Obama-Era Ambassador to Russia: Obama Admin Efforts to Counter Russian Disinformation Were 'Ineffective'

May 7, 2018

Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia under President Barack Obama, said on Sunday that the Obama administration's efforts to counter Russian disinformation were "ineffective."

McFaul discussed how Russian President Vladamir Putin has used disinformation in the past and he himself experienced disinformation in 2012 while he was the ambassador.

"These tactics, he has practiced for a long time inside Russia," McFaul said during an appearance on NBC. "Disinformation, using videos against various political actors. I experienced it myself as ambassador in 2012 – a lot of disinformation about me. So the tactics, he has done before."

"Meet the Press" anchor Chuck Todd asked McFaul what specific experience he's had with a Russian disinformation campaign.

"What was the most successful disinformation you had to work to undermine?" Todd asked.

"The most successful and frustrating was the narrative that Barack Obama sent me to Russia to overthrow Vladimir Putin. That appeared about every couple of days," McFaul said. "It was very intense during his last presidential campaign. They would splice things that I had written and take out the word 'not' and make that appear. They would show the back of my head at a rally to make it look as if I was coordinating the rally."

McFaul added that whatever the Obama administration did to try and counter the disinformation was ineffective, including Obama talking directly to Putin.

"Whatever we did on Twitter, on television, actually sometimes with President Obama talking to President Putin one-on-one to say 'knock this off,' we were ineffective," McFaul said.

During eight years of former President Barack Obama's weakness towards Russia, the country invaded Ukraine, annexed Crimea, propped up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and interfered in the 2016 election.