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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Trump campaign, borrowing tactics from dictators and demagogues abroad, is poised to spend $1 billion on "what could be the most extensive disinformation campaign in U.S. history" to sway the 2020 election, McKay Coppins writes in the Atlantic.

Why it matters: Coppins offers the prospect of an election "shaped by coordinated bot attacks, Potemkin local-news sites, micro-targeted fearmongering, and anonymous mass texting."

What they're saying: "Both parties will have these tools at their disposal. But in the hands of a president who lies constantly, who traffics in conspiracy theories, and who readily manipulates the levers of government for his own gain, their potential to wreak havoc is enormous."

Per the Atlantic, here are the key tactics of the coming information inferno, as piloted during the 2016 Trump campaign by its digital director, Brad Parscale, who is now leads the overall Trump reelection effort:

  • Tell brazen lies.
  • Undermine trust in the press.
  • Amass detailed data on supporters.
  • Flood Facebook with ads micro-targeted to them.
  • Use those ads to drive turnout and fundraising.
  • Use bots on Twitter to "simulate false consensus, derail sincere debate, and hound people out of the public square."
  • Inoculate supporters against facts.
  • Instill confusion and doubt in opponents.

Key takeaways:

  • In 2016, the political class viewed disinformation as an external threat, but now it's become a domestic problem.
  • Other countries, like Indonesia, have found some success in combatting agents of disinformation — but in the U.S., First Amendment protections will shield them.
  • Democrats will have to decide whether to denounce the GOP tactics or embrace them.

The other side: “This story itself is disinformation," Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told Axios in response to the piece. "They wrote 8,000 words trying to paint a scary picture but couldn’t come up with one specific example to back up their premise."

  • "It’s nothing more than a stream-of-consciousness fever dream from liberals already making excuses for an election loss they see coming nine months away.”

Between the lines: One thing Coppins barely mentions is the role Fox News commentators have played in helping Trumpworld muddy the waters. The Daily Beast reports that an internal Fox News research briefing book highlighted that problem, warning colleagues that some of the network's commentators have been spreading disinformation about Ukraine.

Worst-case scenario: On election night in November, Trump gets numbers he doesn't like, and directs his disinformation machine to discredit the results.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the Trump campaign's response.

Go deeper

50 mins ago - Health

Study: Common antidepressant guards against COVID hospitalization

A COVID-19 intensive Care Unit in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil on May 27, 2021. Photo: Fabio Teixeira/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The readily available antidepressant fluvoxamine significantly reduced COVID-related hospitalizations, according to a large study published Wednesday.

Why it matters: The clinical trial suggests that a cheap, readily available drug could dramatically reduce serious illness and death when prescribed early.

By the numbers: Catholics, Biden and abortion

Expand chart
Reproduced from Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

President Biden — the second Catholic U.S. president — will meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Friday, as some church leaders debate whether to deny Holy Communion to politicians who support abortion rights.

By the numbers: Overall, two in three U.S. Catholics believe Biden should be allowed to take Communion despite his stance on abortion, according to polling by Pew Research Center.

Texas House probes school library books dealing with race and sexuality

Photo: Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

Texas state Rep. Matt Krause, chair of the Texas House Committee on General Investigating, announced Wednesday that he's initiating a probe into schools' library books, according to a letter sent to the state's education agency and other superintendents.

Why it matters: The probe focuses on books that discuss race, sexuality or "make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex," Krause wrote in the letter.