Hatewatch reviewed new materials indicating that Charles Bausman, the pro-Kremlin propagandist who disappeared to Moscow in the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, involved himself in the American white nationalist movement years before previously thought.
Charles Bausman, a 59-year-old American man who has lived in Russia on and off for the past three decades, founded the pro-Kremlin website Russia Insider in 2014 when he was living in Moscow. In the years following President Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral win, Bausman began to use the site to promote an array of overtly fascist and antisemitic content. Upon moving from Moscow to the eastern Pennsylvanian city of Lancaster in 2018, Bausman involved himself in a plethora of right-wing causes. Then, after attending the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, he disappeared to Russia, leaving behind nearly $1 million worth of property.
There, Bausman has reemerged as a media commentator. In March, Bausman co-hosted multiple episodes of an online show with a man whom U.S. officials identified in a declassified intelligence report as at times acting on behalf of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) to manipulate American public opinion, as Hatewatch previously reported.
Russia Insider has published speeches from Adolf Hitler justifying his 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union, which resulted in the death of some 27 million Soviet people; excerpts from the dictator’s autobiographical screed Mein Kampf, which a Russian court declared extremist and banned in 2010; and the work of Nazi collaborators who waged war on the Eastern Front.
Beyond Nazi primary sources, the far-right groups and content that Bausman has involved himself with or promoted reflect a diverse array of far-right ideologies. Since 2018, Bausman has collaborated with or promoted Alex Jones, a prominent antigovernment conspiracy theorist and the founder of Infowars; the Rod of Iron Ministries, a gun-obsessed religious group; and the National Justice Party (NJP), a self-styled pro-Hitler political group with ties to The Right Stuff podcasting network.
Until now, reporters and researchers have typically pointed to a 6,000-word antisemitic diatribe from January 2018 called “It’s Time To Drop The Jew Taboo” as Bausman’s first foray into far-right extremism. In it, he lauded the “alt-right,” a term used in the mid-to-late 2010s by members of the movement, researchers and journalists to describe a coalitional approach to white supremacist organizing. Bausman commended the alt-right’s “intellectual heft” and lavished praise onto several of the movement’s figureheads.
However, the materials that Hatewatch obtained and reviewed indicate that the pro-Kremlin propagandist’s involvement in the white nationalist movement dates back as early as fall 2016.
Hatewatch found that Bausman attended a 2016 conference in Washington, D.C., hosted by the National Policy Institute (NPI), a now-defunct white nationalist think tank, in which attendees threw up Nazi salutes. Hatewatch also obtained leaked emails showing that Bausman sought to plan an event in Russia with members of NPI, including Richard Spencer, then the head of the group that organized the 2016 conference that Bausman attended.
Additionally, recent business filings and a series of blog posts with Bausman’s byline on them shed additional light on his involvement with the National Justice Party, the pro-Hitler political party, which the pro-Kremlin propagandist has praised for their “valuable contributions to political discussion.”
Hatewatch reached out to Bausman over email. He did not respond. Hatewatch reached out to multiple current and former members of the National Justice Party, including Gregory Conte, Mike Peinovich and Joseph Jordan, over email or text message. They did not respond.
Supporting America’s white supremacist movement
The emails that Hatewatch obtained reveal that Bausman sought to collaborate with members of NPI, including petitioning the group’s reclusive late founder William H. Regnery II to organize a multi-day conference in Moscow.
Hatewatch was able to verify the authenticity of the leaked material based on the fact that two sources recalled meeting Bausman at multiple white nationalist events during that time period, namely the 2016 conference and a subsequent summer 2017 conference organized by the self-styled “race realist” think tank American Renaissance.
The leaked materials indicate that Bausman’s association with NPI began in late 2016, when he attended the group’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. The event took place over the course of two days, beginning with a private dinner in northwest D.C. on the evening of Nov. 18 and culminating with a full day of speeches on Nov. 19 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center a few blocks away from the White House.
Luke O’Brien, an investigative reporter who has written extensively about the far right, said in a phone conversation with Hatewatch that he met Bausman while checking in for the conference on Saturday, Nov. 19. O’Brien recalled that after he introduced himself as press to NPI personnel, Bausman struck up a conversation with him.
“He said, ‘I’m also with the press.’ He gave me his card. It was for Russia Insider,” O’Brien recalled in a conversation with Hatewatch.
“He was there for networking purposes is what it felt like to me,” O’Brien said.
Bausman met with both Regnery and Spencer within the week after the 2016 conference. In a Nov. 27, 2016, email to NPI personnel, Bausman expressed his support to Spencer following blowback from some segments of the white nationalist movement and the mainstream media for a speech on the night of Nov. 19, when around a dozen people threw up Nazi salutes. Bausman referred to Spencer’s critics as “wusses.”
Later in the email thread, Bausman added, “It was great to meet you and Bill [Regnery] and I will get back to you with some info on what we discussed.”
Bausman soon followed up with NPI personnel via email. On the morning of Dec. 12, 2016, Regnery sent an email to Bausman with the subject line “pan euro congress.” The note appeared to follow a phone conversation between Regnery and Bausman.
