Call your senators and House representative at (202) 224-3121 and demand they publicly condemn Trump’s treason.
At his Helsinki press conference today, Trump sided with Putin against the US intelligence community, the FBI, and the findings of two Congressional committees. He ranted about insane conspiracy theories while standing on stage with a murderous dictator who continues to attack America.
Sen/Rep [____] must publicly condemn Trump’s treasonous statements in Helsinki.
Trump eliminated any doubt that he is compromised in siding with a murderous autocrat over his intelligence heads, U.S. law enforcement and the conclusions of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
Call your senators and House representative at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to pass the P.A.V.E. Act to require states to use paper ballots and conduct mandatory audits. Read More
In 2016, Russia conducted cyberattacks on state and county election infrastructure, breaching at least 39 state systems. Mueller’s most recent indictment highlights the depths of the vulnerabilities of state election infrastructure and revealed the theft of voters’ personal data by Russia in 2016. Despite efforts to upgrade cybersecurity, many states still fall short with some wasting funds to buy new equipment that can still be hacked.
The only reliable solution is to require paper ballots (which may be machine counted) and to conduct appropriate post-election audits to ensure the integrity of the vote. Democrats have introduced legislation, the Protecting American Votes and Elections Act (“P.A.V.E. Act”), which would require states to use paper ballots and conduct mandatory post-election audits.
It is fundamental to our democracy that we can have confidence in the integrity of our election results. Congress must pass the P.A.V.E. Act (S. 3049/H.R. 6093).
This is [NAME] and I’m a constituent in [ZIP].
I urge Sen/Rep [____] to push for the quick passage of [S.3049/H.R. 6093], the PAVE Act.
I am extremely concerned that state election systems remain vulnerable to cyberattacks by Russians and others.
We need to require paper ballots and mandatory audits to ensure confidence in our election results. It is crucial to American democracy that we have elections in which we can have confidence.
While analyzing all that is happening today in the United States, I’ve often noticed the striking similarity between the behavior and propaganda of Trump with his entourage and Putin’s Russia. The similarities are so obvious that sometimes it seems that Trump and his team’s methodologies were written in Moscow.
Renown Russian opposition politician and former world chess champion Garry Kasparov recently described the typical game plan that an autocratic leader follows when he gets caught “red-handed.” This is what it looks like:
Deny, lie, slander.
Claim that it was a misunderstanding.
Boast and jeer: “And what are you going to do about it?”
Now I will try to illustrate the similarity in the propaganda strategies of “Putinism” and “Trumpism” using specific examples. Read More
1.1. Denials and lies
This is the first reaction of any criminal caught at the crime scene. It should be noted that both Trump and Putin are constantly trying to hide their actions, and conducts their affairs with mafia-like secrecy – be it the deployment of “little green men” in unmarked uniforms to Crimea, or secret meetings with Russian Ambassador Kislyak, getting paid by “Russia Today,” or conspiring to obtain compromising information about political opponents (most likely not a selfless plot as it became evident later). In all these cases, when the truth came out, the responses of Putin and Trump (as well as their propagandists) typically came down to this painfully familiar phrase: “That’s not what happened.”
In all these cases, when the truth came out, the responses of Putin and Trump (as well as their propagandists) came down to this painfully familiar phrase: “That’s not what happened.”
Remember how the members of the Trump team one by one denied their meetings with the Russian Ambassador Kislyak, only to have no choice but to admit them later? In a similar manner, they denied other contacts between members of his campaign and the Russians, the very fact that these talks happened, attempts to influence the investigation, the transfer of secret information to “Russian partners,” etc. The latest example is the information about the second, secret meeting between Putin and Trump during the G20 summit in Hamburg, where Trump’s first impulse was to vehemently deny it, again calling the media that published these facts “fake news.”
A little later, the White House was forced to admit that this meeting really did happen; however, now the Trump administration tried to minimize it as “only a short conversation at the end of the official dinner.” In this regard, let us recall Putin’s fiery assurances that the Russian military was not in the occupied Crimea, before being replaced by statements that “they are merely there to ensure an orderly referendum.” The apogee of this story was the film “Crimea. The way home,” directly demonstrating the entire process of the annexation of the peninsula. And these are just some of the many examples of falsehoods coming from the administrations of Trump and Putin.
