Tim Mak

Tim Mak covers national security and politics for NPR.

His reporting topics include investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as the potential for future interference by foreign actors; challenges to America's democratic institutions; as well as the conservative movement and Republicans in the context of the 2018 elections.

Before joining NPR, Mak worked as a senior correspondent at The Daily Beast, covering the 2016 presidential elections with an emphasis on foreign affairs. He has also worked on the Politico Defense team, the Politico breaking news desk, and at the Washington Examiner. He covered the rise of the Tea Party movement in 2009 and 2010 for FrumForum. He has reported abroad from the Horn of Africa and East Asia.

Mak graduated with a B.A. from McGill University, where he was a valedictorian. He also holds a national certification as an Emergency Medical Technician.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And NPR's Tim Mak is covering this story and has been listening along with us. What did you hear there, Tim?

Most of the Twitter accounts that spread disinformation during the 2016 presidential campaign remain active now, according to an ambitious new study released on Thursday.

Knight Foundation researchers examined millions of tweets and concluded that more than 80 percent of the accounts associated with the 2016 disinformation campaign are still posting — even after Twitter announced back in July that it had instituted a purge of fake accounts.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's October, and the fall election campaign is in high gear. So are the social media operations, full of mind games and falsehoods, things that marred the 2016 election campaign. NPR's Tim Mak has been asking how people can protect themselves.

Russian social media agitators who pushed pro-gun messages in the United States sometimes copied the language of the National Rifle Association. And sometimes, the NRA copied them.

What isn't clear is whether there was any relationship between the social media users or whether the duplication was done without the other's awareness, part of the broader tide of advocacy about gun rights.

What is clear is that, at times, the Russians followed so closely behind the American gun rights group that it duplicated its content word for word.

Russia's influence campaign on Twitter pushed pro-gun and pro-National Rifle Association messages during the 2016 election and beyond — a rare example of consistency in a scheme that mostly sought to play up extremes on the left and right.

On every issue, from race to health care, women's rights to police brutality, gay marriage to global warming, accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency sought to amplify controversy by playing up conflict.

Maria Butina, the Russian woman accused of working as an unregistered foreign agent, encouraged pro-gun demonstrations in the U.S. as early as 2014, according to messages provided to NPR.

Butina's work has been linked to Russia's attack on the 2016 election, but people who know her say she began trying to make her mark inside America years before.

NPR examined thousands of people who make up Butina's Facebook network, and reached out to a sample of more than two hundred individuals.

Updated at 5:55 p.m. ET

House Speaker Paul Ryan called on the author of the widely read New York Times op-ed critical of President Trump to resign, arguing that the individual was "living in dishonesty."

The essay, posted Wednesday afternoon and attributed to a senior administration official, suggested that there is a group of high-level Trump administration officials working to stymie the president behind the scenes.

The 2016 campaign was a nightmare for Democrats.

So Democratic National Committee Chief Technology Officer Raffi Krikorian was brought in to the DNC in 2017 to make sure embarrassing breaches — and the subsequent leak of internal communications — weren't repeated.

But with fewer than 70 days to go until the midterm elections, there's still a lot of room for improvement, he acknowledged, both inside and outside the organization.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Rick Wilson can't sleep at night.

The Republican operative isn't known for being a thin-skinned, bring-me-the-smelling-salts, political naif. He has historically been a strategist who conservative candidates would call when campaigns took a turn — when it was time to go negative.

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NOEL KING, HOST:

President Trump has sent mixed messages on just how seriously he takes the threat of foreign influence in U.S. politics - especially when it comes to Russia. But his administration is trying to telegraph to the public that the threat is real.

Senate intelligence committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., summed up how lawmakers and Trump administration officials have failed to acknowledge the dangerous problem of foreign influence operations in America on Wednesday, with a description of an Internet meme.

Updated at 2:20 p.m. ET

Facebook announced Tuesday afternoon that it has removed 32 Facebook and Instagram accounts or pages involved in a political influence campaign with links to the Russian government.

