Russia wants a second term for President Donald Trump, but the Kremlin has a lot more help going into next year's election.
Trump's chaos, inexperience and odd fealty to President Vladimir Putin has weakened the U.S. and allowed Russia to step into the resulting power vacuum, and so far the Trump administration seems unwilling to prevent the Kremlin from interfering in 2020, according to former FBI agent Clint Watts writing for The Daily Beast.
Watts warned that Kremlin propagandists would try to connect populists on the American right and left through shared narratives intended to normalize Russia's agenda -- with the long-term goal of getting the U.S. to withdraw from foreign battlefields and global markets, and weakening democracies around the globe.
"Putin wants Americans to hear from Americans that America is littered with infighting and violence between identity groups," Watts said. "That capitalism a corrupt system empowering elites over the people; that the U.S. an imperialist war mongering country, that democracy a fraud perpetrated by competing elitist factions and the nation destined for a divided dystopian future."
Conservative media is already pushing pro-Russia messages and false, misleading or manipulated content, according to Watts, and the Kremlin will rely on those outlets to further divide American voters.
"Moving forward, Putin’s propagandists will employ the 'Five R’s' on American conservatives: remind Americans of their missteps, repost (reshare & retweet) organic American content supporting Russia’s agenda, repurpose vitriolic American narratives to manipulate unwitting audiences, repeat White House attacks on other Americans, and route conspiracies and alternative content through fringe populist information sources," Watts said.
Fox News broadcasters like Tucker Carlson push some of the same conspiracy theories -- such as fears about 5G networks -- that Russian media outlets do, and pro-Trump outlets like One America News Network do the same thing.
Trump himself has repeatedly repeated highly specific pieces of Russian propaganda to take Putin's side against U.S. allies and American foreign policy, Watts said.