In security footage from Jan. 6, it is easy to overlook the thin man wearing a red Trump hat who filters into the U.S. Capitol Building to record the mayhem with his phone.
He blends in with the mob, seemingly unexceptional by the chaotic standards of that day. But what he did afterward was far from routine.
Within 24 hours, the man, Charles Bausman, gave his recordings and commentary to a Russian television producer for a propaganda video. He then decamped to Moscow, where, appearing on a far-right television network owned by a sanctioned oligarch, he recently accused American media of covering up for neo-Nazis in Ukraine.
“We must understand that in the West,” Mr. Bausman told Russian viewers, “we are already in a situation of total lies.”
For Mr. Bausman — an American alumnus of Phillips Exeter Academy and Wesleyan University who speaks fluent Russian — it was the latest chapter in a strange odyssey. Once a financial executive who voted for President Barack Obama, he emerged in 2014 as a public critic of the left and of the United States, boosted by Russian state-sponsored organizations through speaking invitations, TV appearances and awards.
Central to his transformation was a series of websites he created pushing anti-America, pro-Russia themes, as well as racist and homophobic messaging. Some of his posts have racked up millions of views, and his 5,000-word screed on “the Jewish problem” has been hailed by antisemites around the world and translated into multiple languages.
Mr. Bausman’s path in some ways tracks a broader shift on the political right that embraces misinformation and sympathy toward Russia while tolerating an increasingly emboldened white nationalism. For its part, the Kremlin has sought to court conservatives in the United States and sow discord through a network of expats, collaborators and spies.
People who have written for Mr. Bausman’s websites or promoted his work have come under scrutiny by American intelligence, and the founder of a pro-Russia forum that hosted him and others was charged in March with being an unregistered agent of Moscow. [Continue reading…]