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WATCH: Ex-FBI agent Clint Watts explains how GOP lawmakers have been turned into Russian pawns

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Former FBI counterintelligence agent Clint Watts said President Donald Trump and some congressional Republicans almost acted as if they were carrying out a script from a Russian influence operation.

The cybersecurity expert told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” explained how such an operation would unfold, and he said the president and his GOP allies seemed to be pushing Kremlin propaganda and strategic goals.

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“First thing you do is you seed accounts in social media, seed players, operatives, political parties, NGOs, groups like that into the U.S. audience space, you align with them based on interest, financial being a big one, information being another one, common issues, like ‘America first,'” Wattsa said. “That’s great for Russia, because if America puts America first and the world second, Russia can get on the world stage.”

Influence operations seek to nudge their target audience toward certain behaviors, and he said Republican lawmakers who visited Russia this month were a perfect example of this.

“Over time you just cultivate those relationships, and the end goal is a behavior change in your target audience,” Watts said. “We saw this happen last week. We saw senators go to Russia and literally repeat lines that Russia would want them to say — sanctions aren’t working, maybe you shouldn’t pursue these, or everybody does influence and meddling.

“Sen. (Richard) Shelby (R-AL), he essentially repeated a line you will hear come out of the Kremlin,” Watts said, referring to the senator’s description of Russia as a competitor, not an adversary — which Trump has also repeated.

“That’s the behavior change they want,” Watts said. “The thing we don’t realize is that it is boiling the frog. It is very slow and the goal is to nudge the target audience, which is the Republican Party, to take on your agenda.”

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He said the House Judiciary Committee hearing with FBI agent Peter Strzok also advanced Russian interests at the expense of American institutions.

“You saw Republicans in Congress attacking another U.S. institution to defend President Trump, who’s under investigation from a Russia collusion and obstruction case,” Watts said. “This is exactly how active measures (play out), which is have your adversary fight with itself so they cannot fight with you and withdraw on the world stage.”

“At every single point, with the exception of one — removal of sanctions — Russia has advanced its goals and foreign policy,” he added.

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Governors emerge as the nation’s true leaders as Trump faceplants during coronavirus crisis

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This was the week that the United States and our region became the global epicenter for the coronavirus pandemic.

Across the country, the national death toll rose to near 1,200, with over 40 percent of those deaths in New York City and New Jersey.

This article was originally published by InsiderNJ.

For weeks, as conditions continued to deteriorate here, our national government under the leadership of Donald Trump has been in various stages of denial and obfuscation.

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‘How can we pray for you?’ Fox hosts lavish praise on Trump as he exits interview to call Putin

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Fox News hosts offered their prayers to President Donald Trump as he cut off his coronavirus update to call Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The president called in Monday morning to "Fox & Friends," which he regularly watches, and boasted about his administration's coronavirus response and attacked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom he slurred as a "sick puppy" for criticizing his handling of the crisis.

"We have the greatest economy in history and all of a sudden, one day, they said everybody has to stop, nobody can go to work, we have to stop and we think of this, we're paying people not to go to work," Trump said. "It was always the opposite. We paid people to work, now we're paying people not to go to work -- and with that, I have to go to work, too."

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Outrage as Trump sets bar for ‘good job’ on coronavirus: ‘Ready to hang a Mission Accomplished sign over 100,000 caskets’

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In a Sunday evening coronavirus press briefing President Donald Trump not only extended the federal government's social distancing policies to April 30, he extended beyond credulity what most would consider a good job.

Many are outraged after the President declared that he could have done nothing to battle the coronavirus pandemic and, according to scientific models, 2.2 million Americans would have died. Trump on Sunday then declared if less than 200,000 people in the U.S. die from coronavirus he should be praised.

“And so, if we could hold that down, as we’re saying, to 100,000 – it’s a horrible number, maybe even less, but to 100,000, so we have between 100 [thousand] and 200,000 [coronavirus deaths] – we altogether have done a very good job.”

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