Russia pushing Jan. 6 propaganda to undermine Biden and help GOP win midterm elections: Intel reports
Vladimir Putin (Shutterstock)

Russia is already attempting to interfere with the 2022 midterm elections -- and their efforts have grown more sophisticated since 2016, according to intelligence reports delivered to the Biden administration.

President Joe Biden two weeks ago publicly called those operations "a pure violation of our sovereignty," but sources provided further detail about those efforts to CNN.

"There's definitely a spike in activity around elections — they do take an interest in down-ballot races — but the activity is sustained," said Emily Harding, the deputy staff director for the Senate Intelligence Committee until this spring. "It never really stopped, and we should not be linking our attention or efforts to the election cycle, because they're not."

One person familiar with the matter said intelligence reports show Russian operatives were sowing disinformation on social media and weaponizing U.S. media outlets, and other sources said the Kremlin was trying to capitalize on the debate over vaccines and masking -- and, especially, the Jan. 6 insurrection.

"The same outlets that were pushing election propaganda and disinformation are still doing that, and principally with respect to the insurrection at the moment," said former FBI agent Clint Watts, who's now with the Foreign Policy Research Institute. "Putin is siding with those in the insurrection, and they will continue to push on behalf of GOP and against Biden."

Russian operatives spread extremist viewpoints about Black Lives Matter and the police last year, when the Global Engagement Center started noticing Moscow pushing conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccines.

"It's not like they're picking a side," Harding said. "They're sitting on both sides and yelling from edges."