U.S. White Nationalist Group Linked to Pro-Kremlin Propagandist
Hatewatch found an email address ending with a Russian domain name referenced across the source code of a network of three extreme, far-right websites that operate primarily in the U.S. Those three websites share the same Google Analytics account, one that was first used by a notorious pro-Kremlin propagandist named Charles Bausman.
All three websites feature bylines used by members of The Right Stuff, a white nationalist organization that helped plan and promote the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. The Right Stuff is also the same white nationalist organization for which U.S. State Department Official Matthew Q. Gebert covertly recruited members, as Hatewatch first reported in 2019. At least two of the websites have published inflammatory, racist rhetoric in response to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that have erupted across the U.S. in recent months. Members of The Right Stuff have also defended eruptions of far-right violence in response to civil unrest this year.
Russia-Insider.com (Russia Insider), National-Justice.com (National Justice) and Truthtopowernews.com (Truth to Power News) share the same account in Google Analytics, which is a tool the proprietors of those websites use to analyze traffic. The Russian email ID Hatewatch found, which ends with the domain “errand.ru,” is buried near the bottom of each website’s source code. Hatewatch attempted to contact the errand.ru email ID found in the source code of the three extremist websites on Sept. 15. The email Hatewatch sent did not bounce back, but no one responded. After Hatewatch sent the request for comment through Outlook, that email server registered the name of person behind it: Aleksandr Shatskih. Hatewatch reached out to Google for more details about who set up the shared analytics account, but the company did not respond.
The three extremist websites linked by the same Google Analytics account are also united thematically, though Russia Insider is more explicitly pro-Kremlin than the other two. All three websites traffic in disinformation. All three websites denigrate Jewish people, women, non-white people, LGBTQ people and leftists. In some cases, the websites publish overlapping material, like when members of The Right Stuff announced the formation of a self-described political party in August. The sites are also strikingly similar in their design, as evidenced by: Example 1, Example 2 and Example 3.
The Right Stuff is an organization led by Michael “Enoch” Peinovich, a Holocaust-denying podcaster whose views have tilted more towards explicit neo-Nazism in recent years. Peinovich sent a cease-and-desist letter to Hatewatch in February 2019 in response to a request for comment about a leaked 2017 video in which he and affiliates of The Right Stuff burned books and performed Hitler salutes around a fire. People who have attended events hosted by Peinovich and The Right Stuff have described the group as a cult. The Right Stuff has local chapters across the country, which they refer to as “pool parties.” In addition to hyping the violent Charlottesville rally, Peinovich and his allies were instrumental in galvanizing white supremacist support for President Trump during the 2016 election. Hatewatch reached out to Peinovich’s lawyer for a comment about this story but did not receive a response.
Hatewatch’s findings regarding the network of white nationalist websites come after news that a whistleblower accused Trump administration officials of doctoring intelligence reports in order to downplay both the threat of white supremacy and Russia’s efforts to interfere in U.S. affairs. The Department of Homeland Security, the agency accused of altering intelligence reports, has not responded to the accusation. Hatewatch has found no evidence suggesting the Trump campaign is connected to the efforts of Russia Insider or TRS.
Fascism, Putin and a U.S. State Department official
With a connection that dates back to August 2014, Russia Insider is the first property associated with the Google Analytics account Hatewatch found during this investigation. The website is edited by a man named Charles Bausman. Bausman lived in Moscow for the better part of three decades and published the website out of Russia until as recently as late 2017. Russia Insider is pro-Kremlin and also celebrates fascism. For example, the site has published articles with such titles as “The Latest Russian Fighter Jet Blows America’s Away” next to an entire list of articles with the tag “Hitler Was a Great Man.” Russia Insider also sometimes promotes content originally published by members of The Right Stuff. Bausman, who once contributed analysis to Russia’s state-controlled television network Russia Today, started publishing more explicitly pro-fascist and antisemitic material to his website in early 2018.
The most recent website linked to the Google Analytics account is Truth to Power News, a new website that Bausman founded, according to a Russia Insider post written in April. Bausman described the project in that post as a “general news site,” but a large share of the content published on Truth to Power News was originally produced by a group of men who are affiliated with The Right Stuff. The remaining content on Truth to Power News is other white supremacist propaganda written by extremists, including Jared Taylor of American Renaissance, and republished conspiracy theory posts from such websites as Natural News. Bausman described himself as an admirer of President Trump in 2019, and the new website also features bylines from Cassandra Fairbanks, a pundit who once worked for the Kremlin-funded news agency Sputnik. Fairbanks, who once said she would be thankful to Russia if proven that they helped elect Trump, claimed not to know Bausman when Hatewatch reached out for comment.
