Pelosi Urges FBI To Investigate If Protesters Are Spreading “Putin’s Message”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is facing criticism after suggesting in a CNN interview that progressive protesters calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza may have ties to Russia.
Pelosi said she supports the protesters’ “right to free speech”, but urged the FBI to investigate whether the protests are “part of Putin’s agenda” and if the messaging is “coming from Russia.” 
Her comments linking the pro-Palestinian protests to Russian influence sparked immediate backlash from civil rights groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), who called her suggestion “delusional.”  The American Civil Liberties Union said her “xenophobic rhetoric” threatens the right to protest. 
Pelosi Later “Clarifies” Remarks After Criticism
Facing mounting criticism, Pelosi’s office issued a statement the next day to “clarify” her earlier call for an investigation.
Her deputy chief of staff Drew Hammill said Pelosi was “referencing reports that the Russian government has been engaged in a disinformation campaign promoting criticism of Israel and was suggesting that these reports warranted investigation by the FBI.” 
Hammill maintained Pelosi’s support for peoples’ rights to protest and did not back down from the suggestion that Russia is fueling some criticism of Israeli military actions.
This attempt to smooth over the controversy did little to quell criticism that Pelosi was smearing protesters and advocacy groups by implying Putin sympathies without evidence. Her office provided no specifics on the alleged Russian “disinformation campaign.”
Background: Long-Running Israel-Gaza Conflict Sees Latest Flare Up
The controversy arose amid one of the deadliest flareups of violence seen in years between Israel and militant groups in Gaza.
Over several days in late January, Israeli airstrikes killed dozens in Gaza while Palestinian rocket fire killed Israeli civilians. International attempts to broker a sustainable ceasefire have so far come up short. 
Against this backdrop of violence, protests have emerged across U.S. cities calling for a strong American push to halt Israeli military action in Gaza.
Progressive “Squad” members of Congress like Ilhan Omar have amplified these calls for a ceasefire and led demonstrations outside the White House. Pro-Palestinian groups see U.S. military aid enabling Israeli strikes. 
Pelosi Has Long Track Record Of Unwavering Israel Support
As the highest ranking Democrat in Congress, Pelosi has frequently touted her rock solid support for Israel amid criticism from the left of the party’s establishment.
Pelosi has helped secure continued U.S. military assistance for Israel, recently backing a $1 billion missile defense package in December 2023. She has accused groups like the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement of being anti-Semitic. 
In 2021, Pelosi faced criticism from progressive “Squad” members for refusing to include language condemning Israeli settlements in a statement on renewed clashes.
Pelosi’s total alignment with Israel has led some to accuse her of prioritizing Israeli interests over Palestinian rights. Her latest comments treating Gaza ceasefire advocates as potential Russian pawns bolsters this critique for many.
|Key Israel – Gaza Developments
|Major clashes and rocket fire kill hundreds. “Squad” Dems condemn Israeli strikes.
|Pelosi blocks “Squad” criticism of Israel from House statement
|Israel launches Operation Breaking Dawn against Gaza militant groups
|Pelosi helps secure $1 billion U.S. missile defense package for Israel
|Dozens killed in latest violence flare up. Progressives protest, call for ceasefire.
|Pelosi suggests investigating Gaza ceasefire protesters’ ties to Russia
Fallout Continues As Critics See a “Trumpian” Style Smear
Pelosi is facing ongoing criticism that she used McCarthy-esque tactics popularized under former President Trump to smear and discredit protesters she disagreed with.
Her evidence-free linkage to Russian interference reminds some critics of Trump’s playbook. As one commentator put it: “Could ex-Speaker Pelosi be this Trumpishly paranoid?” 
Advocacy groups argue she deployed xenophobic tropes about foreign influence eroding domestic dissent. Some see dark parallels to the Red Scare era targeting of civil rights activists. 
While she cited vague “reports”, critics counter that intelligence agencies have not substantiated any sweeping Russian infiltration of Palestinian solidarity movements.
In their view, Pelosi exploited old Cold War mentalities to disparage grassroots activism pressuring U.S. leaders on Israeli policy.
Doubts Raised About Timing As Pelosi Exits Leadership Post
Some political observers note the timing of Pelosi’s incendiary comments as she prepares to step down from House Democratic leadership after over 20 years.
President Biden and top Democrats paid tribute to Pelosi’s tenure as Speaker in a White House ceremony on January 30th. 
For critics of Israeli policy this transition could signal a needed shift. Polling shows Democrats voters strongly support an even-handed U.S. push for a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Gaza. 
While Pelosi succeeded in maintaining unanimous Democratic support for Israel through much of her leadership, new voices are emerging to challenge this status quo.
Progressives vow to keep pushing Biden left on conditioning aid to curb Israeli strikes harming Palestinian civilians. How Pelosi’s successor navigates these pressures remains to be seen.
The Path Ahead: Calls For Accountability, Reckoning On Gaza Stance
Pelosi did walk back imploring the FBI to actually open an investigation, saying she merely meant to refer reporters to existing claims.
But advocacy groups say damage was already done by her “spreading misinformation” on CNN linking organizers “to foreign adversaries.” 
Some have submitted open-letters insisting Pelosi fully retract her “false allegations”, issue an apology, and commit to protecting rights to protest Israeli policies. 
Whether party leaders heed these calls, analysts say U.S. policy toward Israeli-Palestinian issues faces growing uncertainty.
Biden reaffirmed “ironclad” U.S.-Israel ties in his White House meeting with Lapid last October.  But new progressive voices and protest movements show the base deeply divided.
Grassroots organizing appears set to continue – with or without Russian backing. So Democratic lawmakers face increasing pressure to navigate complex debates over human rights, security, and brokering Mideast peace.
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