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Texas Take

May 3, 2018

As the National Rifle Association opened its annual meeting in Dallas, the former CIA director says that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott got trolled by the Russians in his Jade Helm response three years ago.

Say what?

According to Michael Hayden, a former CIA chief and head of the National Security Agency, said in an interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe show that the Jade Helm controversy in 2015 was stirred by the Russians as a test to see how much influence they could exert through online means.

After Gov. Greg Abbott put the state guard on call to monitor the federal training exercises, Hayden speculated that the Russians decided to expand their disinformation campaign.

Here's how Hayden explained it: "They took their game to North America in 2015, and I won't belabor it here but there was an exercise in Texas called Jade Helm 15 that Russian bots and the American alt-right media convinced most — many — Texans was an Obama plan to round up political dissidents."

"It got so much traction that the governor of Texas had to call out the National Guard to observe the federal exercise to keep the population calm. At that point, I'm figuring the Russians are saying 'We can go big time' and at that point I think they made the decision, 'We're going to play in the electoral process."

No comment from Abbott. But Democrats quickly blasted him for being "a Russian pawn and a useful idiot for Russian efforts to instill fear and distrust in our American institutions" and insisted he was "duped by Russian bots."

Well, now, isn't that special, as the Church Lady would say.

Back to the NRA: With President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Abbott and other big-name Texas Republican officials slated to be on stage for the festivities in Dallas along with social media personalities Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson -- better known as Diamond and Silk -- the breaking news just keeps on coming.

Add to the week's list a just-agreed debate between the two Democrats running for governor, new controversy over DACA and disgraced former U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, telling Abbott to go pound salt on the governor's request that pick up the tab for a special election to pick his replacement.

Our sponsors this week: Texas Association of Counties and Lone Star Targeting.

With Scott Braddock, editor of the Quorum Report, and Mike WardAustin Bureau chief for the Houston Chronicle, with special guest Ryan Poppe, Texas Public Radio's Capitol reporter.

Texas politics are entertaining but never boring, as this edition of the state's leading political podcast, produced in collaboration with partner Texas Public Radio, clearly shows.