Russia Contributed To Charlottesville Rally Violence, GOP Lawmaker Claims

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Republican lawmaker and Representative for Virginia’s fifth congressional district, Tom Garrett, said FBI Director Christopher Wray told him Russians contributed to last year’s violence the Charlottesville rally, The Hill reports.

Garrett claims to have been briefed on the matter during a closed session, around two months ago.

“I sat in a closed session briefing probably two months ago about Charlottesville with the director of the FBI, amongst others, and asked if Russian inter-meddling had to do with fomenting the flames of what happened in Charlottesville. I was told yes, it did.”

As The Hill noted, Garret has made similar claims before, linking white supremacist violence at the the Charlottesville rally to foreign influence, but he has now contributed these claims to FBI Director Christopher Wray.

“[Russia uses] events like this divisive racial fight… and this is the sort of thing they do,” the Representative for Virginia’s fifth congressional district concluded.

Interestingly enough, Garrett is not the first person to make this claim. In 2017, a security expert and former National Security Agency analyst and counterintelligence officer named John R. Schindler shared his professional opinion in a column for the Observer.

Schindler argued that the Russians may have had something to do, indirectly at the very least, with the violence which ended in the death of one woman and injuries to dozens of others. According to Schindler, “there are connections between Moscow and the Western far-right which are more troubling than mere ideological fellow-traveling.”

To illustrate his point, the former NSA analyst discussed the case of Richard Spencer, who was also present at the Charlottesville rally, and who is considered to be the de facto leader of the American far-right. Spencer, Schindler wrote, is a Putinphile who does not shy away from praising the authoritarian leader every chance he gets.

Spencer’s wife Nina Byzantina, on the other hand, is a Russian far-rightist with Kremlin connections. According to Schindler’s analysis, she parrots Putin on most issues, foreign and domestic, and isn’t afraid to voice her support for the Russian leader via social media.

Furthermore, Schindler wrote that the Russians have been subverting various European countries using the same technique: recruiting, training and arming neo-Nazis. The analyst noted that are no publicly known cases of American far-rightists receiving training from Russian intelligence, but claims the Charlottesville rally was, at the very least, inspired by Kremlin propaganda.

The former NSA analyst concluded that America needs to identify and dismantle Russian operations on its ground.

If what Tom Garrett is saying – that FBI Director Christopher Wray told him Russians contributed to last year’s violence the Charlottesville rally – is true, Schindler’s arguments hold water.