The Shape of Political Subversion: Executive to Legislative

The exodus of GOP conservatives from Congress continues into 2022 with Ohio Rep. Anthony Gonzalez withdrawing from a primary contest in submission to a Trump-controlled candidate. It is not often a young incumbent steps down, especially one who expands and diversifies the GOP tent in the spirit of former President George W. Bush’s once Latino-friendly leadership of the party.

The Ohio Republicans’ treatment of Rep. Gonzalez reveals an autocratically re-aligned GOP entity in which a GOP member cannot exercise representative conscience under his oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution by voting to impeach the former head of the GOP for inciting an attack on the co-equality and independence of the U.S. Senate in its election certification role. And that, based on frivolous lawsuits and anemic evidence against which the traditional GOP advocated “tort reform.”

Retaliating for Rep. Gonzalez’s vote to impeach him, the ex-President called Rep. Gonzalez a “sell-out” in June 2021 as if constitutionally-framed political conscience was something for sale. The Ohio GOP censured Gonzalez, and indeed, one could say it censored him, too. The Ohio GOP in this case, behaved like the old Soviet communist party, banning conscience and intellectual dissent with regard to a personality cult leader of “The Party.”

Together with the Q-element infecting the GOP today, this personality-cult problem expresses more of a mass psychological operation of reflexive control than a domestic political shift anywhere in particular. Much of the GOP has aligned itself with a man who behaves as dictators do the world over, and gives comfort to dictators and autocrats who have realized more power and favor in the past 4 years than they had as satellites of Moscow and Beijing in the 20th Century.

As Rep. Gonzalez steps away to shelter his family from the scorched-earth politics mainstreamed in the GOP by Trump-pardoned felon and nihilist Roger Stone’s corrosive influence, fringe conspiracy-theorists falsely cloak themselves in the Republican Party brand and run for office so as to deepen the personality cult and fanaticism in the GOP.

How did it get this bad? The potential in the GOP to be leveraged by an adversarially-controlled demagogue hit an obvious tipping point in the litigated election of Bush v. Gore, 2000. In two years prior, Vladimir Putin had been given the time as head of the FSB in 1998 and as First Prime Minister in 1999 to forecast the nearness of such a tipping point from his ‘main enemy’s’ litigation of the Clinton impeachment as if the “gridlock” complaint memorably panned by Ross Perot in the 1992 Presidential election were prophecy coming true. Indeed, the partisan wars from Watergate to Monicagate did set the stage for anger over unresolved, gridlocked issues heating-up the nation’s politics such that a third party exploit might provide a tipping point for a foreign intelligence effort.

The Gallup polls during the 2000 presidential election season (seen below) would have provided Putin’s KGB-dominated Russian state with confirmation that political warfare operations against the United States could work, and would be the most cost-effective end-run around U.S. military superpower. Spoiled American civilian society and leadership would have to become the inroad to undermining U.S. military and economic advantage.

The Russians have centuries of experience with political intrigue, human manipulation, personality cultism, provocation, mental warfare, infiltration, and deception. With the internet, Putin and his KGB regime could leverage that experience into American homes and offices via desktops, laptops, and phones. That these highly-effective devices had brought Americans to a stage of psychological obsession, addiction, dependence, and short-attention span was all the better, for all Russian intelligence had to do was reach through those devices into American hearts, minds, and neurological responses to reach those with the most malleable anger, and even better, the guns.

Moscow’s window of opportunity to exploit the tipping points on display and vie for control over the United States Executive branch was concealed by what nearly a century of Soviet autocratic political, economic and military pride and competition could not achieve: the disarming of American vigilance through the appearance of Russian weakness in all of the traditional instruments of power, including HUMINT.

Americans in their hubris considered Russia’s HUMINT capabilities passé compared with U.S. technological intelligence acumen. The Russians understood this. Then, Russian HUMINT merged with CYBERINT and SOCMINT and rode trojan horses across the open internet cables to cast spells of technological and human psychological influence on Americans’ desktops and laptops, accessing the Facebook social lives of unwitting, unprepared, and unsuspecting Americans. Of U.S. war veterans. Of blue collar business owners and workers alienated by feeling obsolete as high tech replaced low tech.