Bausman’s Truth to Power News website carries podcasts created by Matthew Q. Gebert, the U.S. State Department official who was suspended from his position following Hatewatch’s August 2019 investigation into him. Gebert, who once ran a chapter of Peinovich’s organization, has an interest in Russia. He met his wife, a woman of Serbian descent who is also part of the white supremacist movement, during a collegiate study-abroad in Moscow. Under a pseudonym, Gebert once wrote an article for a white nationalist publication suggesting that whites should form a strategic alliance with Russians along racial lines. A family friend who asked not to be identified told Hatewatch about Gebert, “These white nationalist assholes worship Mother Russia, and we know how Matt [Gebert] feels about Russia,” referring to his interest in that country.
Although Gebert’s name no longer appears in the State Department’s directory, the agency has never clarified to the public whether he is still receiving a salary while producing the propaganda that appears on Bausman’s website. Hatewatch has reached out to them for comment on this matter multiple times for over a year but has not received a response. Gebert did not reply to an email requesting comment on this story.
‘Shady’ funding and a home in Lancaster
Bausman has a long history of promoting Russian President Vladimir Putin to an English-speaking audience and communicated with a pro-Putin oligarch about money around the time Russia Insider first launched.
In 2015, the website The Interpreter published emails showing Bausman asked for money from pro-Kremlin Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev through his associate, Alexey Komov. The U.S. Department of Treasury sanctioned Malofeev in December 2014 “because he is responsible for or complicit in, or has engaged in, actions or polices that threaten the peace, security, stability, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Ukraine and has materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of [pro-Kremlin separatist activity].”
Natalia Antonova, a journalist and Russia expert who lived in Moscow for seven years, overlapping the time when Bausman launched his website, told Hatewatch the timing of Russia Insider’s creation is significant, because it launched when Putin needed positive press in the U.S., due to backlash over Russia’s conflict with Ukraine.
“Russia Insider is founded in 2014, which is the same year that Russia attacks Ukraine. And Konstantin Malofeev is fingered as a financial link between so-called rebels in Ukraine and Moscow,” Antonova explained. “Russia was feeling embattled [by the Western press] because most people were not big fans of what Russia was doing to Ukraine. Then, here comes [Russia Insider] where if your takes are too extreme for [Kremlin controlled] Russia Today, that’s where you can get them published.”
Bausman spoke to far-right disinformation purveyor Alex Jones on Infowars in 2019, while traveling with the Russian TV Channel, Rossiya-1 [Russia 1], according to a post on his website. (Bausman did not elaborate in the post on why he was traveling with that Kremlin-owned station.) Bausman told Jones he grew up in Russia because his father was the head of the Moscow bureau of the Associated Press. He said after years of making Russia his home, he moved from being a businessman to producing his propaganda website because he wanted to present a more positive vision of Russian military conflicts to Americans.
“We put up this site. We felt it was our responsibility as Americans to speak out and say something [in defense of Russia], and talk to our countrymen. And the thing just went ballistic,” Bausman told Jones, referring to his claim that Russia Insider garnered 15 million views within the first three months of the site going live.
Political scientist Marlene Laruelle of George Washington University, who is an expert on the Kremlin and its influence on far-right nationalist movements, told Hatewatch that the country’s involvement in extremist groups beyond Russia’s border often originates from the existence of a grey zone for “ideological entrepreneurship.” She said that when pro-Kremlin entrepreneurs like Bausman take independent actions to promote extremism outside Russia’s borders, it’s part of a decentralized campaign, making it tricky to prove direct coordination with Putin or Russian military intelligence.
“Each ideological entrepreneur has his own portfolio, and is put in competition with others; nothing is secured or guaranteed. They create new networks and platforms that may be later approved or disapproved by the Kremlin. This is a largely decentralized process: the centralization only comes later, post-factum – if successful,” Laruelle explained in an interview. Laruelle also noted that pro-Kremlin ideological entrepreneurs sell “services – websites, military advisors, paramilitary training – to local groups or individuals,” to provide support, without necessarily giving them marching orders.