Again, this behavior is most prevalent in the criminal world, where the best defense is the offense. This tactic is one of the most dangerous and malicious, extremely degrading to the moral state of our society, and therefore worth discussing in more detail. Both Putin’s and Trump’s propagandists use the following kinds of slander:
The simplest and most primitive way is to discredit the reputation of an individualby a blunt lie. Not long ago, I mentioned one example – how immediately after the Senate hearings, local Trump fans started spreading unsubstantiated anonymous slander about “the Comey brothers working for the Clinton Foundation.” They didn’t even stop to consider that the former director of the FBI, James Comey – by the way, a staunch Republican – enjoys great respect among people of all different political views. The statements of the FBI veterans, both in the media and on social networks, make it clear that this man has an impeccable reputation as one of the most honest and professional leaders of this organization. And the Comey case is just a partial example of how the Republican media and pro-Trump trolls on social networks sling mud at everyone who dares to speak out against their “leader.”
Needless to say, this method is regularly used in Russia. Numerous “investigative” NTV films, propaganda on social networks, sexually incriminating materials, harassment on federal channels – all of this is aimed at thoroughly discrediting in the eyes of the population the opposition leaders or people who have undeniable moral authority, but who oppose the regime’s crimes, like for example the Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Aleksievich.
Conspiracy theories. This point is derived straight from the following. The best way to discredit someone is to weave him into a conspiracy theory linking him to an entity that has long been a subject of irrational hatred. In the Russian tradition, this entity has been the CIA, the West, and the United States. Among conservative Americans, this role is played by the thoroughly demonized images of Obama, Clinton, and the Democratic Party as a whole, and, of late, the mysterious “Deep State.” Both here and there, there are accusations of being paid off: in the Russian case – by the CIA, and in the American – allegedly by George Soros (sometimes – personally Hillary Clinton). Thus, having no real arguments on the substance of the issues under consideration, the Putinists as well as the Trumpists resort to the simplest and only means available to them: vilifying their opponent as much as possible.
One of the latest, most odious conspiracy stories is the one recently promoted on Fox News that claims that the Democratic Party hired Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya to offer Donald Trump Jr. compromising material on herself! How can we not be reminded of Putin’s famous statements about “ritual sacrifices,” oppositionists who kill themselves, and Ukrainians who bomb their own cities?
Labeling opponents. Unlike the previous methods, this one doesn’t involve personal attacks. Nevertheless, this type of slander is especially dangerous since it takes hold insidiously and ends up completely distorting reality. For example, at the very beginning of Trump’s election campaign, his agitators tried to bet on patriotism, emphasizing that they were “true American patriots,” whereas the Trump opponents were, in Soviet terms, “rootless cosmopolitans” who secretly hate their country and periodically burn the American flag.
Notably, the Kremlin mass media operating in Russia has been particularly successful in this type of propaganda. Over many years, they have succeeded in convincing the population that “by definition a liberal cannot be a patriot.” At the same time, such clichés have become so ingrained in society that they have been implicitly accepted even by the Russian opposition, who obediently call Putin’s supporters “patriots,” and thus play into the hands of the Kremlin.
American society should be commended for not falling into this trap, and for not repeating the mistakes of the Russian opposition by ceding the concept of patriotism to the pro-Trump propagandists. On the contrary, people of different views opposing Trump (and this, we recall, is the majority of American society) emphasize that their motivation is based on patriotic motives, above all, the untenability of the situation in which the president of their country acts in the interests of a hostile state.
However, Trump supporters have succeeded in spreading other clichés, in particular attributing certain political views to all his opponents. The ultra-partisan Republican media makes it clear how they view their opponents. Thus, in the article justifying the attempt at collusion between Donald Trump Jr. and Veselnitskaya, anyone opposing it is stigmatized in the very first paragraph as the “left” and “Democrats.”
In fact, there are at least three false statements in this paragraph. First, the Democratic Party is a broad coalition of people of quite different views, and its far-left wing is not very large. Moreover, people of radical leftist views don’t join any party more often than not and distrusted the state even under the presidency of Barack Obama.
Second, it is absolutely wrong to reduce anti-Trump mindsets strictly to partisan differences. The behavior of the incumbent US president is perceived as unacceptable (and especially unacceptable for America) by people of different views, primarily by national security specialists and special services officers, who, due to their work, have no political affiliations. Moreover, a significant portion of the Republican Party (especially if we are not talking about their top politicians but about rank-and-file members, party intellectuals, and even ideologists) categorically rejected Trump.
