California Secession Advocate Faces Scrutiny Over Where He's Based: Russia (MSN link): YEKATERINBURG, Russia — This provincial Russian city, about 1,000 miles east of Moscow, is about as unlikely a place as any to find the leader of one of the more unlikely political causes to arise in opposition to President Trump. But Louis J. Marinelli, the 30-year-old English teacher who is the president of the Yes California movement, which seeks independence for the state, has decided to call it home.
Word of “Calexit,” a Quixotic idea that has floated around California for years, spread on social media after the election of Mr. Trump in November. Even though it has virtually no chance of succeeding — it would require an amendment to the Constitution — it has gained some traction in the state. Several technology industry leaders have voiced their support, and a ballot measure is in the works for the 2018 election.
Now with renewed attention on the movement, Mr. Marinelli is under scrutiny for living in a country that many in the United States see as an adversarial power.
And back in California, he is on the defensive for accepting travel expenses and office space from a Kremlin-linked nationalist group. That acceptance has raised the prospect that Russia, after meddling in the election to try to tip the vote to Mr. Trump, as United States intelligence agencies have said, is now gleefully stoking divisions in America by backing a radical liberal movement.
Mod: While Trump and many Republicans are increasingly loving their Putin, you need to be aware that Russia is continuing to try to sow havoc in the U.S. by promoting secession movements not just in California, but Texas as well. This from ABC News.
Standing in a conference room in the Ritz Hotel in central Moscow on Sunday, Smith nodded noncommittally and handed over his business card. It wasn’t the only incongruous encounter taking place at the Ritz at what has been dubbed Moscow’s international conference of separatists, an eclectic Kremlin-funded gathering of organizations and sometimes wacky individuals pressing for self-rule for often unlikely territories.
And among the few dozen activists comparing ideas for how to achieve self-determination, were two Americans campaigning for Texan and Californian secession from the United States.
The conference, now in its second year, is funded largely by the Kremlin and organized by the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia, a group that closely follows government positions. The movement says it is unconnected to the Kremlin, but the hotel conference was almost entirely paid for by a charitable fund founded by President Vladimir Putin, which provided close to $546,000 for the project, according to public records. The attendees, including the Texan delegate, had been offered free flights and accommodation.
“We’re here to have a dialogue. We’re not in agreement with all the groups that are here,” Smith said. “We’re here for very specific reasons. We came here to make a statement on behalf of the people of Texas.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Louis J. Marinelli from the YES California Independence Campaign, there to get his message out about his plan to make the Golden State a nation.
“We want to draw attention to our campaign,” Marinelli said. “We’re not signing an alliance with Russia or anything like that."
The two secessionists’ urge for independence stems largely from a distaste with American foreign policy and a sense the U.S. has become dysfunctional. A gentle-mannered IT consultant married to a Russian, Marinelli is aiming for a secession referendum by 2019.
“The U.S. government is so dysfunctional it can’t be repaired from within anymore, and if we were a separate nation running our own affairs, we could improve the quality of life for Californians,” Marinelli said.
Both men were hoping for a Donald Trump victory in the U.S. presidential elections, banking on a surge in people looking to detach themselves from America. The U.K.'s recent "Brexit" vote to leave the European Union had also heartened many attendees.
But why exactly the Kremlin had decided to pay to gather them in Moscow, few among the foreign attendees could say. Nor did they appear particularly interested.
“I’m not here to make presumptions about potential reasons for this conference,” Smith said.
However, the conference -- and its location in one of Moscow’s expensive hotels, within shouting distance of the Kremlin walls -- slots into a recognizable recent Russian strategy.
Russia has been backing far right political parties in the West, in particular, reportedly funding France’s anti-European Union party, the Front National, with a $10 million loan. The practice echoes that of the Soviet Union, which secretly supported radical fringe groups around the world, but now coupled with elaborate disinformation campaigns from state media outlets.