Rick Gates, a longtime business associate of Paul Manafort and served as the now-convicted felon's deputy for the Trump 2016 campaign, requested proposals for social media manipulation from an Israeli firm, The New York Times reports Monday afternoon.
One proposal outlined plans to target and manipulate 5,000 delegates to the Republican National Convention by attacking Texas senator Ted Cruz.
There is no evidence to suggest that the Trump campaign went forward with any of the Psy-Group proposals and a source with knowledge of the discussions claims that Mr Gates was unimpressed by the company's work. Ted Cruz (R-TX), then Trump's main Republican opponent, away from him and toward Trump.
Gates first heard about Psy-Group from GOP operative George Birnbaum, who has close ties to some Israeli politicians, a few days after joining the Trump campaign, according to the report.
The Trump campaign's interest in the work began as Russians were escalating their effort to aid Trump. A second proposal involved collecting opposition and "complementary intelligence activities" on Hillary Clinton, according to the Times. Donald Trump was known as "Lion" Cruz was "Bear" and Clinton was referred to as "Forest". Psy-Group owner Joel Zamel did meet Donald Trump Jr., the president's oldest son, in August 2016, according to the Times.
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The Trump campaign's involvement with Psy-Group was discovered by investigators working for Robert Mueller. The meeting also included Blackwater founder Erik Prince and George Nader, the adviser to the UAE Crown Prince and the go-between for Prince's meeting in the Seychelles with a powerful Russian businessman. Psy-Group came up with several proposals, which it dubbed "Project Rome".
In February, Gates pledged to cooperate with Mueller as he pleaded guilty to defrauding the United States by failing to report offshore banking accounts, as well as to one count of lying over his work as a foreign agent for Ukraine.
A lawyer for Zamel denied to the Times that he had discussed the proposal with anyone from the Trump campaign.
Though it appears that Trump campaign officials declined to accept any of the proposals, Zamel pitched the company's services in at least general terms during a meeting on August 3, 2016, at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr.