On page 31 of Robert S. Mueller III’s Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election, the special prosecutor addressed a major way in which elements of the Russian government attempted to influence a presidential election. As an example, Mueller and his team used a poster from an October 2016 “Miners for Trump” event in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
According to Mueller’s findings, the Internet Research Agency (IRA) used Facebook to lure Pennsylvanians to rallies using the state’s mining heritage as a political weapon.
Below is the page from Mueller’s findings submitted to the Justice Department in March 2019:
From June 2016 until the end of the presidential campaign, almost all of the U.S. rallies organized by the IRA focused on the U.S. election, often promoting the Trump Campaign and opposing the Clinton Campaign. Pro-Trump rallies included three in New York; a series of pro-Trump rallies in Florida in August 2016; and a series of pro-Trump rallies in October 2016 in Pennsylvania. The Florida rallies drew the attention of the Trump Campaign, which posted about the Miami rally on candidate Trump’s Facebook account…
Many of the same IRA employees who oversaw the IRA’s social media accounts also conducted the day-to-day recruiting for political rallies inside the United States…
Press coverage shows that the Russian attempts to create political rallies in Pennsylvania on the “Miners for Trump” platform were laughably unsuccessful. As noted by Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Inquirer in September 2017, it may have had something to with the fact that the closest coal mine to Philadelphia is more than 100 miles northwest of the city.
It does not appear that anyone actually rallied on the “Miners for Trump” mantra in October 2016 – at least at the two events established by a Facebook page “Being Patriotic” that was secretly being operated by the Russian government. Unlike the rallies in Pennsylvania, these attempts were successful in other states. At one point, two rival rallies organized by the IRA in Texas actually confronted each other on the streets of Houston. The two groups verbally abused each other, but luckily no violence occurred.
That the Russians understood the cultural power that the mining industry still holds over the Keystone State should give us pause. Though coal mining in Pennsylvania is at a nadir and will continue to drop off due to mechanization and the decline in coal usage, mining holds a place in the memories of millions of Pennsylvanians.
As we continue to debate the future of the industry and its cultural place in Pennsylvania, we must be aware of the divisiveness that it has in our hyper-partisan world. We Pennsylvanians still have farm more in common with each other than we have differences. Though we may argue over the coal’s place in our future – we must grapple with its history in our communities, the struggle of mineworkers to attain basic labor rights that we enjoy today, and the stark environmental costs that Pennsylvania has paid because of this industry.
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Featured Image: Miner Lee Hipshire in photograph used by Internet Research Agency to advertise events in Pennsylvania, as highlighted in the Mueller Report.