The white nationalist and overtly racist groups that overwhelmed Charlottesville, Virginia last year have blood on their hands. Their acts of violence led to the death of Heather Heyer, a counter-protestor who stood for social justice in America.
Few could have predicted the stratospheric rise of nativist rhetoric and violence in America. According to one GOP lawmaker, however, the Russian government likely anticipated it.
In an interview with CNN, Rep. Tom Garrett Jr., R-Va., suggested that Russian agents actively participated in the racial divisions that manifested in Charlottesville in July of last year. Garrett said that FBI officials told him in a closed-session briefing two months ago that Russia amplified the racial clashes at that "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville.
“The Russian intermeddling is seeking to pit Americans against Americans, to undermine confidence in Western-style democracies,” Garrett told CNN. “They use events like this divisive racial fight, which really ignores the commonality that we as Americans have with one another regardless of our race or ethnicity or religion.”
Garrett's disclosure comes a day before white nationalists are set to hold another "United the Right" rally, this time in Washington, D.C.
It's long been known that Russia exploited the deep-rooted racial tensions in America during the 2016 election. Social media accounts operated by Russian intelligence frequently focused on racial issues in the U.S. But these attempts to divide Americans apparently went beyond the political discourse. Russians wanted the racial grievances to explode into public confrontations.
For years, even decades, the Republican Party has seemingly ignored the racial prejudice that has infected its base. Trump was able to identify this animus to energize non-traditional voters. As the dog whistle racism graduated into megaphone, Republicans failed to address the ugly virus consuming its voters.
Now Republicans are willing to point fingers. Russia seems to be at the receiving end of this blame game.
“What they’re trying to do is make the world safe for kleptocrats and oligarchs and dictators like (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” Garrett said on Saturday. “That’s what scares me most—that Americans will be pitted against Americans over real differences but that are minimal in the grand scheme of things.”
VIDEO: On @CNN @RepTomGarrett says the FBI Director told him directly in a briefing two months ago that Russian inter meddling had to do with fanning the flames in Charlottesville. pic.twitter.com/rorpfeWA95
— Ryan Nobles (@ryanobles) August 11, 2018