It is for this very reason that some of the formerly loyal Republicans broke away from the party and created an alternative conservative movement, acting exclusively from patriotic impulses. Evan McMullin, a former CIA officer, became the leader of this “Stand Up Republic” movement. It is important to note that in America, where the bipartisan system has dominated for centuries, the opportunities for any “third choice” to break into the political Olympus have in fact been reduced to zero, even though the third party is badly needed right now. Thus, McMullin’s position clearly does not bring him any political dividends and is dictated only by his principles.
The third lie is an attempt to present Trump as the embodiment of capitalism, although many analysts have repeatedly noted that his ideology most closely resembles the coming to power of the Bolsheviks in Russia, and has nothing to do with classical capitalism. At the same time, it is amusing that accusations of “socialism” come primarily from beneficiaries of social programs. Trump’s main constituency is retirees who receive their pensions courtesy of the taxpayers, and use medical insurance imposed by the Obama administration. In addition, most of them are residents of poor states that depend on subsidies from the federal budget at the expense of Western states known for their highest GDP in the US and advanced technology (Silicon Valley).
An old KGB tactic known as whataboutism. This is an attack on an opponent with questions in the style: “But what about…?.” It’s designed to prove that the enemy did exactly the same and even worse things in the past. This tactic employs misrepresentation of historical facts, demagoguery and distortion of the issue at hand. Today, it’s one of the most popular methods used by Russian trolls. When faced with the evidence of, say, Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, they start recalling wars in which the US participated (most often Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya).
This tactic is no less popular among the defenders of Trump. While the United States is discussing Donald Trump Jr.’s willingness to use compromising material on his rivals provided by the Kremlin, pro-Trump propagandists are trying to prove that “the Democrats have sought Russia’s help on several occasions.” By the way, it’s not going well for them. Barack Obama‘s attempts to establish relations with Russia involved neither the use of the compromising materials obtained in violation of the law in exchange for political concessions nor slandering opponents with the information collected and often rigged by foreign special services.
Second, these attempts were made even before the annexation of the Crimea and the war in the Donbas, at a time when Russia had not yet openly called the US its main enemy and had not taken such obvious steps to damage American security. Thus, such comparisons, manipulations and attempts to justify current crimes with “historical analogies” are no more justified than a comparison of international efforts to resolve the Kosovo problem with the Russian armed occupation of independent states.
Another example of “whataboutism” is the exploitation of the myths of the Second World War. In fact, the entire Russian propaganda campaign against Ukraine was built on it. Trumpists are also not averse to using this technique. Instead of recognizing the real problems that are caused by their hero’s recent actions, they spread the myths about how “George Soros cooperated with the Nazis” that were originally created by the Russian propagandists working with the special services, and only in the last year translated into English.
2. Admitting that the act took place
The second stage is the admission that the act took place, but presenting it as a minor misunderstanding or rationalizing it, simply put, normalizing the abnormal. Thus, the Russian leadership no longer denies the presence of the Russian military not only in the Crimea, but also in the Donbas, but still invents some excuses for their presence there. With the same tenacity, the new administration of the White House finds excuses for all the negotiations between Trump and his team with the Russian leadership, meetings with Russian ambassadors, secret meetings, etc that keep coming to light. A vivid recent example of such tactics are the abovementioned statements from the White House about, as it turns out, “a short conversation at the end of the official lunch” that after all did take place.
3. Presenting a fait accompli as a virtue
The third stage is the presentation of a fait accompli as a virtue, something that is worthy of praise, and a cynical admonition to the opponent that revealing the truth is still useless because it won’t change anything. This bravado, with the invariable addition of the phrase borrowed from the criminal underworld, “Prove it!,” unfortunately, at the moment describes the environment in both Russia and America. Even in the United States, where a free press and independent courts really do exist, new revelations that seemingly come to light every day have not led to any legal consequences.
However, an important difference between the United States and Russia, in addition to a mature civil society and democratic institutions, is the healthier state of society as a whole. Thus, according to the latest survey data, Trump is supported by about 36% of the population, and not 86%, as in Russia. The use of threats, hatred, and slander only leads to the marginalization of their bearers, but, fortunately, at the present, they haven’t been embraced by a wider section of the society than those who were already on Trump’s side during the election. On the contrary, the polls show that Trump’s popular support is slowly eroding and, as before, the vast majority of Americans do not approve of his policy.
