Cerabino: Russia’s misinformation show features West Palm Beach star


If you’re the person who got paid to portray a jailed Hillary Clinton at a Donald Trump rally in West Palm Beach a few months before the election, please call me.

I’d love to hear what you think of things now, 18 months later.

You remember? Right? You were at City Place on Aug. 20, 2016, sitting in the back of a pickup truck that was decked out in chain link to make it look like a prison. And you were dressed like inmate Hillary.

“Lock her up! Lock her up!”

Oh, those were the days.

The event was set up through a Facebook group called “Being Patriotic.”

But it turned out, you were just being patriotic for another country. The Russian government had decided to create a misinformation campaign to benefit then-candidate Donald Trump in his successful bid to beat Clinton in the presidential election three months later.

Ring any bells? That money you took? Russian money.

We all just learned this on Friday, when special counsel Robert Mueller unsealed a 37-page indictment against 13 Russians and three Russian companies. You got a mention as one of the unnamed American pawns employed by a sophisticated foreign campaign to influence our presidential election.

The Russians, using a Facebook group called “Being Patriotic” and a Twitter account called “March for Trump,” had no problem recruiting and paying off unwitting Americans like yourself to perform in their manufactured pageants.

“The general election approaches and now we’re not just electing a president, but predetermine the very future of our country,” the Russians posted to announce the event they created for your performance.

“We strongly believe that every conscious American chooses law and order over crime and corruption. We want to see the Old Glory flying free and proud, not burnt and torn down by vandals. We want our nation to get secured and live in a protected system.”

(I’m not sure if the mangled English is because they’re Russians writing in a foreign language, or that they are so sophisticated, they intentionally mangle the language to give the pitch more authenticity.)

Either way, the Russian trolls successfully created Trump rallies in about 20 Florida cities that day.

“On August, 20, we want to gather patriots on the streets of Floridian towns and cities and march to unite America and support Donald Trump!” the Russian trolls posted on the “Florida Goes Trump” site. “Our flash mob will occur in several places at the same time.”

Other Florida cities included Jupiter, Port St. Lucie, Miami, Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs.

The Russians, using stolen identities of real Americans as well as fake names they created, promoted Twitter hashtags such as “#Hillary4Prison” and “#IWontProtectHillary.”

But paying somebody to actually wear a Hillary mask and prison garb, then getting her to sit in a makeshift cell built specifically for the occasion, well, that must have really had the “Project Lakhta” operatives chuckling inside their Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Russia.

“Defendants and their co-conspirators asked one U.S. person to build a cage on a flatbed truck and another U.S. person to wear a costume portraying Clinton in a prison uniform,” the indictment reads. “Defendants and the co-conspirators paid these individuals to complete the requests.”

That was you! You did it! You got to help Russia make shoppers and diners at CityPlace think that you were part of a grassroots effort of concerned Americans, when you were really just somebody being rented out by Russia for the afternoon.

I know you didn’t do it on purpose. And who knows, maybe you needed the money.

But for you and everybody who cheered for the sight of you, how does it feel now?

Do you feel used? Even just a little?

And looking back at it, hasn’t it become absurd to imagine that Hillary’s sins — improperly routing some classified information through a private server — is even remotely in the league of what candidate/President Trump has wrought?

If it makes you feel any better, you may not have been the most pathetic American duped by the Russian operation.

That title probably goes to the American who was induced to stand in front of the gates of the White House on May 29, 2016, to be photographed while holding a sign that read, “Happy 55th Birthday Dear Boss.”

According to the indictment, the Russians got that unnamed American to unwittingly pose there to send birthday wishes to Yevgeniy Viktorovich Progozhin, the Russian who supervised the American propaganda campaign.

At least you weren’t that person.



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