According to a new report released this week by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), Russian President Vladimir Putin “authorized extensive efforts to interfere in the American presidential election to denigrate the candidacy of Joseph R. Biden Jr., including intelligence operations to influence people close to former President Donald J. Trump,” as summarized by The New York Times. Influencing Trump allies was part of the Russian government playbook for 2020, and, by all appearances, the playbook was at least somewhat successfully implemented.
The Times adds that the new report about Russian meddling does not name the Trump associates who were targets of the attempt to garner allies for the influence operation, but the report appears to point to longtime Trump ally Rudy Giuliani.
Throughout the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election, Giuliani obsessively pushed the idea that the Bidens were corruptly intertwined with foreign interests. He claimed, for instance, that Joe Biden’s work as vice president to pressure Ukraine into dismissing a particular prosecutor constituted an attempt to corruptly shield his own son, Hunter, from scrutiny, but that assessment is brazenly false. Joe Biden has no substantive ties to any of his family members’ overseas business work, and he wasn’t the only one pressuring Ukraine to drop that prosecutor, who Western leaders criticized as too lenient on corruption.
As the intelligence report put it, “Russian state and proxy actors who all serve the Kremlin’s interests worked to affect U.S. public perceptions in a consistent manner.” Giuliani is also known to have been connected with Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Derkach, who was sanctioned by the Treasury Department, which characterized Derkach as a years-long operative for Russian intelligence services. After previously meeting, Giuliani and Derkach appeared together on the far-right One America News Network in late 2019, where they discussed Biden corruption allegations, and Giuliani included clips from that media appearance in an installment of his podcast in early 2020.
After Derkach was sanctioned, Giuliani attempted to distance himself from him. Giuliani insisted that he “never tried to influence the election,” adding that his “work with [Derkach] was over months ago well before the election.” Suggesting that Giuliani never tried to “influence the election” is… questionable, at best. How else would Giuliani describe what he was doing?
After the election, Giuliani was one of the chief proponents of the lie that the race had been fraudulently rigged for Joe Biden, and in service of that claim, he participated in — among other antics — a slew of publicly accessible hearings across the country, where he pushed the rigged election lies. Sidney Powell, an attorney who was allied with the Trump team, claimed that Dominion Voting Systems (a voting technology company) was part of an election-rigging scheme kickstarted by Venezuelan authorities, which is lunacy.
Besides the ODNI report, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security released their own report that “rejected false allegations promoted by Mr. Trump’s allies in the weeks after the election that Venezuela or other foreign countries defrauded the election,” the Times explained. The Times noted that the new reports “amounted to a repudiation of Mr. Trump, his allies and some of his top administration officials” — and yet, Republicans continue. Trump pushed the false claim that he was the rightful 2020 election winner as recently as this year’s edition of the Conservative Political Action Conference.