One positive phenomenon that came out of the resistance to Trump’s presidency is the consolidation of society on the basis of patriotism and the formation of a broad coalition ready to defend American principles and democracy. This can be seen in the comments of ordinary Americans under the Independence Day greeting published on the official FBI Twitter account. People, while expressing gratitude to the FBI agents for their work, were asking them to complete the investigation of the ties between Putin and Trump, and even to arrest the latter. Such solidarity between ordinary people and law enforcement agencies in the fight against possible crimes “at the top” is also inconceivable in Russia.
Unfortunately, this national mood is not truly reflected in American politics. The disconnect between the American political parties’ agenda and the needs of the society is a worrying sign, and it was responsible for the victory of a Kremlin-supported Trump populism.
However, despite certain positive trends, it is important to note that the spread of propaganda, lies, hatred and persistent denial of reality has already infected American society with its own virus of moral degradation. The “Trump minority,” which was living in the illusory reality of conspiracy theories and non-existent threats from its fellow citizens even before Trump, has already developed immunity to any facts and is in the habit of obscuring, justifying and supporting absolutely unacceptable things. And, as we can see from the Russian example, it is almost impossible to reverse the moral degradation once it has taken hold. In addition, the Republican Party is currently in power, and many American commentators point out that it has turned into a “Putin party” over the past few years, which cannot but cause concern.
It is also important to note that Trump gets away with actions that are much more dangerous than Putin back in 2000, when he first came to power. Even in Russia in 2000, it was impossible to imagine that the president of the country and his closest circle would openly brand the press as “enemies of the people” and his opponents as “not even people.” Early Putin did not advocate violence against the media, did not declare war on the judges, did not appoint his children and in-laws as advisors, did not insult public figures, did not brazenly lie to his people, did not launch a propaganda machine at the level of the modern Kiselev and did not promote the interests of a hostile foreign state.
The establishment of dictatorship in Russia took several decades, while Trump tried to turn America into today’s Russia in literally just a few weeks. The only force that prevented him from doing this were American institutions: both governmental and civil. It is these institutions that the Republican propagandists are attacking today in America. At the same time, as we have already discussed above, this struggle is conducted in full accordance with Kremlin propaganda methodologies and, not coincidentally, with the full support from Moscow.
Call your senators at (202) 224-3121 and ask them to vote ‘NO’ on the nomination of Brian Benczkowski (Bench-Cow-Ski) to head the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division. Read More
Brian Benczkowski is the most dangerous Trump nomination you’ve never heard of. The Senate is expected to vote next week on his nomination to head the Criminal Division of the DOJ. The Criminal Division is involved with Robert Mueller’s TrumpRussia investigation and oversees federal prosecutors, including U.S. Attorneys handling matters referred by Mueller, such as the Michael Cohen investigation in the Southern District of New York. As head of the Criminal Division, Benczkowski would be in a position to limit or suppress actions taken in the Mueller investigation and related investigations, and serve as a backchannel of information about the investigation to Sessions or Trump.
Benczkowski previously worked for Jeff Sessions in the Senate and served as head of the Trump transition team at the DOJ. He has no prosecutorial experience. He represented Putin-allied Alfa Bank which has been accused of a secret computer connection with the Trump Organization. It is not publicly known whether that relationship remains under investigation. While Benczkowski has agreed to recuse himself from Alfa Bank matters, he refuses to commit to recuse from the Russia investigation. For these reasons, all 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have written a letter saying his nomination should be withdrawn.
Despite these objections, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Benczkowski’s nomination and the full Senate is likely to vote on it this coming week. Benczkowski would be in a position to replace Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein if the campaign that House Republicans are waging to replace him succeeds.
This is [NAME] and I’m a constituent in [ZIP].
I urge Sen [____] to vote no on the nomination of Brian Benczkowski to head the Criminal Division of the DOJ.
Benczkowski has no prosecutorial experience, worked on the Trump transition team and represented Putin-affiliated Alfa Bank. He has refused to recuse from Russia-related matters, which puts him in a position to interfere with Robert Mueller’s investigation and related matters.
The American people deserve a full investigation of Russia’s interference in our election and any connection with the Trump campaign without the appearance of potential conflict.