“Russia is a provider of illiberal services to already existing actors, but does not create from scratch these illiberal actors,” Laruelle noted.
Antonova, who underscored Bausman’s connection to Malofeev, described Russia Insider’s funding to Hatewatch as “shady.” Bausman purchased a home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for $442,000 in November 2018, according to property records reviewed by Hatewatch. Hatewatch was unable to determine what Bausman does for money beyond his involvement with extremist websites like the ones reported here.
Hatewatch visited Bausman’s home in Lancaster on Sept. 25 to seek a comment about the websites and also forthcoming stories related to this investigation. He had two political signs on his yard, one promoting Trump and another promoting “ReOpen PA,” a slogan concentrated around eliminating business-related safety measures instituted in Pennsylvania following the COVID-19 pandemic. “I don’t want to speak to the media,” Bausman told Hatewatch. He also asked if Hatewatch was publishing a story about the websites and when it would be published.
On Sept. 14, while Hatewatch was in the middle of conducting this investigation, Bausman announced that he was temporarily halting publication on his sites, due to what he described as family circumstances. “I publish these sites from my hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA, in the national news today, incidentally, because of BLM and Antifa rioting over a police shooting of a [H]ispanic man,” he wrote in that statement, referring to the outcry over Lancaster police shooting a knife-wielding man, which was ruled a homicide one day later. The local outlet Lancaster Online reported on Sept. 26 that Trey Garrison, who Hatewatch identified as “Spectre,” a white nationalist who produces propaganda for The Right Stuff, is producing a local, reactionary blog called “The Lancaster Patriot,” focused on local matters that impact Bausman’s city. Hatewatch will publish follow up reporting on Lancaster Online’s investigation and how it relates to Bausman soon.
Talk of civil unrest in America
National Justice, the second of the three websites linked to the Google Analytics account and the errand.ru email ID, is the current blogging destination of Joseph Jordan, a neo-Nazi of Latin-American heritage. Jordan organizes with and creates podcasts for The Right Stuff under the pseudonym “Eric Striker.” National Justice first appeared online in 2019, following the publication of a Hatewatch investigation into Jordan’s identity, which explicitly underscored how active he is in producing propaganda. From 2015-17, Jordan wrote nearly 700 posts for the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, but he was mostly producing podcasts with Peinovich of The Right Stuff by summer 2019, which is the time National Justice went live. If someone, or a group, helped or encouraged Jordan to create National Justice, they resurrected one of the busier bylines in the world of internet-based, far-right extremism when they did it.
Jordan’s current website publishes sensational propaganda about left-wing “antifa” demonstrators and defends white supremacist and white vigilante organizing. For example, Jordan published a post in August defending Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old accused of killing two people and wounding another during an eruption of civil unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin. “In the wake of police and state negligence, armed local citizens in Kenosha banded together to defend one another and their small businesses,” Jordan wrote of vigilantism in that Wisconsin city. Hatewatch reached out to Jordan’s lawyer for a comment on this story but did not receive a reply.
Unknown sums of money and a private embrace of violence
Peinovich, whose connections to Jordan date back to at least 2017, receives money through paywall subscriptions to his podcast website, but his finances are not transparent. Peinovich had a little less than a quarter of a million dollars invested in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin as of November 2019, according to research conducted by cybersecurity analyst John Bambenek. A source who rubbed shoulders with members of The Right Stuff in 2017 told Hatewatch that at that time, a man who does security for them confided that Peinovich paid him $40,000 per year, not including stipends for hotels and travel.
Peinovich also softens his tone in public to make his fascist ambitions seem more palatable to outsiders, according to private correspondences obtained by Hatewatch. The Right Stuff leader told a private Facebook chat run by a neo-Confederate spinoff of his group in December 2017 that his fascist ideology would eventually lead to violence but urged other extremists to keep that detail secret.
“I think the rant I did on [my podcast] today was good, but I want to clarify a few things in private,” Peinovich told the closed Facebook group. “That was public, and we still did the bit about how we know there will be violence at some point. We can’t do that bit publicly ever again. Everyone gets it. Seriously. Anyone who has come over to this [movement] gets that and is prepared for that. But when people first start [in the movement] often times they are not morally prepared for that, so you can’t hit them right away with the fact that eventually there will be violence.”
Photo illustration by SPLC