Julia Ioffe (/ˈjɒfi/; Russian: Юлия Иоффе) is a Russian-born American journalist who covers national security and foreign policy topics for GQ. Her writing has previously appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Foreign Policy, Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, The New Republic, Politico, and The Atlantic. Ioffe often appears on MSNBC, CNN, and other news channels as a Russia expert.
Early life and education
Ioffe was born in Moscow, to a Russian Jewish family. When she was 7, her family immigrated to the United States. They were refugees "fleeing anti-Semitism" in the Soviet Union. They settled in Columbia, Maryland. Ioffe graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University, majoring in history with a focus on Soviet history and Russian literature. In 2005, her senior thesis project “A study of the Soviet connection to the Spanish speaking world” was awarded with Stone Davis Prize. She also received a cash grant of $6,000.
While at Princeton, Ioffe was vice-president of the Princeton Israel Public Affairs Committee. In a college newspaper column published in 2003, she said she supported Israel's “methods of defense against terrorism”, including the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier. According to Ioffe, the barrier was “necessary for Israel to protect its citizens” against an outburst of attacks by Palestinian suicide bombers, which was rapidly growing from 5 attacks in 2000 to 40 and 47 in 2001 and 2002 respectively.
Ioffe began her career as a fact-checker for The New Yorker in 2005. She also worked for the Columbia Journalism School's Knight Case Studies Initiative, writing case studies on complex journalistic issues arising in newsrooms, both in America and abroad. Over the next decade, she contributed articles to The New Yorker, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Forbes, GQ, The New Republic, Politico, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post Highline, and The Atlantic. Ioffe spent three years in Moscow, from 2009 to 2012, working as a correspondent for The New Yorker and Foreign Policy. In 2012, she returned to the U.S. and became a senior editor for The New Republic in Washington, D.C. From 2016 to 2019, she worked as a contributing writer at Politico Magazine, as a national security, foreign policy, and politics correspondent for The Atlantic, and as a political reporter for GQ.
Moscow correspondent for The New Yorker and Foreign Policy
In 2009, Ioffe won a Fulbright Scholarship to return to Russia. There, she also began work as a Moscow correspondent for The New Yorker and Foreign Policy.
From 2011 to 2012, Russian politics experienced a period of massive political unrest, including the largest political protests in the post-Soviet era. Ioffe was actively reporting on these events. She was the first Western journalist to write a comprehensive profile of Alexey Navalny, then a lawyer and anti-corruption activist. The profile was published in the April 4, 2011 issue of The New Yorker. The profile was a finalist for the Livingston Award. In the next year, Navalny would become the de facto leader of the Russian opposition and major political rival to Vladimir Putin.
Ioffe covered protests, as well as the political maneuvering surrounding Putin’s return to the presidency, in her influential column “Kremlinology 2012,” which was published in Foreign Policy.
In February 2012, she continued profiling major Russian politicians for The New Yorker with an article about Mikhail Prokhorov, then the third richest man in Russia who contested the 2012 presidential elections. “Are Putin and Prokhorov running for President against or with each other?” Ioffe asked in the profile. Later, it became widely known that Prokhorov’s candidacy had been inspired by the Kremlin to artificially make the elections look more competitive.
During the most violent protest, which took place on May 6, 2012, the day before Putin’s inauguration, Ioffe took what became an iconic photo of a small boy on a bicycle with training wheels, facing a row of Russian riot police. The image instantly went viral and became one of the symbols of Putin’s crackdown on democratic protestors.
The New Republic
At the New Republic, Ioffe wrote about American politics, including about a brewing civil war within the Republican Party. Her 2013 profile of Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul was a finalist for the Livingston Award. She also covered the protests in Ferguson, Mo. and President Barack Obama's decision not to retaliate against President Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons on Syrian rebels.
In 2013, Ioffe wrote about contracting whooping cough, despite having been vaccinated for it as a child. She blamed the anti-vaxxer community for her illness. The New Republic announced that this was the publication’s most read article of 2013.
Ioffe also continued writing about Russia, including about the 2013 anti-gay laws and the Kremlin’s ban on American adoptions of Russian children. In the winter of 2013, Ioffe returned to Moscow to document what happened to the opposition after the 2012 crackdown. Among others, she interviewed Alexey Navalny, future presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak, and members of Pussy Riot. Her article, “The Loneliness of Vladimir Putin,” appeared on the cover of The New Republic in February 2014.
Sochi Olympics, Crimea and Eastern Ukraine
While covering the 2014 Sochi Olympics for The New Republic, Ioffe traveled to Ukraine, where pro-Western protestors had toppled the Moscow-friendly president. She was one of the first Western observers to predict that Russia would invade Eastern Ukraine after its illegal annexation of Crimea. In the spring of 2014, she traveled to Eastern Ukraine to cover the Russian invasion of the region.
In December 2014, Ioffe was one of the many staff members at The New Republic to resign in protest against owner Chris Hughes's planned changes at the magazine. The following month, she joined The New York Times Magazine as a contributor.
