The notorious Chuck Johnson has undergone a transformation. The internet troll who helped elect Donald Trump is now a Joe Biden believer, and well on his way to becoming a billionaire. Johnson joined Zev Shalev on Narativ Live to discuss the growing role foreign intelligence agencies play in shaping the American political narrative.
Jan 6: One Year Later with Charles Johnson. Part 1. Scroll down for part 2.
Charles Johnson has come a long way in his 33 years. He was still a high school student in Boston when he was hired by Alan Dershowitz. In his 20s, he helped Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.
That election left Johnson with a forever trail of internet statements that would normally consign anyone to the outer edges of the internet for life. Johnson old public image still languishes online, but in reality much of his life has changed.
Johnson is the founder of several start-ups and legitimately a billionaire-in-the-making. He’s shed his support for Donald Trump and is now a Joe Biden believer.
Despite Johnsons’ political evolution, he maintains significant blindspots. For the record, viewers to the show should note there’s no proof the Clinton family has ties to organized crime; and Bill Browder is not corrupt despite a long-running Russian misinformation campaign suggesting he is.
Johnson has publicly broken ranks with Republican power brokers like the Claremont Institute over Jan 6 and Leonard Leo’s Federalist Society. His transformation coincided with his growing disillusionment over President Trump’s habit of saying one thing publicly but doing another thing privately.
Take for example Trump’s China policy. “There is a case to be made that globalization has gone too far and that it’s harmed the interests of the United States and Western powers, that we’ve allowed too much money to come in from China affecting our real estate markets, and our colleges.”
“Trump’s critiques were quite right,” Johnson argues about the former president’s publicly-stated policies, but his administration’s actual policies did not reflect these public positions.
“In the backroom, the real deals were being done by Jared Kushner and others, and they did something very different,” Johnson says
But Johnson’s breaking point with the White House came when he realized some of the key players’ foreign connections – including those of his former boss Steve Bannon.
“When the FBI called me to ask me about all the leaking that Steve Bannon was doing after his first year in office,” Johnson recalls thinking. “There’s something much more nefarious going on here than just raw politics.”
Jan 6: One Year Later with Charles Johnson. Part 2
Johnson began working for Bannon just as Bannon became Breitbart’s executive chairman in 2013. They became close, sharing ideas on late-night calls. “Bannon likes to identify shiny new toys, shiny new young people, and I was one such person.”
Breitbart paid Johnson a six-figure salary which was helpful money to the then 24-year-old. “Bannon saw Breitbart as an opportunity to build a name for himself and build a power base,” Johnson says.
“He had this little radio program, and he was very interested in whipping people up into a frenzy because he felt that the political class underserved them,” Johnson reveals.
Bannon declared Breitbart ‘the home of the alt-right,’ a subset of the Republican party which would later serve as useful base for Donald Trump.
Bannon assigned Johnson to ingratiate himself with alt-right groups.
I ask Johnson if he bears any responsibility for the growth of the alt-right into the movement which spawned Jan 6?
“We wouldn’t do it today.” Johnson replies. “I think that we didn’t understand the magnitude of some of these groups at the time.”
Johnson does regret some of the things he said in his 20s if only because they are often used to discredit him. These quotes “are used as an attack vehicle by foreign governments that don’t like [my investments],” Johnson contends.
His investments include companies that “do a lot of business with the government”: Clearview AI, the face recognition company and Traitwell, a genetics company.
Andrew Breitbart conceived of the news site which bears his name during brainstorming sessions with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2009. The Obama presidency hadn’t even hit its stride and already his enemies were planning to bring him down. It’s highly unusual for an Israeli politician to be personally involved in the launch of a US news site, especially on the eve of his own election as Israeli Prime Minister in a major upset.
Andrew Breitbart died suddenly in 2012, and the the enigmatic father and daughter team of Robert and Rebekah Mercer – who also owned Cambridge Analytica and eventually funded the Trump campaign – bought the controlling share of Breitbart and gave Bannon a small share.
Johnson acknowledges, “The Mercers are very much in league with a foreign power. “I think it happens to be the Russian Federation.”
Even though it was not apparent to him during the campaign, Johnson concedes now Russia played a role in electing Trump. He adds that other countries like Israel, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and China were also involved.
“I used to believe that the powers-that-be in politics, where the corporations, that [they drove] a lot of the shots.”
“I no longer believe that,” Johnson says.
“I think it’s foreign intelligence operations and millionaires who are propped-up as constructs of these foreign intelligence operations.”
“I’ve met a number of them, and I want to tell people about what I saw and experienced. And I was very much a true believer and very naive about how I thought the world works,” Johnson says.
JAN 6 EPIPHANY
January the sixth, also known as Epiphany, has special significance In the calendar of the Russian Orthodox Church, which was likely relevant to the number of Russian operatives present at the storming of the Capitol on Jan 6 .
Johnson says his facial recognition company Clearview identified members of four different countries on Jan 6, but one nation led the pack.
“The Russians are the largest group there,” Johnson says.
Johnson expects even more foreign interference in our domestic affairs in the coming years. “These last five years were chaotic in our society, and I think they’re going to increasingly get more chaotic as there’s an attack on our way of life,” he predicts.
“You can see that in attacks on the monetary system, through cryptocurrencies, through foreign governments sending their operatives to influence our media environment,” Johnson highlights. “You could see this in Twitter influencers often co-opted and controlled by different countries,” he says.
“There are many Epsteins, many foreign intelligence operations running and influencing our politics.”
Charles C. Johnson has a substack here