The Department of Justice’s special counsel Robert Mueller and his office have interviewed at least one member of Facebook’s team that was associated with President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, according to a person very well known the matter.
The interview was part of Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and what role, if any, the Trump campaign played in that interference. Facebook and other social platforms have emerged as a key part of that investigation , not only because the company embedded staff with the San Antonio-based digital team working on Trump’s campaign but likewise because it sold more than 3,000 Facebook and Instagram ads to fake accounts connected with the Russian propaganda group Internet Research Agency. All in, content shared by those accounts reached 126 million Facebook users, including more than 62,000 of whom signed up to attend events organized by those fake accounts.
A spokesperson for the special counsel’s office refused WIRED’s request for comment.
Mueller’s team speaking with a Facebook employee does not necessarily implicate Facebook in any wrongdoing. It’s natural that a company not only close to the campaign but likewise directly impacted by Russian active members would be on Mueller’s radar.
Since Facebook began sharing details last autumn about the extent of Russian influence on the platform, speculation has swirled about whether the Trump campaign seeded information to those trolls that may have helped them better target their ads. Facebook has repeatedly stated the Internet Research Agency ads utilized “rudimentary” targeting, and did not target specific lists of voters. In newly released written responses to questions asked during a congressional hearing in November, Facebook said, “We have realized only what appears to be insignificant overlap between the targeting and content used by the IRA and that used by the Trump campaign.”