I have no clue as to why this is still in doubt, but the Russians helped Donald Trump win the White House with their propaganda and disinformation, and the massive pile of evidence making that point only continues to grow.
President Donald Trump and his allies have long insisted that Russian's 2016 propaganda campaign on social media had no impact on the presidential election.
A new statistical analysis says it may well have.
The study, by researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, does not prove that Russian interference swung the election to Trump. But it demonstrates that Trump's gains in popularity during the 2016 campaign correlated closely with high levels of social media activity by the Russian trolls and bots of the Internet Research Agency, a key weapon in the Russian attack.
"Our results show that the weeks when Russian trolls were accumulating likes and retweets on Twitter, that activity reliably foreshadowed gains for Trump in the opinion polls," wrote Damian Ruck, the study's lead researcher, in an article explaining his findings.
The study found that every 25,000 re-tweets by accounts connected to the IRA predicted a 1 percent increase in opinion polls for Trump.
In an interview with NBC News, Ruck said the research suggests that Russian trolls helped shift U.S public opinion in Trump's favor. As to whether it affected the outcome of the election: "The answer is that we still don't know, but we can't rule it out."
Given that the election turned on 75,000 votes in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, "it is a prospect that should be taken seriously," Ruck wrote, adding that more study was needed in those swing states.
He points out that 13 percent of voters didn't make their final choice until the last week before the election.
Ruck said the correlation between troll activity and Trump's popularity remained true even when controlling for Trump's own Twitter activity and other variables.
"It turns out that the activity of Russian Twitter trolls was a better predictor of Donald Trump's polling numbers than his own Twitter activity," he wrote.
Donald Trump won because he effectively got a third of a percentage point total in the right three states, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, all states we now know were heavily targeted by Russia's Internet Research Agency in 2016.
And now we have evidence that Russian social media propaganda was a leading indicator of Trump's perfidious success, not a trailing one.
We've got to get the guy out of office.