On 16 February, special prosecutor Robert Muellercharged 13 Russian citizens with interfering in the 2016 US presidential election. The indictment reads almost like a crime novel and describes in detail how the “troll factory” tried to influence public opinion in America. It lists the use of fake accounts created with the stolen identities of the US citizens, information about specific actions, including the amounts allocated to them, etc. Most importantly, the text of the indictment plainly states that since February 2016 Kremlin operatives had focused on supporting two presidential candidates: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, and then, once the primaries were over, only Donald Trump.
In fact, there is nothing surprising in this document. Of course, before the publication of the indictment, we did not know the exact sums or names of the defendants, and not all of the fake accounts used by Russian special services were known. However, for anyone who closely followed the course of the election campaign, it was obvious that the Kremlin was doing all in its power to advance its candidate. Let’s try to list some of the most obvious signs that we had previously brought to public attention and which fully corroborate the investigation findings. Read More
Before and during elections
All Russian mediaoutlets, both inside and outside the country, were working to discredit the democrats. Almost all news broadcasts in Russia were devoted to denigrating them. Russian-controlled hackers and WikiLeaks, which published the hacked information, worked against the democrats. As it turned out later, even the document on the basis of which the FBI reopened its case against Hillary Clinton before the election was forged.
Moreover, Moscow resorted to open nuclear blackmail, plainly stating that a nuclear war in the event of Clinton’s victory is all but certain. So, in October 2016, Russian television showed one TV special after another dedicated not only to the superior quality of Russian bomb shelters, but also to the technologies of anti-missile defense. The official channel of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation showed a twenty-minute report under the screaming headline “Obama is threatening Russia!”, in which the US was called “an enemy of humanity”. Then the famous Russian journalist Alexander Sotnik published on his page a post from a woman who claimed that the adults in one of Moscow schools were scaring children with the prospect of a nuclear war with the US and death in case of Hillary Clinton’s victory in the presidential election.
It is no longer a secret that a group of enthusiastic American volunteers led by the CIA veteran Charles Leven created an informal movement to combat Russian misinformation on social networks. Subsequently, major American media outlets wrote about the group’s work. Since 2015, I was part of this team and repeatedly described the tactics of Russian trolls in 2015 and 2016. In 2016, massive armies of trolls that had been active in the American media space for several years, including in the professional community of LinkedIn, suddenly changed their position from pro-Putin to pro-Trump, and I, participating in the work of the team identifying these trolls, personally tracked this transformation. We certainly did not know the scale of the work of the “specialists from Olgino”, but some things were indisputable:
“established” and subsequently exposed trolls pretending to be American, French and other foreign citizens published materials that supported Donald Trump and slandered his rivals;
numerous materials, including memes, pictures, slogans, slanderous passages, etc. were developed in Russia, which I proved by locating their primary sources in Russian in Russian media before their English-language versions showed up a few months later. In particular, these memes dealt with conspiracy theories about “Soros’s collaboration with the Nazis”, photoshopped fakes of Hillary Clinton and Obama, unconfirmed allegations that Obama is allegedly in cahoots with the Muslim terrorists, etc. Since I had spent several years studying contemporary Russian propaganda, the style of this work, its wording, the “arguments” and quotes being used left no doubt as to where and by whom these materials were created. Specific examples of such work are now abundantly presented in the materials of the criminal case.
my friend, a graduate American linguist, who has lived in the US since she was five years old and who has a great feel for the English language, easily identified foreigners who were writing under the guise of Americans, and she personally also uncovered a number of trolls. Of course, we repeatedly pointed out our observations in our articles.
In addition to working with Americans “under a foreign flag,” the overwhelming majority of the Russian-language media in the US also took a stridently pro-Trump position. This even applied to the media outlets that positioned themselves as “opposition” and “anti-Putin”. Moreover, these trolls were actively promoting Trump even in the Russian-speaking communities hostile to Moscow, for example, among the Ukrainians in the United States. In short, spreading Moscow propaganda among immigrants became an important part of the Russia’s information war with America.
At the same time, as it later became known, almost all the members of the Trump’s team had very close ties to Moscow before the election and that included financial ties. Over the past year, the US media has written so much about the connections and contacts of Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Jared Kushner, etc. and about the first charges brought against some of them that there is no point in reiterating it here.
In addition to their ties to Russia “at the very top,” the American right-wingers maintain close contacts with Moscow at various levels. After the incident in Charlottesville in August 2017, American press published detailed information on the connections of the local extreme right with the Russian right-wing ideologist Alexander Dugin and other agents of the Kremlin’s influence. Of course, this does not negate the fact that Moscow tried to influence the extreme left flank of the US political spectrum as well, using the “foreign flag” to contact both groups of radicals.