Regnery announced that Bausman had “located [a] young Russian of Ukrainian background who was brought up in the States” but who “lives in Moscow and [is] interested in being our legman [sic] to lubricate our meeting plans.” Regnery went on to suggest a series of next steps, including proposing sending Spencer to Moscow for a week to begin “making the rounds and inspecting likely venues.” Though Regnery did not offer a timeline in the email regarding when such a trip would occur, he suggested September 2017 as a possible month for the event itself.
The email includes repeated references to NPI’s attempt to host a conference in Budapest in October 2014, which resulted in Hungarian authorities deporting multiple speakers, including Spencer. (In Spencer’s case, Hungarian authorities detained him on charges he failed to carry proper documents on his person, although others were turned away at the border.) To avoid such hurdles, Regnery suggests “to have a marquee name that is indelibly associated with the Putin administration.” However, the email chain does not make it readily apparent if Regnery had any specific figure in mind.
“We can expect the few seconds of video of the upraised arms at the end of the fall meeting to be constantly looped by those who seek to vilify the conference,” he continued, referring to footage showing attendees throwing up Hitler salutes at the November 2016 conference. Returning to the 2014 debacle in Hungary, Regnery added: “Assuming we can avoid of a recurrence of this perception in Russia we need to concern ourselves with the demonization of the meeting elsewhere in Europe. We need to submerge the involvement of NPI in a handful of other Europe [sic] and Russian organizations.”
“Russia is the only European country in which a pan Europe Alt Right interest group can be launched,” Regnery wrote.
NPI’s event in Moscow did not come to fruition. However, Regnery’s proposal mirrored a 2015 conference, hosted by the Russian ultra-nationalist party Rodina (“Motherland”), that drew a variety of far-right figures from the United States and Europe, including American white nationalists Jared Taylor and Sam Dickson.
Spencer and Bausman crossed paths again at a July 2017 gathering held outside Nashville, Tennessee, by American Renaissance, an organization run by Taylor, where Bausman invited Spencer to team up with him on fundraising ideas.
Evan McLaren, NPI’s former executive director who publicly disavowed white nationalism in April 2022, told Hatewatch in a message that he recalled meeting Bausman at the conference.
“I don’t remember how detailed his questions were, but he definitely took me aside and pumped me for information,” McLaren said.
‘A good friend of many years’
In addition to Spencer and Regnery, Bausman also collaborated with Gregory Conte, NPI’s former director of operations, Hatewatch found. Now one of the co-founders of the National Justice Party, Conte serves as a throughline between Bausman’s early involvement in the alt-right and later collaboration with the pro-Hitler National Justice Party.
Russia Insider’s archives indicate that in August 2016, Bausman shared an article from the reactionary blog Atavastic Intelligentsia, penned by “Greg Ritter,” a pseudonym Conte then used in the white supremacist movement. Conte, this time under his given name, contributed an article to Bausman’s site that was tagged as “Exclusive to Russia Insider” on Dec. 1, 2018, a few months after he resigned from his position at NPI and other Spencer-affiliated properties.
Conte’s relationship with Bausman appeared to extend beyond contributing to his site, according to Bausman’s own statements and ones from Conte’s former collaborators.
McLaren, the former white nationalist, told Hatewatch that he met with Conte and Bausman sometime between Dec. 26, 2019, and Jan. 5, 2020, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. At the time, he said, Conte was deeply involved with Russia Insider.
“I hadn’t completely cut ties with Conte yet, and I let him know I was going to be stateside. Bausman really wanted to meet up. ... He wanted to recruit me to work on whatever projects they had going, and he was curious about dirt on Richard [Spencer],” McLaren, who now lives in Europe, told Hatewatch in a message.
“He didn’t have any specific role in mind, at least not that he explained. He was just trying to involve me,” McLaren added.
Furthermore, in a Nov. 4, 2021, article on a website called Lancaster Christian, Bausman described the former NPI director of operations as “a good friend of many years for whom I have the highest personal esteem.”
Hatewatch identified Bausman as the owner and operator of the Lancaster Christian website, where he is the sole contributor, through its review of internet records. Lancaster Christian shares an IP address with several other Bausman-associated web properties, including Russia Insider and its sister site, Russian Faith, indicating that the same person set up these sites.
Spencer, who worked with Conte until July 2018, confirmed the pair’s longstanding friendship in a request for comment from Hatewatch.
“Not a week would go by without some mention of Bausman from Conte,” Spencer told Hatewatch.
Hosting the National Justice Party
Bausman’s writings on his Lancaster Christian website and corporate documents filed on behalf of the NJP shed new light on the pro-Russia propagandist’s relationship with the white supremacist group.
Mike Peinovich, a white supremacist podcaster whose former associates have accused of running a cult, launched the NJP in summer of 2020. It featured a variety of speakers, including Conte, associates of Peinovich’s The Right Stuff podcasting network, a former member of the longtime neo-Nazi group the National Alliance, and other prominent figures throughout the white power movement. At the time, Hatewatch reported that the event took place in “what looks like a barn.” Local news outlet Lancaster Online later identified Bausman’s farmstead on Millersville Pike in Lancaster County as the location for the meetup in an exposé published in October 2021.
