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.
Watergate’s John Dean thinks Trump wrote part of his legal team’s brief — because it’s so terrible
Former White House counsel for Richard Nixon, John Dean, explained that the legal brief out of President Donald Trump's White House was so bad that it had to have been dictated by Trump himself.
Saturday evening, Trump's legal team, chaired by Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, filed their own form of a legal brief that responded to the case filed by Democrats ahead of Tuesday's impeachment trial.
The document called the proceedings “constitutionally invalid” and claims House Democrats are staging a “dangerous attack” with a “brazen and unlawful attempt to overturn the results of the 2016 election and interfere with the 2020 election.”
WATCH: Prince Harry explains why he and Meghan are leaving the royal family — but promises ‘a life of service’
Prince Harry posted a video from an HIV/AIDS fundraiser his mother once supported, where he explained his methodology for leaving his profile role as a royal.
"I will continue to be the same man who holds his country dear," said Harry.
He went on to say that he doesn't intend to walk away and he certainly won't walk away from his causes and interests. "We intend to live a life of service."
In the speech, he thanked those who took him under their wing in the absence of his mother
"I hope you can understand that it's what it had come to," he said for why their family intends to step back.
‘You cannot expect anything but fascism’: Pedagogy theorist on how Trump ‘legitimated a culture of lying, cruelty and a collapse of social responsibility’
The impeachment of Donald Trump appears to be a crisis without a history, at least a history that illuminates, not just comparisons with other presidential impeachments, but a history that provides historical lessons regarding its relationship to a previous age of tyranny that ushered in horrors associated with a fascist politics in the 1930s. In the age of Trump, history is now used to divert and elude the most serious questions to be raised about the impeachment crisis. The legacy of earlier presidential impeachments, which include Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, provide a comparative historical context for analysis and criticism. And while Trump’s impeachment is often defined as a more serious constitutional crisis given his attempt to use the power of the presidency to advance his personal political agenda, it is a crisis that willfully ignores the conditions that gave rise to Trump’s presidency along with its recurring pattern of authoritarian behavior, policies, and practices. One result is that the impeachment process with its abundance of political theater and insipid media coverage treats Trump’s crimes as the endpoint of an abuse of power and an illegal act, rather than as a political action that is symptomatic of a long legacy of conditions that have led to the United States’ slide into the abyss of authoritarianism.