Russia is urging violence by white supremacist and black extremist groups with the goal to sow discord in the US, multiple intelligence officials tell the New York Times. The effort to inflame racial tensions is part of a larger bid to influence the presidential election—and, some say, to promote President Trump's reelection. These officials argue Trump could benefit if he's able to paint himself as the law-and-order candidate. One official says federal authorities are investigating the funding of a neo-Nazi group called the Base. Its American founder, identified by the Guardian as Rinaldo Nazzaro, reportedly lives in Russia and is married to a Russian national. Russia is also trying to stoke anger among black Americans with state-funded news organizations pushing stories about allegations of police abuse and racism in the military, per the Times.
Race is also commonly mentioned on Russia-linked social media accounts, which have gotten better at avoiding detection, per Al Jazeera. Russia also tried to inflame racial tensions in the 2016 election, as did the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Having noted the hostilities that stemmed from the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., "Russia is willing to conduct more brazen and disruptive influence operations because of how it perceives its conflict with the West," David Porter of the FBI's Foreign Influence Task Force said at an election security conference in Washington last month, per the Times. "To put it simply, in this space, Russia wants to watch us tear ourselves apart." Trump administration officials are to brief Congress on election threats from Russia behind closed doors on Tuesday. (Read more Russia stories.)