On the social media site X, formerly Twitter, Miles Taylor wrote: “After 2016, I helped lead the US gov[ernmen]t response to Russia’s election interference. In 2024, foreign interference will be *worse.* Tech[nology is] more powerful. Adversaries more brazen. American public more susceptible. Political leaders across party lines MUST UNITE against this.”

Taylor served as Chief of Staff in the Department of Homeland Security under Trump.

Catherine Belton of the Washington Post reported on a secret 2023 document from Russia’s Foreign Ministry calling for an “offensive information campaign” and other measures that attack “‘a coalition of unfriendly countries’ led by the United States. Those measures are designed to affect “the military-political, economic and trade and informational psychological spheres” of Russia’s perceived adversaries.

The plan is to weaken the United States and convince other countries, particularly those in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, that the U.S. will not stand by its allies. By weakening those alliances, Russian leaders hope to shift global power by strengthening Russia’s ties to China, Iran, and North Korea and filling the vacuum left by the crumbling democratic alliances. It is not at all clear that China is on board with this plan.

According to Belton, one of the academics who advised the authors of the Russian document suggested that Russia should “continue to facilitate the coming to power of isolationist right-wing forces in America,” “enable the destabilization of Latin American countries and the rise to power of extremist forces on the far left and far right there,” increase tensions between the U.S. and China over Taiwan, and “escalate the situation in the Middle East around Israel, Iran, and Syria to distract the U.S. with the problems of this region.”

The Russian document suggests that the front lines of that physical, political, and psychological fight are in Ukraine. It says that the outcome of Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine will “to a great degree determine the outlines of the future world order.”

Putin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky told Belton: “The Americans consider that insofar as they are not directly participating in the war [in Ukraine], then any loss is not their loss. “This is an absolute misunderstanding.”

Media and lawmakers, including those in the Republican Party, have increasingly called out the degree to which Russian propaganda has infiltrated American politics through Republican lawmakers and media figures.

In April, both Representative Michael R. Turner (R-OH), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, and Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned about Russian disinformation in their party. Turner told CNN’s State of the Union that it is “absolutely true” that Republican members of Congress are parroting Russian propaganda.

“We see directly coming from Russia attempts to mask communications that are anti-Ukraine and pro-Russia messages, some of which we even hear being uttered on the House floor.” When asked which Republicans had fallen to Russian propaganda, McCaul answered that it is “obvious.”

That growing popular awareness has highlighted that House Republicans, under House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), refused for six months to pass a national security supplemental bill with additional aid for Ukraine, as well as for Israel and the Indo-Pacific, and humanitarian aid to Gaza.

After the Senate spent two months negotiating border security provisions House Republicans demanded, Republicans killed that bill with the provisions at Trump’s direction, and the Senate then passed a bill without those provisions in February.

Johnson has coordinated closely with former president Trump, who has made his admiration for Russia and his disregard for Ukraine very clear since his people weakened their support for Ukraine in the 2016 Republican Party platform.

Johnson is also under pressure from MAGA Republicans in the House, like Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who oppose funding Ukraine, some of them by making statements that echo Russian propaganda.

While the White House, the Pentagon, and a majority of both chambers of Congress believe that helping Ukraine defend itself is crucial to U.S. security, Johnson has refused to take the Senate measure up, even though the House would pass it if he did.

But as Ukraine’s ability to defend itself has begun to weaken, pressure for additional aid has ramped up. At the same time, in the wake of Iran’s attack on Israel last weekend, Republicans have suddenly become eager to provide additional funds to Israel. It began to look as if Johnson might bring up some version of foreign aid.

Reese Gorman, political reporter for The Daily Beast, reported that Johnson explained his change of heart like this: “Look, history judges us for what we do. This is a critical time right now… I can make a selfish decision and do something that is different but I’m doing here what I believe to be the right thing.… I think providing lethal aid to Ukraine right now is critically important … I’m willing to take personal risk for that.”

His words likely reflect a changing awareness in Republican Party leadership that the extremism of MAGA Republicans has been exceedingly unpopular. Trump’s courtroom appearances — where, among other things, he keeps falling asleep — are unlikely to bolster his support, while his need for money is becoming more and more of a threat both to his image and to his fellow Republicans.

The Trump campaign has also asked Republican candidates in downballot races for at least 5% of the money they raise with any fundraising appeal that uses Trump’s name or picture. They went on: “Any split that is higher than 5% will be seen favorably by the RNC and President Trump’s campaign and is routinely reported to the highest levels of leadership within both organizations.”

Nonetheless, Greene greeted Johnson’s bills with amendments requiring members of Congress to “conscript in the Ukrainian military” if they voted for aid to Ukraine.

A headline on the Fox News media website suggested that a shift away from MAGA was at least being tested. It read: “Marjorie Taylor Greene is an idiot. She is trying to wreck the [Republican Party].”

The article pointed out that 61% of registered voters disapprove of the Republican Party while only 36% approve. That approval rating has indeed fallen at least in part because of the performative antics of the extremists.

As soon as Johnson announced the measures, President Joe Biden threw his weight behind them. In a statement, he said: “I strongly support this package to get critical support to Israel and Ukraine, provide desperately needed humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, and bolster security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.”

Ukraine is facing continued bombardment from Russia that has intensified dramatically since March.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) officially declared Russian dictator Vladimir Putin illegitimate on April 17, and called on the Council of Europe and European Union member states to cease any contact with his “criminal regime.”

David Goldman (AP) and Gavriil Grigorov (AP)

Letters from an Аmerican is a daily email newsletter written by Heather Cox Richardson, about the history behind today’s politics