It was online that the SVR, GRU, and FSB would pose as American patriots throughout the Obama years and contrast Barack Obama in memes with every white action hero, war veteran, and macho personality there ever was, including Putin, while aligning Obama with terrorists based on Birther- disinformation, Islamist innuendo, and hatred for Obama’s Ivy League erudition as if none of that had to do with resentful racism.

All of that chatter may well have made President Obama react to the provocations in ways that made him appear to fit the stereotypes, as the Obama Administration did not then have the intelligence about the extent of Russia’s weaponization of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms. Such was provocation warfare permissively entering into the historic social scar-tissue of American demographics.

In the 1990s Putin’s cadres had tracked former Soviet communist party officials that went West and became clients of connected U.S. lobbyists. Those that would not follow Moscow’s dictates, Putin in the 2000s would eventually crush or cow. Those that helped Moscow achieve foreign intelligence objectives, not so much. Roger Stone and Paul Manafort had capitalized on representing former Soviet officials, oligarchs, and proxies, shopping for influence, business inroads, and luxury in the U.S. Putin’s FSB no doubt knew much about Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, and others through their former Soviet clients. Stone’s amoral and nihilistic history with Richard Nixon was so much dirty icing on the cake.

In considering the likelihood of a relationship between Moscow and Roger Stone, Stone’s claim to C-SPAN that he was a “volunteer” exploratory committee chair for Trump’s look at a 2000 presidential run raised a red flag, for as a lobbyist with a history of representing former Soviet foreign nationals, if he were working for same, could he not claim the volunteer exemption that a foreign national could claim from the Federal Election Campaign Act so long as he did not participate in campaign decisions or contribute money? And that, because lobbyists for foreign nationals don’t have to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act so long as they satisfy the federal Lobbying Disclosure Act and the principal beneficiary of their activities is not a foreign government or political party? Given the history of Stone’s behavior, these are reasonable questions in hindsight.

A third party had never been able to win an election against a mainstream party for President in the U.S., but may have caused one or the other mainstream party to lose elections. From Putin’s perspective, if the most powerful elements of a third party with overlapping hot-button issues with one of the mainstream parties was to infiltrate one of them, which would make more sense? The GOP or the Democratic Party or both? Such a Trojan horse movement, properly organized and funded, could provide the people, energy, motives, and sentiments to challenge and pressure aging party leaders by attacking their roles in gridlock on one-issue controversies such as gun rights, abortion, race, and immigration. Indeed, the Soviet history of seeking out Left Wing movements in the U.S. lacked gunpowder. To infiltrate and influence a bloc of Americans with the guns would add new options that Russian intelligence could take much further.

In 1999, Stone and Trump learned a great deal in furtherance of such a stratagem when Stone chaired Trump’s exploratory committee for a Presidential run under the Reform Party, discovering wild and woolly fringe groups, an actor-macho veteran in Jesse Ventura, a former KKK Grand Dragon and anti-Israel firebrand David Duke; anti-government militia groups; and single-issue fanatics with overlapping counterparts in mainstream party blocs.

The Reform Party had become factional and had retreated from the United We Stand ethos under Ross Perot’s leadership in 1992. After sampling and inciting some of that factionalism to further divide the Reform Party internally, Stone and Trump announced their withdrawal from consideration under the Reform Party under the guise of finding it too bigoted and divided to patronize. In the process, Stone had discovered much about tipping points and how to recruit Reform Party spin-offs into something that came to be known as the “Tea Party.”

In a series of emails, one can see Roger Stone’s imprint and style shared also by Trump in his operative communications aimed at dividing, leveraging, and commandeering elements of the Reform Party to infiltrate the Tea Party movement and run it as a Trojan Horse inside the GOP to usurp, divide, and party and use it as a weapon to balkanize the United States.

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