US intelligence officials: Russia encouraging racial violence ahead of the 2020 election

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Officials say Russia is working specifically to 'incite violence by white supremacist groups and to stoke anger among African Americans.'

The Russian government is working to incite racial violence ahead of the 2020 election, according to a New York Times report on Tuesday.

Russia used similar tactics prior to the 2016 elections.

The report, which relies on information from "seven American officials briefed on recent intelligence," revealed Russia's lead intelligence agency is working to "incite violence by white supremacist groups and to stoke anger among African Americans."

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Multiple officials who spoke to the outlet noted that this apparently includes working with at least one neo-Nazi group to expand the reach of hateful messaging and trying to "push black extremist groups toward violence."

Through its state media outlets, Russia is also highlighting stories of American racial division, police brutality, and anti-black racism in the Armed Services.

These efforts appear to go even further than what former special counsel Robert Mueller documented in his final report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election last spring.

In that report, Mueller meticulously described a "sweeping and systematic" campaign by Russia to help Trump win the election. In addition to hacking and releasing materials damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign and coordinating fake social media accounts to back Trump, Russia targeted "a number of black social justice activists while posing as a grassroots group called 'Black Matters US.'"

A Senate Intelligence Committee-commissioned report in 2018 found that Russia's intent was to convince black voters not to vote for Hillary Clinton. One Russia-tied social media account posted, "Black people are smart enough to understand that Hillary doesn’t deserve our votes! DON’T VOTE!”

In the end, Mueller did not find conclusive evidence of any criminal coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, despite Russia's efforts to get him elected.

Security officials have said Russia is already at work on interfering in the 2020 elections.

Last month, a top U.S. election security official told Congress that the intelligence community believes Russia is actively working to help reelect Trump, though some officials have disputed the conclusion that the efforts are aimed specifically at helping Trump win in November.

Trump, who benefited from Russia's efforts in 2016 has repeatedly dismissed these concerns.

"I want no help from any country, and I haven't been given help from any country,” he claimed last month, adding that he has not been briefed on any Russian misinformation efforts for 2020.

In 2018, Trump publicly questioned U.S. intelligence and endorsed Putin's denials of any 2016 election involvement. He has consistently dismissed allegations of Russian meddling as a "hoax," despite his own administration's intelligence.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.