Russia Insider founder Charles Bausman traveled from his home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 and advanced as far as the Capitol’s balustrades after Trump’s speech, he said. Soon after, he left the country for Moscow.
Bausman, 57, is an American man known for producing the pro-Kremlin website Russia Insider, which he has in recent years infused with overtly fascist and antisemitic content. He mystifies not only researchers of the far right, who struggle to understand his objectives or his funding, but also his own family. Bausman’s older sister, Mary Watkins, who says she loves her brother but opposes his fascist politics, told Hatewatch she watched online as his wife, Kristina Bausman, originally from the rural community of Mednogorsk, Russia, posted a video to Facebook of what looked to her like a live scene from the Trump rally that descended into violence.
“I messaged her as everything was happening and said, ‘You’re not there, are you?’ She said, ‘No, no, we’re here in Lancaster,’” Watkins recalled of Jan. 6.
Hatewatch launched this investigation in January after an anonymous tipster alleged to us that Bausman “fled the country” after traveling to Washington, D.C., for the fateful Trump event. Hatewatch then visited Bausman’s home in Lancaster twice in March and interviewed more than a dozen of his neighbors but found no trace of him. Neighbors told Hatewatch that Bausman moved into their community in 2018, shortly after relocating from Russia. He promoted hard-right causes, including the anti-lockdown protests during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. He involved himself in #StoptheSteal activism perpetuating the lie of a stolen election alongside others in the far right, such as members of the gun-worshipping Unification Church cult. He hyped the Jan. 6 event on social media. Then he seemed to disappear from Lancaster, leaving his 2020 Christmas lights and a Betsy Ross-style American flag dangling from his porch.
“As I was just telling a friend, those are our neighbors. They’re big Trump supporters. They have ties to Russia. And they skipped town right after the insurrection,” a neighbor of Bausman’s told Hatewatch in March, pointing to the Christmas lights.
Hatewatch has elected to withhold the names of Bausman’s Lancaster neighbors to protect them from potential harassment. They decorated his street with roughly two dozen antiracist signs following the publication of a Hatewatch investigation linking Russia Insider to a small network of racist junk news websites, including a hyper-partisan blog focused on Lancaster County. The reason for what appears to have been his abrupt departure, whether a reaction to the election of Biden, or something else—some of the neighbors speculated to Hatewatch that Bausman may have been trying to avoid scrutiny from law enforcement because of his support for the insurrection—is unclear.
“Seems like he ran out of town in a big hurry,” one neighbor told Hatewatch, referring to the now-months-old Christmas lights.
Hatewatch sent a request for comment to Bausman first by email and later by certified mail, which the post office returned without a signature. We finally confirmed that Bausman left the U.S. for Russia after translating into English three Russian television appearances he made. Bausman appears in studio during the videos. (Hatewatch geolocated a Moscow television studio which hosted Bausman in June.) He does not specify whether he relocated to Russia permanently or is visiting in the appearances.
“America is awake now,” Bausman said in Russian on one program that aired in the immediate aftermath of the insurrection, referring to the willingness of Trump supporters to embrace Russia as an ally in a shared struggle. Russia “now has the chance to build big bridges with half of the United States,” Bausman also boasted. He described the U.S. as being irrevocably divided following Biden’s election.
Bausman made those three appearances spanning from January to June. Each time, he talked about the insurrection in fluent Russian, presenting himself to a Russian-speaking audience as an expert on U.S. affairs. He pushed the lie that elites stole the election from Trump in the appearances. In one show, he asked the host to avoid saying he actively participated in the insurrection because he did not want someone to “show up at his door.” (Bausman denied direct involvement in the unlawful activities that day and instead framed himself as a journalist covering the event rather than a pro-Trump demonstrator.) Hatewatch reached out to the FBI to inquire whether they were investigating Bausman for any reason. They declined to respond.
