someone that is not well read. Scalia believed the same way you do when it suited him.

  8. Manny Barrera says:

    One more thing, Ross, I used the word traitor, you like many people who can’t argue the facts they change the topic to suit them. You used the word treason, but I chose to prove you wrong there also.

  9. Robbie Westmoreland says:

    Manny Barrera Alternative Facts