The Washington Post’s Philip Bump wrote on Wednesday that the recently declassified report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence strongly implicates Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani in Russia’s election interference efforts.
Bump wrote that by early May of 2019, “Giuliani must have looked like the international espionage equivalent of a wide-eyed tourist walking around with his wallet hanging out his back pocket.”
He’d announced his intention to travel to Ukraine to seek out derogatory information about Joe Biden, then a newly announced presidential candidate and someone well positioned to face President Donald Trump, then Giuliani’s boss, in the 2020 election. For any Russian officials interested in finding a conduit for misinformation that both cast their geopolitical rival Ukraine as corrupt and bolstered Trump’s chances of reelection, Giuliani must have been an irresistible target.
A report released by the Director of National Intelligence on Tuesday strongly suggests that this is exactly what happened.
Bump noted that in his quest to dig up dirt on then-candidate Joe Biden in Ukraine, Giuliani added to his associates “Andriy Derkach, a member of Ukraine’s parliament who had been a member of a Pro-Russia political party for which Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort once worked.”
Derkach posted photos of his meetings with Giuliani on social media, reporting that the two had discussed an effort to address purported “corruption” in Ukraine. He also later appeared in that One America News series purporting to prove Biden’s culpability. The network promoted the series by showing a picture of Giuliani sitting down with Derkach.
Both Giuliani and OAN should have known that Derkach wasn’t a reliable source. At the time, The Washington Post reported on his ties to Russia and his lack of credibility. His official biography identifies links to the KGB, Russia’s former intelligence agency. But he continued to provide dubious information that was picked up by conservative media and promoted by Giuliani as the election unfolded.
Then, Trump’s own “Treasury Department sanctioned Derkach — an ‘active Russian agent’ — for attempting to influence the 2020 presidential election,” Bump noted.
The DNI report released this week is focused on ways in which foreign countries, chief among them Russia, sought to reshape the election and articulates Derkach’s alleged role to that end.
“A key element of Moscow’s strategy this election cycle was its use of people linked to Russian intelligence to launder influence narratives — including misleading or unsubstantiated allegations against President Biden — through US media organizations, US officials, and prominent US individuals, some of whom were close to former President Trump and his administration,” the report reads. This effort was directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, it continues, who “had purview over the activities of Andriy Derkach, a Ukrainian legislator who played a prominent role in Russia’s election influence activities.”
“Derkach, [Konstantin] Kilimnik, and their associates sought to use prominent US persons and media conduits to launder their narratives to US officials and audiences,” the report states. “These Russian proxies met with and provided materials to Trump administration-linked US persons to advocate for formal investigations; hired a US firm to petition US officials; and attempted to make contact with several senior US officials. They also made contact with established US media figures and helped produce a documentary that aired on a US television network in late January 2020.”
“There’s no reading of that last paragraph that doesn’t obviously implicate Giuliani as an unwitting part of the effort,” Bump wrote.
There’s no suggestion from the report that Giuliani or other Americans were wittingly aiding a Russian interference effort. Instead, the report contributes to a sense that Giuliani’s eagerness to aid Trump’s reelection effort blinded him to the sketchiness of his sources.
Bump concluded that “the report makes one obvious point without ever using Giuliani’s name: Trump’s personal attorney was allegedly a conduit for an effort by Russia to affect the results of the 2020 presidential election to Trump’s benefit.”
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