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Peter Thiel says Russian ads on Facebook didn't help Trump win election

Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel at the New York Times DealBook conference in 2015. Photo: Neilson Barnard via Getty Images for New York Times

Peter Thiel, a partner at Founders Fund and long-time supporter of President Trump, said at the New York Times Dealbook conference on Thursday that Facebook political ads bought by Russians did not make a "material" difference in the 2016 presidential election.

Why it matters: Thiel is on the board of Facebook, which has stepped up its attempts to prevent further election meddling on its platform. After the election, CEO Mark Zuckerberg dismissed the idea that Facebook played a role in the outcome of the election. But Zuckerberg told CNN earlier this year that it's "hard" to know whether or not Facebook had any impact.

Thiel also reiterated his unwavering support for Trump. Here's what he said:

On the 2020 election: "I suspect it will be an up-down referendum on the economy. The important question is will the economy feel like it's doing well. If so, Trump gets re-elected. If not, he'll have challenges."

  • Thiel also said "it's set up" that the economy will be strong in 2020.

On the political polarization of the country: "[Trump] is not the main cause of polarization."

On the Mueller investigation: "I think it's an insane wild goose chase ... I'd almost be tempted to say [the President] is quite happy [the Democrats] are focused on this crazy Russia story ... If the next two years involve a discussion about the Russians and you don't find anything, then Trump will get re-elected."

Thiel, the co-founder and former CEO of PayPal, also spoke out about innovation in Silicon Valley:

  • "If you have breakthrough innovation, if you're able to do something that's incredibly new, that's often something a small, or start-up company, is better at. Perhaps there aren't as many big breakthroughs left in consumer internet ... The big ideas have been tried."
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