The Lawfare Podcast: Decoding Aleksandr Ionov’s Influence Operation with Thomas Rid and Brandon Van Grack

Jen Patja, Quinta Jurecic, Brandon L. Van Grack, Thomas Rid
Monday, August 8, 2022, 12:00 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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On July 29, the Justice Department announced the indictment of Aleksandr Ionov, a Russian national and president of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia. Ionov is charged with “conspiring to have U.S. citizens act as illegal agents of the Russian government”—and the Justice Department alleges that he was essentially running a years-long influence operation within the United States on behalf of the FSB, the Russian intelligence agency. The indictment is a wild ride, with a number of Americans listed as unindicted co-conspirators.

To discuss, Quinta Jurecic sat down with Thomas Rid—professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies and author of a book on Eastern bloc influence operations called “Active Measures”and Brandon Van Grack, a partner and co-chair of the National Security and Crisis Management practices at the law firm Morrison and Foerster and a former official at the Justice Department, where—among other things—he served as senior assistant special counsel to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. They talked through what to make of the allegations against Ionov: are they alarming, or evidence of clumsiness and incompetence on the part of Russia? What can we say about the Justice Department’s strategy in bringing this case and where the investigation might go?

Jen Patja is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.
Quinta Jurecic is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a senior editor at Lawfare. She previously served as Lawfare's managing editor and as an editorial writer for the Washington Post.
Brandon L. Van Grack is a partner and co-chair of the National Security and Crisis Management practices at Morrison & Foerster LLP. He is a former senior national security official at the U.S. Department of Justice, where he served as Chief of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) Unit, Senior Assistant Special Counsel to Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division, Trial Attorney in the Counterintelligence & Export Control Section, and as a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia.
Thomas Rid is a Professor of Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Rid is the Founding Director of the Alperovitch Institute at SAIS.

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