Florida resident Douglass Mackey was arrested on Wednesday and charged with “conspiring with others in advance of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election to use various social media platforms to disseminate misinformation designed to deprive individuals of their constitutional right to vote,” according to the Justice Department. More specifically, Mackey — who used social media under the alias “Ricky Vaughn” at the time — sought to convince supporters of 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton that they could vote via text and thereby “Avoid the line” at polling places. In reality, of course, voting via text is not a legitimate option, but Mackey evidently attempted to prey on people’s ignorance.
At least 4,900 people evidently texted “Hillary” or a close variant to a number that Mackey used as a part of the scam. In one instance, Mackey tweeted an image that included a claim that the call for people to vote from home was paid for by the Clinton campaign itself, which was not at all correct. William F. Sweeney Jr., who serves as the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office, commented as follows:
‘Protecting every American citizen’s right to cast a legitimate vote is a key to the success of our republic. What Mackey allegedly did to interfere with this process – by soliciting voters to cast their ballots via text – amounted to nothing short of vote theft. It is illegal behavior and contributes to the erosion of the public’s trust in our electoral processes. He may have been a powerful social media influencer at the time, but a quick Internet search of his name today will reveal an entirely different story.’
A source for The Washington Post said that “Mackey was not charged before now because it was a complex investigation — one that did not begin until it was discovered that Mackey was behind the Ricky Vaughn persona.” That critical piece of information identifying Mackey’s responsibility for the posts from “Ricky Vaughn” emerged in April 2018.
Other individuals in Trump World with more direct connections to ex-President Trump were connected to Russian efforts to meddle in the 2016 election in various capacities — and in the final stretch of his administration, then-President Trump granted clemency to individuals including his ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort, who was connected to Russian meddling through means including Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian oligarch who Manafort once gave private polling data from the Trump team.