MSNBC counterterrorism analyst Malcolm Nance said Monday the Russian Federation had carried out a brilliant intelligence operation in the form of a mass online disinformation campaign, to the point that the U.S. would "welcome an invasion."
Speaking with Brian Williams on "The 11th Hour," Nance argued the Russian trolling campaign designed to influence the 2016 election and boost Republicans had torn apart the country.
"What Russia has done here, and where the true brilliance of this intelligence operation comes from, is way back in the early 2000s the Russian military conducted a strategic study and started carrying out a disinformation plan in which they said that instead of carrying out kinetic warfare against your enemies, the best thing we can do is create a disinformation and frame around that nation to the point where over time, as we are constantly tearing them apart and feeding them with false information, they would actually welcome an invasion," he said. "So Russia has done that to the United States."
A report prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded Russians engaged in a variety of tactics to influence the vote of African Americans and Democratic voters to boost President Donald Trump, adding the trolling is "active and ongoing." The 2016 influence campaign was spearheaded by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm owned by a businessman who is close friends with Vladimir Putin.
Russians continue to try and divide the country on racial and political lines, the report said. These include creating dozens of social media accounts targeting blacks online with divisive rhetoric, as well as conspiratorial attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller and former FBI Director James Comey.
Nance said the efforts began long before 2016, saying the Trump connection began in 2011 with Russian Maria Butina and her infiltration of the National Rifle Association and the fundamentalist Christian Right. Butina pleaded guilty in federal court to attempting to influence the election as a foreign agent.
"Russia was pushing these disinformation themes then," he said. "Then in 2013, they stood up the Russian Federation Internet Research Agency which built all of these memes and tropes which became the cruise missiles of fake news and disinformation designed to do what it did today, take one-third of the United States population and make them refuse to believe what they see before their very eyes and may have elected a president in the process."
Williams said he was heartbroken that the Russians could so easily exploit racial tensions in the United States.
"It was done at the cost of less than a couple of cruise missiles. They now own the mindset of one-third of this nation," Nance said.
He added it was clear the Russians had American assistance to suppress the black vote and help elect Trump.
"Wow," Williams said. "Malcolm Nance, this is why we ask you all the time to come on this broadcast. Scary stuff, but it needs to be said. Needs to be heard."
Fox News host Tucker Carlson mocked Nance and Williams on his program Tuesday night, saying the idea of a decades-long conspiracy between Trump—when he still counted himself a New York liberal—Russia, the NRA and the Christian Right was implausible.
"Holy smokes," Carlson said sarcastically. "This is a tsunami of news."