“My reason was that I believed that this group of guys, some of whom I knew personally to be of high integrity and brilliant intelligence, who had made hugely valuable contributions to political discussion in our country, and my publications, should be allowed to gather in a space and have a private meeting to discuss their whatever they want,” Bausman said in the Nov. 4, 2021, article on Lancaster Christian, in which he detailed his reasoning for allowing Peinovich and others to use the property.
Elsewhere in the same article, Bausman lauds Peinovich as “famous for making good speeches.”
Peinovich told The New York Times in 2022 that the NJP “went our own way” with respect to Bausman. However, corporate records for the two LLCs associated with his organization, National Justice LLC and National Justice Party LLC, that Conte filed with the Maryland Secretary of State indicate that the organization continued to use the address of Bausman’s farmstead on NJP’s official records well into 2023.
The corporate documents that Conte filed on behalf of NJP include an application to create a National Justice LLC that Conte sent in on Dec. 7, 2021, and a trade name application registering National Justice Party LLC that Conte filed on June 9, 2022. A January 2022 report from the local news outlet Lancaster Online indicated that Conte was also residing at the property for a time.
Conte used the address of Bausman’s barn again in an article of amendment that he filed on Feb. 16 to transfer ownership of the National Justice LLC to Peinovich. Conte filed the document after publicly announcing his departure from the NJP in a 15-minute rambling audio clip that he published on the low-moderation app Telegram. In it, Conte accused NJP leadership of spending $10,000 of the group’s funds to spend on cryptocurrency, as well as an “ongoing pattern of behavior” including “secrecy, lies and deception.” The recording closes with an inscrutable request in English and German to listeners to determine if they’re “for or against the Führer.”
‘The earth has shifted in America’
Hatewatch reviewed archived Russia Insider posts, as well as materials related to Bausman’s public appearances in Washington, D.C., New York and Moscow, in order to better understand his growing interest in the white nationalist movement in late 2016, as well as his subsequent turn toward far-right activism.
Hatewatch reached out to multiple people listed as speakers at two events focused on U.S.-Russia relations that Bausman appears to have attended in 2015, according to material on his Russia Insider website and other online archives. These events include the March 25-26, 2015, World Russia Forum, a once-annual gathering in Washington, D.C., organized by the Soviet-born nuclear physicist and Russia Insider contributor Edward Lozansky, and the March 27, 2015, Russia Forum New York, whose organizer, Elena Branson, has since been charged by the U.S. government with acting as an unregistered foreign agent on behalf of the Russian government.
A user under the name “RI Staff” announced in a now-deleted post on the Russia Insider website that Bausman would be speaking at the World Russia Forum on March 24, 2015, on a litany of subjects including terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, climate change and drug trafficking. World Russia Forum’s official program does not even list Bausman by name and only includes his website among a handful of others during a 45-minute panel called “Presentation of Alternative Sites.” The same Russia Insider post does not mention Bausman’s appearance at the Russian Forum New York.
Lozansky, who organized the annual World Russia Forum, confirmed to Hatewatch in an email that he brought Bausman to the 2015 event as part of a panel to discuss “alternatives to mainstream media.” He recalled that Bausman also attended a tree-planting ceremony in Moscow roughly a month later. The event commemorated the Allied victory in World War II.
While Lozansky was an early contributor to Russia Insider, dating back to the site’s founding in 2014, the site’s archives indicate that most of his contributions on the site between fall 2014 and spring 2017 consist of reposts from other media outlets. He said he wasn’t sure why Bausman stopped reposting his articles and that he was unaware of Bausman’s participation in the 2016 NPI event.
Lozansky said he didn’t speak to Bausman for several years until he met him at a July 4 gathering of American expatriates in Moscow.
“We spoke briefly, and he mentioned that RI is not doing well these days, that’s about it,” Lozansky said.
Russia Insider’s pivot from sharing mainly material concerned with foreign policy and U.S.-Russia affairs to a solidly far-right propaganda outlet appears to have coincided with President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. By early 2016, Bausman began portraying Russia Insider less as a publication concerned with U.S.-Russia relations and more as another website within the broader sphere of “alternative media.” In a May 19, 2016, post called “Russia Insider is Really a Mirror of the Trump/Sanders Phenomenon,” Bausman depicted his site as countering “neocon lies” about Russia. Between July and October 2016, Russia Insider ran multiple articles portraying the growing alt-right movement and Trump as possible Russian allies.
At a 2016 speech in Moscow less than a month before he would attend the now-infamous NPI conference, Bausman described American politics as shifting as the result of unnamed activists.
“The fact of the matter is the earth has shifted in America in a very fundamental way,” Bausman said during that presentation in Moscow on Oct. 25, 2016.
“The people who have realized how crazy the American system has become will not go home. They will not stop talking. If Hillary wins, she will have a big, big problem on her hands,” he added.
Photo illustration by SPLC