In May 2016, Ioffe became a contributing writer at Politico.
There she became the first journalist to profile Trump’s speechwriter and policy advisor Stephen Miller. Ioffe also wrote a piece about Carter Page, another Trump’s advisor, who possessed years of experience investing in Russia and energy sector.
In December 2016, Ioffe issued a tweet aimed at then-president elect Donald Trump, implying that he was involved in a sexual relationship with his daughter, for which after being criticized she later apologized, deleting it and describing it as "tasteless and offensive". Ioffe was subsequently dismissed from Politico. The Atlantic announced that it was hiring Ioffe to cover national security, foreign policy, and politics, with editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg describing her as "an indefatigable reporter".
Ioffe joined The Atlantic in early 2017.
She was the first to obtain a 10-month correspondence between Donald Trump Jr. and WikiLeaks, which played a pivotal role in the presidential campaign and is suspected of being an agent of Kremlin intelligence. Ioffe discovered that “though Trump Jr. mostly ignored the frequent messages from WikiLeaks, he at times appears to have acted on its requests… and shared that information with Donald Trump’s senior campaign officials”.
Ioffe was also the first to get the entire e-mail correspondence between Trump’s campaign chief Paul Manafort and Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with strong ties to the Kremlin. The piece reveals that “Manafort (who is in the center of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the possibility of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign) attempted to leverage his leadership role in the Trump campaign to curry favor with a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin”.
Cover story "What Putin Really Wants"
In January 2018, Ioffe wrote a cover story for The Atlantic “What Putin Really Wants”. In this article, she insists that Putin’s “manipulative genius” is often overestimated in the U.S., while the Russian president “is just a gambler who won big”.
Ioffe as an expert on Russia
Ioffe often appears on national and cable channels as a Russia expert. Since 2013, she has been a guest of Morning Joe, All In with Chris Hayes, Hardball, The Maddow Show and The 11th Hour with Brian Williams on MSBNC, The Lead with Jake Tapper on CNN, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and The Opposition, on Comedy Central.
Frontline PBS documentary "Putin’s Revenge"
In 2017, Ioffe appeared in Frontline PBS documentary "Putin’s Revenge" which was later nominated for an Emmy in two categories: "Best Documentary" and "Outstanding Writing". The documentary was heavily based on an interview with Ioffe. Later, when all the interviews were published on Frontline's YouTube channel, Ioffe's became the most popular and amassed more than two million views.
'Mansplaining Russia' argument with Lawrence O'Donnell
On August 7, 2013, Ioffe was involved in an argument with Lawrence O'Donnell over Putin's control of Russian media. Ioffe alleged that, instead of letting her answer his questions, O’Donnell “interrupted and harangued and mansplained” her.
The next day, Ioffe responded with a post on The New Republic's website, "Dear Lawrence O'Donnell, Don't Mansplain to Me About Russia", in which she stated that she had spent several years reporting from Russia, was a native speaker, and had been invited and introduced as an expert on Russia. "What bothers me is that, look: your producers take the time to find experts to come on the show, answer your questions, and, hopefully, clarify the issue at hand".
The post quickly drew national attention and started a wide discussion about several aspects of the interaction between television and online media. Joe Coscarelli of New York magazine wrote that "[Ioffe’s] simple, bullet-pointed list of arguments would never be allowed on cable television because they reveal an ability to think outside a black or white, good or bad, America or Russia dichotomy". Philip Bump of The Atlantic assumed that it’s "impossible to win a TV Argument in an Internet World", that "the power distinction between host and guest became flexible… (because) they interact both on-air and off" and "nearly any writing online could similarly rise to national attention" like Ioffe’s.
In April 2016, Ioffe published a profile of Melania Trump for GQ magazine that revealed Melania Trump had a half-brother with whom the family was not in contact. Slate magazine characterized the profile as "generally positive" of Trump. Melania Trump, however, wrote in a Facebook post, "There are numerous inaccuracies in this article [...] My parents are private citizens and should not be subject to Ms. Ioffe's unfair scrutiny." Ioffe responded to CBS News saying, "I think she's understandably upset that some dirty laundry came out, but I did my job." Ioffe's profile was praised by Slate and Erik Wemple, while Fox News writer Howard Kurtz said it had a "condescending tone". Maxim magazine said that it "smacked of politically-motivated contempt for Donald Trump masked as a 'probing' look at his glamorous wife". Following the article's publication, Ioffe received numerous anti-Semitic and threatening messages. In an interview, Melania Trump said that Ioffe "provoked" the anti-Semitic abuse she later received with her article.
On October 29, 2018, in a discussion over President Donald Trump's rhetoric in the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, Ioffe appeared on CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper commenting that "this president has radicalized so many more people than ISIS ever did" pointing to a 60% rise in antisemitism attacks during 2017. The comment received pushback from fellow panelists David Urban and Mona Charen. Ioffe later apologized for the comment during the broadcast and on Twitter calling her comments "hyperbole". In a Fox News interview with Laura Ingraham, Trump called Ioffe "some kind of a sick woman".