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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?