However, the US extreme right clearly represents a greater priority for the Kremlin, primarily because of its nature. Unlike the left-wing radicals who adhere to anarchist views and therefore are not represented in power and do not participate in politics, remaining instead a rather marginal “street” movement, the ultra-right try to actively influence our political system. They use patriotic slogans which can attract more followers, participate in government, and prefer not the utopian communist anarchy, but the nationalist dictatorship – the very one that Trump and his admirers are trying to build in the US.
On top of that, Russia does not have a ready-made “ideology for export” aimed at the left because, as part of its international image, it tries to adhere to the concept of the “guardian of traditional values” focused exclusively on conservatives. Therefore, Moscow’s interactions with the left radicals are carried out mainly through fake accounts – with the goal of creating chaos and creating a “picture” needed for greater radicalization of those on the right. But when it comes to the right-wing extremists, Moscow maintains direct contacts in addition to the online presence, which gives it enough leverage to influence those on the right of the political spectrum (given that the structures of the far right are better organized than those on the left).
In addition, Moscow maintains contacts with the Republicans not only on “top” and “bottom”, but also on many levels in between. This includes Russian lobbyists’ links with the NRA and contacts with some think tanks (the most memorable of them were described in detail last year by Russian publicist Andrei Piontkovsky). It is no accident that the American press published entire articles on how the Republican Party in recent years has become a “party of Putin.”
Donald Trump’s behavior during the election campaign clearly indicated that he fully and completely accepted Moscow’s help. Trump often cited Russian propaganda and all the conspiracy theories used by Moscow: from describing Ukraine as in “chaos from the war unleashed by Obama” to blatant slander against the United States. In particular, he claimed that “America is in a catastrophic state and it lacks democracy” and that his country is no better than Russia, where dissidents are routinely murdered. It used to be that such statements were only heard from the radical left anarchists, but under Trump they quite organically blended into the Republican agenda.
Trump took every opportunity to loudly admire Putin, actively defend him even when he had to go against the facts and interests of his own country, call on Russian hackers to continue their hacking in order to search for “missing emails” and he never condemned Putin even when his crimes against the United States became apparent. Moreover, not being confident that he will win, Trump threatened to ignore the results of the election and preemptively declared them “falsified”, calling on his supporters to engage in mass protests. American experts rightly assumed that such an idea could only be suggested to Trump by Putin, who perceived the protests of 2011-12 in Russia strictly as a product of the outside influence.
By the way, Trump reacted predictably to the information published in April of last year that the CIA had provided a detailed report to President Obama in August 2016, which noted that Vladimir Putin personally gave an order to intervene in the American election with a specific goal to damage the candidate from the Democratic Party Hillary Clinton and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.
Trump went on a Twitter rampage in which, contrary to all facts, he repeatedly hinted that since Obama had not taken action against Russian interference in the elections, it can only mean that the intervention was carried out in favor of the Democrats. Thus, he revealed his own logic and how he himself would act in this case. In fact, he clearly showed that from his point of view, a hostile state can only be punished if it harms your own interests. On the other hand, if the enemies’ actions bring you personal gain, no measures should be taken against them. And, as we can see, Trump’s behavior was guided by this logic. The Kremlin, for its part, did not hide its glee over the Trump election victory, and the State Duma deputies celebrated this event with champagne.
After the election
After the election, Trump’s Russian policy not only continued on the same course but was ramped up. What followed was Trump’s open support of Vladimir Putin, quoting him uncritically, defending and praising him, combined with the outright mockery of the conclusions of his own intelligence. A comparison of the intelligence community with the German Nazi SS a year ago was regarded by many American experts as a direct threat to national security. Trump publicly and repeatedly insisted that Russia did not interfere in the American elections (in light of this, it is especially amusing to observe how actively he denies his own words today).
