Did California's Ro Khanna get duped by Russia's propaganda?

Did California's Ro Khanna get duped by Russia's propaganda?
© Greg Nash

Congratulations, Rep. Ro KhannaRohit (Ro) KhannaNew Dem star to rattle DC establishment Ocasio-Cortez to visit Capitol Hill next week FTC Democrat hires tech critic who wrote paper describing Amazon as monopoloy MORE (D-Calif.), it appears you were just duped by Russia (and bragged about it). As a result, you promoted Russian propaganda about Ukraine’s Azov Battalion being Nazis with text in the behemoth $1.3 trillion spending bill. The question is, who put you up to it?

Ukraine is not your jam. Your focus is on visiting coal mine towns, antitrust issues and, as one of Silicon Valley’s representatives, technology — all legitimate issues. Yet, even though experts on Ukraine are typically unfamiliar with the Azov Battalion, you weighed in on the issue. Of course, it is always possible that you have a secret obsession with Ukraine, but it's more likely that some K Street swamp creature asked for a favor.

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Just know, the favor was for Vladimir Putin.

 

Even though President TrumpDonald John TrumpWSJ: Trump ignored advice to confront Putin over indictments Trump hotel charging Sean Spicer ,000 as book party venue Bernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin MORE’s Russia drama sucks up all available oxygen, the Russians are still attacking the country. In this case, they are leveraging corruption to undermine U.S. policy — and you facilitated it.

It is ridiculous nonsense that Ukraine is beset with a bunch of Nazis. The Russians have been pushing this foolishness for a while. In Russia, if you want to discredit someone, call them a Nazi. Putin is using it to justify his war to his subjects. Russians are not particularly keen on attacking Ukraine. But if it is to free them from the yoke of Nazis, well, that’s different.

The reason why the Kremlin is using information war against the Azov Battalion, specifically, is partially because they sometimes make themselves easy PR targets. These are guys with guns fighting a Russian invasion, not a PR agency with media training. But the bigger reason is that the Azov Battalion is one of the most effective defensive units.

Russia can’t beat them on the battlefield, so they use K Street lobbyist sellouts to help cripple them. Who wants to provide guns to fascists? Nobody. That is the ruse you fell for.

You are filling illustrious shoes. In 2015, an unidentified lobbyist snookered Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersAP Analysis: 25 state lawmakers running in 2018 have been accused of sexual misconduct Portland activist stages ‘reparations happy hour’ Conyers III won't appear on primary ballot in race to replace his father MORE (D-Mich.) to do exactly what you have done. Conyers singled out the Azov Battalion to prevent it from getting assistance in the defense appropriations bill. The Defense Department objected, and the process of correcting the mistake in Conference created yet another opening for Russian propaganda. Only, this time, the bill has been signed into law. So whatever fix you choose has to make it to the president’s desk.

The technique Russia used was a classic KGB tactic — that’s the sure tell that what duped you was a Kremlin operation. In the 1980s, the KGB used this technique to spread the falsehood that the CIA created AIDS. Somehow, they convinced an Indian medical journal to print an article “proving” the case. They then referenced that article in publications all over the world.

In this instance, the Russian active measure began with an article in a publication that should know better: Foreign Policy. John Conyers read the piece on the Congressional Record. It then spread like wildfire among lazy journalists and Russia’s network of fools, knaves and propagandists.

Naturally, correcting the mistake should be your first order of business. And Khanna, should forswear writing laws, about which you have no expertise, at the instigation of lobbyists. That is just good governance. There is also a lesson here about how massive, 2,000-plus page spending bills lend themselves to corruption.

But this need not be a black mark on your record as the process of correcting it presents an opportunity for you to help your country. Help the country smoke out the K Street sellout. Identify who played you for a fool and left you holding Putin’s dirty laundry.

Russia is attacking the U.S., and quisling K Street lobbyists are helping them. Help us identify them.

Kristofer Harrison worked for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and was a foreign policy adviser to Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWashington needs to end hidden inflation tax on our capital gains GOP tax writer introduces bill to reduce capital gains taxes Senators push to clear backlog in testing rape kits MORE’s presidential campaign. He is a co-founder and principal of ITJ Strategies, a grassroots PR consultancy, and of AMS, a company that specializes in Russian information warfare, with offices in Washington and Kyiv. The company does not do any work on behalf of the Azov Battalion or related interests.