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.
“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.”
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.
‘Would make your head spin’: Omarosa explains dynamics between ‘repulsed’ Melania Trump and the president
Discussing yet another incident that saw first lady Melania Trump abruptly pull her hand away from her husband, Donald Trump, former White House adviser Omarosa Manigault Newman -- who has known the couple for years -- hinted that they have a difficult relationship before adding that the president's wife often expresses disgust with him.
In an interview reported by the Daily Mail, Manigault Newman -- who got her start with the president on 'The Apprentice' -- recalled interactions between the two and labeled their relationship, which has included the president's dalliance with an adult film star, "very strange."
‘Black Voices for Trump’ pastor whitewashes Jared Kushner’s racist comments as ‘absolutely true’
Rev. John Coats, head of the "Black Voices for Trump" group, on Tuesday dismissed racist remarks made by President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner.
In an interview on Fox News on Monday, Kushner had slammed Black Americans for "complaining" and suggested that they do not want to be successful.
Coats was asked about the remarks during an interview on MSNBC.
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WATCH: Self-proclaimed racist gets himself fired and arrested after harassing Black men
On Tuesday, 12 News reported that a Scottsdale, Arizona man seen proclaiming himself a racist and shouting slurs at two Black men in a viral video on Friday has lost his job and been arrested.
"Records show Scottsdale Police arrested Paul Ng, who is now facing disorderly conduct charges," reported Erica Stapleton. "The arrest comes after a video of the incident went viral over the weekend."
In the video, Ng approached 25-year-old YouTuber Dre Abram and his roommate, who were recording in Old Town Scottsdale for their podcast near Ng's condo. On the video, Ng can be heard saying, "I'm a racist," and "This is a no n****r zone." Abram posted the encounter to his social accounts, and it spread rapidly, with 182,000 shares on Instagram alone.