In addition, the US president intensified attacks on other American institutions, in particular, the independent press (which he called an “enemy of the people”), independent courts (recall his attacks on American judges) and the opposition, which he labeled as “traitors” for refusing to applaud him. Thus, Trump is deliberately trying to destroy key American institutions that ensure the preservation of democracy and the principle of separation of powers. At the same time, by strange coincidence, those attacks escalated exactly when the investigation of “Russiagate” revealed new facts, and as it was getting closer to Trump and his entourage.In addition to his angry rhetoric, Trump took a number of steps that put pressure on the US law enforcement agencies. On May 9th of last year, he fired the FBI director, James Comey, after a prior meeting in which he demanded Comey’s personal loyalty and requested that he drop any investigation of Michael Flynn, which Comey refused. As the American media subsequently found out, last summer he also considered the possibility of the dismissal of the special prosecutor Mueller. Finally, the publication of the “Nunes Memorandum,” which, according to the veterans of intelligence and counterintelligence, inflicted enormous damage on the American security became the culmination of Trump’s war with the American intelligence community.
Meanwhile, Trump continued to support Putin as part of his foreign policy. In particular, the American president constantly insisted on cooperation with Moscow in the “fight against terrorism”, repeated that he believed Putin, and stubbornly refused to criticize him. He did not want to sign the law on sanctions until the very last day, calling it “anti-constitutional,” and even now, according to the experts, he personally or through his assistants managed to classify parts of the “Kremlin report”, which blocks the possibility of immediate application of the US law designed to combat money laundering by criminal means. At the same time, Trump managed to ruin relations with the main foreign allies of the United States – also to Moscow’s great pleasure
This “bromance” between the two leaders became so obvious that even the well-known Russian-American historian, security specialist and the late Alexander Litvinenko’s collaborator, Yuri Felshtinsky, noted that “all the details of the agreement between Putin and Trump are out in the open because both sides are so candid about them. It’s as though they’re trying to make it perfectly clear that they are in alliance“.
The apex of this policy was the recent combination of three events: classifying of the most important parts of the “Kremlin report”, as mentioned above, inviting sanctioned Russian spy chiefs to visit the US, and the notorious “Nunes memorandum”. After that, even Russian military analysts could not restrain their joy and admitted that Trump acts in their interests.
“The publication of Devin Nunes’s report and the investigation of the materials presented in it portend a large-scale purge of the FBI, other US special services and the DOJ, and a political earthquake in Congress. The intelligence services are the main institutions of American democracy, and if Trump managed to co-opt them, then the days of the fake globalist press and the Congress that has fallen into imbecility are numbered,”predicted the authors of the Military Review, rejoicing that Trump “went on the offensive”, wasn’t afraid to openly communicate with the Russian intelligence and will soon achieve the complete destruction of the mechanism of separation of powers, free press and independent, law-abiding judiciary.
At the same time, all the leaders of the US intelligence agencies are unanimous in their opinion: Moscow will try to intervene in the forthcoming midterm elections in November 2018. Even Trump-appointed Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said that the threat is quite real, and the American public must be informed in order “to not allow some Russians to tell us how we should vote.” However, Trump still hasn’t declared what steps he’ll take to counter the threat.
“Indictments from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and the president’s response to them, point to a more troubling and increasingly likely motivation: President Trump does not want to stop Kremlin interference intended to sway our elections in his favor. Rather, he welcomes it… Rather than echo this cry from our intelligence community, the president is actively obstructing efforts to stop the attacks… Trump still promotes divisive anti-American propaganda messaging from the Kremlin, and continues to cover for Putin by misleading Americans about Russian interference,” – writes in his article the former CIA officer, the head of the new conservative movement “Stand Up Republic” Evan McMullin. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence expressed the same fears in his speech.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin continues to support Trump using the same methods that were used during the election campaign:
The use of trolls and propaganda materials created “under a foreign flag”. In July 2017, I put out a report on the similarity between the propaganda strategies of “Putinism” and “Trumpism.” However, in addition to the apparent similarity of techniques and tactics, I often found identical language, pictures and slogans, not to mention rhetoric. A vivid example of the “flow” of Russian slander into American mass media is a smear against James Comey published in an English-language source, but using the Russian word pravda (truth), written in Latin letters.In general, discrediting the investigation and slandering investigators has now become the main theme of both the Republican propaganda and the Russian one supporting it. Let’s recall the rhetoric from the aforementioned Military Review article “Trump Is Ours Again”, where the investigation by the special prosecutor, the FBI and the Department of Justice is called a “conspiracy against Trump and fabricating false accusations against him,” organized by the “informal party of neocons-globalists.”
