Visiting Wisconsin on June 28, President Donald Trump tweeted “Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with meddling in our Election!” It was not the first time the president cast doubt on Russian interference in the 2016 election, contradicting conclusions of the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency, as well as reports by bipartisan committees in both chambers of Congress. But Russians have been testing the vulnerability of elections in Wisconsin and other states for years, and top U.S. intelligence officials have warned the 2018 midterm elections are a potential target of Russian cyber attacks and disinformation. A key swing state, Wisconsin was the scene of Russian measures in 2016 that utilized social media and also probed the websites of government agencies.
Wisconsin and other battleground states were targeted by a sophisticated social media campaign, according to a recent University of Wisconsin-Madison study headed by journalism professor Young Mie Kim. This campaign tapped into divisive issues such as race, gun control and gay and transgender rights.
Alleged Kremlin-linked operatives also probed the website of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. The websites of Ashland, Bayfield and Washburn in northern Wisconsin were targeted from Internet Protocol (IP) addresses listed in the joint FBI and Department of Homeland Security report on Russian malicious activity. And in July 2016, Russian government operatives attacked the state Department of Workforce Development website, state officials reported.