Russian-backed trolls took to social media following President Trump ’s 2016 victory in an attempt to prevent Mitt Romney from being appointed as Secretary of State, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The newspaper’s analysis found that Kremlin linked accounts pushed messages calling Romney a “two-headed snake” and “globalist puppet” and also spread a petition to stop him from being nominated to the high-profile post.
The Wall Street Journal’s findings come after a New Yorker report suggesting that Russia attempted to push Trump toward a pro-Russia State Department head.
Romney had called Russia the U.S.’s top “geopolitical foe” in the 2012 elections, an idea that many at the time, including President Obama, dismissed.
“It’s not surprising that the Russian troll operation tried to do whatever it could to prevent [Mr. Romney] from being secretary of state,” Ryan Williams, a political strategist and former Romney spokesman, told the Journal.
Trump eventually selected Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson for the position. Tillerson’s firm has worked in Russia and Tillerson has boasted having a close relationship with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The reported push to keep Romney out of the White House would come as a part of Russia’s larger play at sowing social discord and influencing the U.S. political process on social media.
Congressional investigators and academic researchers found that around the time of the election Russian-linked accounts on social media spread polemic content and in some cases spurred Americans to show up at protests.
The White House didn’t respond to the Journal’s requests for comment. The Trump administration has repeatedly pushed back against any reports of working with Russia.