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) KhannaCongress set for showdown with Trump over Kurds Is Congress too afraid to fight Big Pharma? Democrats probing whether groups booked Trump hotel rooms to earn president's favor: report 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.

Just know, the favor was for Vladimir Putin.


Even though President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Veterans group backs lawsuits to halt Trump's use of military funding for border wall Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails 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 ConyersEXCLUSIVE: Trump on reparations: 'I don't see it happening' McConnell: Reparations aren't 'a good idea' This week: Democrats move funding bills as caps deal remains elusive 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 CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Better Medicare Alliance - Trump has had a rough October Hillicon Valley: GOP lawmakers offer election security measure | FTC Dem worries government is 'captured' by Big Tech | Lawmakers condemn Apple over Hong Kong censorship Lawmakers condemn Apple, Activision Blizzard over censorship of Hong Kong protesters 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.