It’s worth mentioning that the Russian trolls increased their activity right before the release of the “Nunes Memorandum”. The Twitter hashtag #ReleaseTheMemo was originally published by several Republican senators on January 18th of this year, and on the same day it was picked up by Wikileaks. At the same time, as indicated on the website of the American Alliance for Securing Democracy from January 14 to January 31, members of the Alliance studied 159 major articles distributed from the URLs of Kremlin-linked accounts on Twitter. As a result, it turned out that 31% of the trending links were devoted to the legends of the “Deep State” and attacks on the FBI, the Department of Justice and the Mueller probe. Half of these articles were devoted to the release of the “Nunes Memo”. Other targets of Russian trolls were Hillary Clinton, Andrew McCabe and Lindsey Graham. An anti-immigration theme was also trending. Based on this data, congressmen Dianne Feinstein and Adam Schiff sent a letter to the Twitter and Facebook management asking them to investigate the bot activity.
During this period, I monitored activities of various pro-Trump groups on social media, such as Trump 2020 groups on Facebook. The bulk of their posts in late January-early February had a #ReleaseTheMemo hashtag and demanded to release the memorandum. Moreover, pro-Trump activists did not hide the true purpose of their demand – the captions on a number of memes that were published directly claimed: “Release the memorandum – finish the investigation.”
Meanwhile, the Russian press continues to strongly support Trump. In particular, the business newspaper Vzglyad regularly quotes Trump’s passages regarding CNN as a source of “fake news”, translates his Twitter messages about “fake media out of control”, and also publishes their own “analytics” about how “CNN is on the verge of collapse”, being “trapped in anti-Trump propaganda and negative personnel selection.”
Kremlin continues its attempts to influence the Russian-speaking community. In early March of last year, “Ekho Moskvy” began to print one article after another that, while avoiding making excuses for Putin and his policies, nevertheless, in many respects, repeated the Kremlin’s rhetoric about “McCarthyism”, “Russophobia” and “innocent meetings with the Russian ambassador “. Journalist Mikhail Taratuta even called on Trump “to go on the attack”, gave detailed advice on attacking Democrats and rejoiced that Trump “landed a blow on his opponent.” And the author was not at all embarrassed that the “blow” he had in mind was the unconfirmed and subsequently discredited Trump’s statement that Obama allegedly listened to his telephone conversations.
American fans of Trump, especially in the Russian-speaking community, are also concerned about the progress of the investigation, and periodically put forward arguments against its continuation, which are strikingly reminiscent of Putin’s rhetoric during the protests of 2011-12. In particular, they tried to scare the Republicans with the “wrathful reaction of Trump voters” if the impeachment is allowed to go forward, and then pointed out that the continuation of the investigation could lead to violence and bloodshed in the streets, and therefore, “everything must be done to prevent it.”
Simply put, what we had here was ordinary blackmail, and Russian supporters of Trump explicitly warned that even if he was really guilty of unlawful ties with the Kremlin, law enforcement agencies and Congress shouldn’t bring the impeachment charges in order to avoid a “civil war”, and therefore one should turn a blind eye to his crimes, even if those are confirmed.
Trump is supported by the majority of the Russian-language media in the US and any insulting posts about Trump and Putin, along with the “Ukrainian propaganda”, are forbidden in the closed social media groups for Russian Americans. Simultaneously, new social media groups for Russian-American Republicans voters are being formed. Of course, in itself, such actions are absolutely legal, but their zealotry and wide reach into the Russian-speaking population are alarming.
Another phenomenon worth mentioning are American followers of Trump who continue to actively disseminate defamatory material even after it’s been refuted by legal documents, investigations and sometimes even by Trump himself. Such blatant disdain for facts in a country with a free press and easy access to any alternative source of information is, to put it mildly, a very strange situation that cannot be attributed to a mere “delusion”.
Of course, in most cases, there is no direct collusion between these propagandists and Russia, but rather there is a clear lack of principles, which leads to putting the interests of the party or hatred of the political enemies above the interests of the country. The belief that “the end justifies the means” has already been repeatedly acted upon by the American radical right. However, let’s not forget the wording from the Mueller indictment, where it says that the accused acted “together with other persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury.” Thus, we should expect to be presented with the new charges.
From all this, we can draw the main conclusion: Russia’s interference in the internal affairs of the United States and its support for actions that benefit Russia but are destructive for America do not apply only to past or future elections. It continues today, not stopping for a single day. A year ago, I wrote that the Cold War moved inside the United States borders. Now, the future of not only American democracy, but also the vector of development of the entire Western civilization depends on its outcome.