‘I’ve never heard of this man in my life’
Charles Bausman lived in Moscow as an American expatriate for the better part of three decades, working as a businessman, according a description he gave to Alex Jones’ Infowars in 2019. Hatewatch found little verifiable information about Bausman’s business history in Russia before he founded Russia Insider in 2014. He lists on his LinkedIn page business ventures related to agriculture, including one company where he claims to have served as a “Director” from 2010 to the present. The HR director of a company of the same name reviewed Bausman’s LinkedIn page and told Hatewatch in emphatic terms that he never worked for them.
“I’ve never heard of this man in my life,” they said over the phone in July.
The HR director investigated Bausman’s claims by speaking with other employees and then called back with additional details later in the same day.
“In about 2010 … he approached us about starting a conference in Russia with a former employee and there were, like, two discussions about it. It never got off the ground. We never hosted an event there, we never pursued it and we never wrote him a check of any sort, whatsoever. He has never been in any way, shape or form in our employment,” they said.
The HR representative told Hatewatch they would pursue avenues to try and stop Bausman from using their name on his publicly visible resume. A website Bausman listed as being related to his present business operations, RuFarm.com, expired from the web years ago. Another company Bausman listed is based out of the island nation of Cyprus. In 2013, around the time Bausman claimed to work for the company, “about one half to a third” of bank deposits issued in Cyprus originated from Russia, according to the BBC. The Cyprus-based company never replied to an email requesting clarification on what, if anything, Bausman did for them.
“He was always back and forth. He was never in one place,” Watkins, Bausman’s sister, recalled. “He’s the kind of brother where I would be in touch with my parents and say, ‘I can’t reach Charlie, where is he?’ He never settled in one address or stayed in one place. He spent more time in Russia than not in Russia, but he still did a master’s degree at Columbia, and his first daughter was born in the United States.”
A person familiar with Bausman’s purchase of his home in Lancaster told Hatewatch that during the purchase, he verbally described himself as working in the agriculture business, and never mentioned Russia Insider or anything else related to the far-right activism to which he devoted so much of his time. The same person told Hatewatch they saw evidence of him having over $700,000 in his savings account. He purchased his Lancaster home for $442,000 in 2018, as Hatewatch previously reported. Watkins said she believes he also purchased property in Moscow at some point, which would suggest he may currently live in his home there. She said that Bausman’s parents left behind money for him when they died.
“He kept badgering my parents to give him money. He was always short on money. They funded his whole life. And then he inherited their money when they died, and they’re still funding his life,” Watkins said. “If he makes money now, it’s not much.”
The Interpreter, an online journal that produces translations and analysis related to Russia, published emails in 2015 showing Bausman asking for money through an associate of pro-Kremlin Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev. Like Bausman, Malofeev views himself as a promoter of the Russian Orthodox faith, and he is known for his far-right political views and ties to anti-LGBTQ hate. Political scientist Marlene Laruelle of George Washington University, an expert on Russia and its influence on far-right nationalist movements worldwide, previously told Hatewatch in the context of understanding Bausman’s motives that Russia’s influence on foreign extremists sometimes manifests in a decentralized way, which she described as “ideological entrepreneurship.” She continued:
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.
Watkins told Hatewatch that Bausman privately denied to her that the Russian government funded his activism when they discussed the subject.
“I don’t know where to go on [finding a] motivation for this with him. I honestly don’t,”
Watkins said of her brother.
An eclectic mix of far-right activism
Bausman started pushing increasingly pro-fascist and antisemitic views on Russia Insider in 2018, around the time he moved back from Russia to the U.S. By 2019, after Bausman settled down in Lancaster, Russia Insider published posts with titles such as “Adolf Hitler's Spot-On 1936 Speech on the Evil of Soviet Bolshevism (Transcript).”