The company says the campaign included efforts to organize counterprotests on Aug. 10 to 12 for the white nationalist Unite The Right 2 rally planned in Washington that weekend.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Updated at 6:34 p.m. ET

Republican attacks on federal law enforcement have helped the Russian effort to spark chaos within the United States, an embattled top FBI counterintelligence agent told Congress on Thursday.

"Russian interference in our elections constitutes a grave attack on our democracy," Peter Strzok told lawmakers in his prepared opening statement.

Russia's information attack against the United States during the 2016 election cycle sought to take advantage of the greater trust that Americans tend to place in local news.

The information operatives who worked out of the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg did not stop at posing as American social media users or spreading false information from purported news sources, according to new details.

They also created a number of Twitter accounts that posed as sources for Americans' hometown headlines.

For the past two decades, Bob Van Ronkel has been the Forrest Gump of U.S.-Russia relations.

He helped introduce Steven Seagal to Vladimir Putin. He helped introduce Jim Carrey to Oleg Deripaska, the now-sanctioned aluminum tycoon.

Then there were Jack Nicholson, Sean Penn, Woody Harrelson, Lara Flynn Boyle and more, all making visits to Russia — Van Ronkel was even there when Donald Trump's Miss Universe pageant visited Moscow.

Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller's office wants to interview the man who has been described as the link between WikiLeaks and Donald Trump's inner circle.

Former radio host Randy Credico — who denies serving as that link but says he has served as a go-between at other times to WikiLeaks — told NPR that a prosecutor working for Mueller had asked him for a voluntary meeting.

Credico said he declined. The special counsel's office declined to comment.

A former senior U.S. official from the Obama administration is warning that Russian efforts to influence U.S. politics have been so successful that other U.S. adversaries like China are beginning to emulate them.

Victoria Nuland told the Senate intelligence committee on Wednesday, "Other countries and malign actors are now adapting and improving on Russia's methodology, notably including China which now runs disinformation campaigns and influence operations in Taiwan, Australia and other neighboring countries."

David Koch, one half of the billionaire duo that built one of the nation's largest privately owned companies and one of its most controversial political networks, has announced his retirement from politics and business.

In a letter to Koch Industries employees written by his brother Charles Koch, the men announced that David was stepping down due to health concerns.

Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen is facing legal peril, including an FBI raid of his home and office — and involvement in a civil lawsuit with adult film star Stormy Daniels.

But in the past, it was Cohen who sought to put legal pressure on others to solve problems for his boss.

For the first time, audio recordings of Cohen's legal threats, from a 2015 Daily Beast interview, are being published.

The net appears to be closing in on Roger Stone.

The outspoken, self-described "dirty trickster" and longtime confidant of President Trump is facing heat from congressional investigators, as well as a possible indictment from the Justice Department — or so he suspects.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

A federal judge is deciding whether to permit a lawsuit to go forward in which Democrats allege that Donald Trump's campaign colluded with Russian government's cyberattacks on the 2016 presidential election.

The parties appeared in federal court in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.

The three plaintiffs are represented by Protect Democracy, a watchdog group made up primarily of former Obama administration lawyers.

The Koch brothers are going rogue.

For years the political network funded by billionaires Charles and David Koch funded politicians on the right, laying the foundation for the libertarian causes the two support. Their support has gone almost exclusively to Republican candidates, with rare exception.

But in the era of Trump, what it means to be on the "right" is changing, and the Koch network's tactics are changing to reflect new realities.

The Senate intelligence committee said Wednesday that it stands by the conclusion of the U.S. spy agencies that Russia's attack on the 2016 election sought to help Donald Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton — a break with the finding of the House intelligence panel.

Members of the tight-lipped Senate panel backed this conclusion after spending more than two hours with Obama administration officials who were behind the intelligence community's highly classified assessment, made in the immediate aftermath of the election.

Updated at 5:48 p.m. ET

The FBI warned four years ago that a foundation controlled by the Russian oligarch who allegedly reimbursed Donald Trump's personal lawyer might have been acting on behalf of Russia's intelligence services.

Updated at 10:55 a.m. ET

Kremlin-linked Russian politician Alexander Torshin traveled frequently between Moscow and various destinations in the United States to build relationships with figures on the American right starting as early as 2009, beyond his previously known contacts with the National Rifle Association.

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