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Democratic Rep. Val Demings wants information on foreign nationals exploiting American protests.

America in Crisis

Val Demings wants to investigate whether foreign adversaries are exploiting protests

Is Russia or some other adversary interfering in American unrest?

U.S. Rep. Val Demings and a colleague from Chicago are asking federal intelligence authorities if they are tracking any foreign interests heightening, interfering with, or exploiting the social unrest roiling America.

The Orlando Democrat and Democratic U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi warned that America’s adversaries — at a couple points they singled out Russia — have a history of trying to stir division and incite anger and mistrust among Americans during times of turmoil, and that they may be doing so now.

They raised concerns about false memes and other communications spread across the internet, and the possibility that foreign operatives may be embedded in protests, inciting or committing violence. There have been reports indicating outside interests are stirring trouble.

The pair raised concerns in a letter to National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe urging him to look into it, if he’s not already, and asking him to report back to Congress.

Both Demings and Krishnamoorthi are members of the U.S. House Select Committee on Intelligence.

“Unfortunately, we know that foreign actors have historically sought to exploit tensions in American communities during times like these,” Demings and Krishnamoorthi wrote. “As has now been widely confirmed by the IC (U.S. Intelligence Community,) the Russian government took various steps to exploit tensions in America in an effort to influence the 2016 presidential election. These actions included falsifying accounts from across the political spectrum, such as impersonating the Tennessee GOP party and even Black Lives Matter protestors.

“In light of the above information and as a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I am concerned that the current situation could give foreign actors the opportunity to advance their strategic agendas by interfering in our domestic affairs,” they continued. “In doing so, they could use the current situation to add to any efforts to interfere in the upcoming 2020 elections, as happened in 2016 with Russia.”

The pair called on Ratcliffe to ensure foreign actors do not take adverse actions to spread disinformation, incite violence, and further divide Americans.

They asked if the U.S. Intelligence Community has a plan to monitor and prevent involvement by foreign actors seeking to exploit American unrest to forward foreign agendas. They also asked him to share any information the U.S. may have on any such actions that have already taken place.

“America is currently in a state of unrest as we battle systemic racism and violence. For years, minority communities seeking justice have had their voices silenced. Now, Americans across the country are speaking out and demanding reforms to combat racism, race-related violence, and police brutality, and we are experiencing unprecedented levels of civic and social action, both in person and on social media,” they wrote.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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