Hatewatch linked Bausman to the American white supremacist group The Right Stuff (TRS) in 2020 through a network of related junk news websites that all pushed a racist, authoritarian worldview. Although Bausman vocally champions Trump, TRS jettisoned pro-Trump advocacy for more overtly neo-Nazi sentiment by the time he associated with them. In fact, the group typically portrays the 45 th president in conspiratorial terms as a pawn who is beholden to the influence of powerful Jewish people. Four different antiracist activists told Hatewatch they saw Bausman along with white supremacists affiliated with TRS at a Black Lives Matter demonstration staged in Lancaster in September 2020. One of the activists claimed that Bausman offered them a walkie-talkie to communicate with other activists and they found that to be “weird.”
“That guy, I would not forget his face,” one of the activists told Hatewatch, referring to a photograph of Bausman that Hatewatch showed them from a mobile phone. “He offered to loan me a walkie-talkie.”
Hatewatch emailed Bausman about the allegation of the walkie-talkie incident in October 2020, when the activist mentioned it, but he never replied. Neighbors say Bausman also involved himself in the anti-lockdown activism that targeted stay-at-home orders at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hatewatch spoke to Bausman at his home in September 2020 regarding his connections to TRS and noted that he promoted both Trump and a group called ReOpen PA through the prominent placement of lawn signs. Bausman told Hatewatch at that time that he did not want to speak to the media. ReOpen PA runs an active Facebook group that opposed COVID-19 protocols put in place by the state’s Democratic governor, Tom Wolf.
Bausman also promoted Stop the Steal activism, which spread the lie that Trump won the 2020 election. He appeared at a Stop the Steal-branded event in December 2020 at Speaker of the Pennsylvania House Bryan Cutler’s residence, seeking to urge him to overturn the election results. Bausman attended that event alongside members of the Unification Church, a cult known in part for their extreme pro-gun beliefs.
Bausman’s time in Lancaster straddles the period between the 2018 midterm elections and the 2020 presidential race. Hatewatch linked the website infrastructure employed by Russia Insider to a far-right junk news website called Lancaster Patriot, which started publishing propaganda during the runup to the 2020 election. Trey Garrison, a TRS-affiliate known in the white nationalist movement by his stage name “Spectre,” authored many of the posts on that site. Lancaster Police arrested Garrison, a Texas native, on DUI charges on April 2, and a local reporter photographed him in the city as recently as April 22. Hatewatch reached out to him by text about Bausman’s whereabouts, and he dodged the questions by pretending to be a 12-year-old girl. Multiple affiliates of TRS have moved to the Pennsylvania area in recent years.
Selling Russian media on a ‘fractured’ America
Bausman’s television appearances since the insurrection, spoken with an impressive grasp of the Russian language, portray the U.S. as being divided beyond repair and increasingly open to Russian influence. In January, Bausman appeared on a state-run show hosted by Arkady Mamontov, a well-known Russian journalist whose programming style often veers into reactionary and conspiratorial pro-Kremlin propaganda. On the show, Bausman claimed to be connected to a former member of the U.S. Congress, as well as current and former members of U.S. intelligence agencies.
“It would be naive to believe that the FBI didn’t have provocateurs among the protesters,” Bausman said about the Jan. 6 violence.
Bausman made the comment five months before Tucker Carlson floated a similar allegation about the role of the FBI on Jan. 6 on his Fox News show. Bausman explicitly called America “fractured” in the interview and condemned the influence of “globalists.” He told the Russian-speaking audience that Russia, China and the EU should be interested in keeping America from becoming a far-left country.
Bausman suggested that Russia get involved in American affairs on an Orthodox Christian channel owned by Malofeev called Tsargrad TV, which also aired in January.
“Liberal oligarchs nearly destroyed Russia and now they’re destroying America,” Bausman told the audience.
At one point another guest on the program suggested that building an “English-language Christian Russian American channel, targeting the [conservative, pro-Trump] audience” would present a business opportunity for Russians.
“I agree completely,” Bausman responded.
In a June appearance on a Tsargrad TV show hosted by a woman named Anna Shafran, Bausman arrived to speak to her in a studio in Moscow, which Hatewatch geolocated through Shafran’s Instagram accounts. Tsargrad TV titled the program, “The U.S. Deep state is exploiting the whole world,” and Bausman used the opportunity to denounce transgender people, Black Lives Matter and President Biden.
“Satan is in charge of the U.S. government right now,” Bausman said.
Bausman left for Russia ‘in a big hurry’
Neighbors continue to pass along tips to Hatewatch about Bausman and his home. An unidentified woman allegedly came to his address and took the Christmas lights down in recent months, but Bausman, his wife and his daughters never resurfaced. Bausman allegedly boasted to people about plans to build Russian Orthodox churches in and around Lancaster in the past. No one knows if he took any steps to achieve those ambitions.
Neighbors also question whether Bausman is still pushing far-right propaganda into Lancaster from abroad. The Lancaster Patriot, the reactionary publication Hatewatch connected to Russia Insider through its website infrastructure, claimed to stop publishing material after local reporters identified the white supremacist Garrison as the site’s primary author in September 2020.
“It has been reported this week that our future editor-in-chief has elsewhere, expressed politically incorrect and offensive views. This being the case, the Publisher and the Investors have decided that it is best to close doors before we officially open since we do not approve of or condone those views,” The Lancaster Patriot posted to their site at that time.
However, someone subsequently removed that statement and began publishing a physical version of The Lancaster Patriot in recent months. No one in Lancaster knows who launched the project, but three different Lancaster residents sent Hatewatch photographs of a “newspaper” version of it, which they said the post office began mysteriously delivering into mailboxes in April and May without solicitation. Among other topics, the paper pushed anti-COVID-19 vaccine rhetoric on the front pages, as well as stories calling for an audit of the 2020 election.
One Lancaster Patriot article that contained vaccine disinformation featured the byline Ann Marie DiCarlo.
Hatewatch found an Ann Marie DiCarlo living in Lancaster and reached out for comment through her son. The woman we contacted did not call us back. Hatewatch reached out to The Lancaster Patriot by the phone number and email address listed on their website to ask about Bausman, but they did not respond.
’Who the hell does that?’
Watkins told Hatewatch that Bausman’s ties to Russia stem from his family, but she is unable to explain them in the context of his behavior as an adult. John Bausman, their father, served as the Moscow bureau chief for the Associated Press from 1968-72, when Charles Bausman was between 4 and 8 years old. Watkins described their childhood to Hatewatch as the “Brezhnev years,” referring to the Soviet Union’s General Secretary at that time. She said she could recall nothing from her brother’s youth that might shape either his pro-Kremlin or white supremacist activism.
“Other than the fact that it was a very special time for my mother in particular, she learned Russian, she hung out with dissident artists. … Maybe in the family lore [Russia] becomes somewhat romanticized,” Watkins recalled to Hatewatch in a FaceTime conversation in July. “[But] our exposure to Russia and Russian culture at that time was festivals and friends.”
When Watkins spent time with her brother growing up, she said she viewed him as an “Alex Keaton” type, referring to the character Michael J. Fox played on the 1980s sitcom “Family Ties.” Keaton’s character became symbolic of a child who espouses reactionary beliefs in a liberal family. “[It’s] 1982, 1983 and Charles is walking around Wesleyan in a suit and tie. … Who the hell does that?”
Watkins implied that what Bausman has mutated into is something more extreme than the Keaton character, and more difficult to reform.
“If I’m going to do antiracist work … I’m not sure the most effective thing for me is to engage my brother … because engaging him is a fool’s errand,” Watkins said.
Editor’s note: Journalist Natalia Antonova contributed to this story by translating Charles Bausman’s television appearances, providing context about Russian programming and geolocating one of his appearances to Moscow.
Photo illustration by SPLC