U.S. intelligence officials have long confirmed the Russian government launched a broad disinformation campaign in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to benefit former President Donald Trump and damage the Democratic nominee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Years later, a declassified version of a Department of National Intelligence (DNI) report has confirmed Russia's efforts to once again interfere in the 2020 U.S. election, this time against now-President Joe Biden, with another disinformation campaign.
Similarly to 2016, the efforts relied on a massive disinformation campaign, particularly focusing on Biden's son, Hunter.
Hunter Biden was the target of widespread attacks from Trump and his allies, and few publicly slammed him more than Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Giuliani parroted talking points that Hunter Biden's position on a Ukrainian energy board was gained through his connections to former Vice President Biden and exploited to influence relations with Ukraine. Trump's efforts to dig up dirt on the Bidens by pressuring the Ukrainian President eventually resulted in his first impeachment.
For months, Giuliani broadcast debunked claims that Biden leveraged his position to fire a Ukrainian prosecutor that was supposedly investigating his son's firm.
Even as the House was investigating Trump for impeachment, Giuliani traveled to Ukraine for interviews with dubious sources who claimed to have information corroborating the spurious claims.
According to the report:
"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."
It specifically points to Andriy Derkach, "a Ukrainian legislator who played a prominent role in Russia's election influence activities," and Konstantin Kilimnik, who worked for Trump's 2016 campaign chair Paul Manafort. Manafort was charged as a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, but later pardoned by Trump.
The report continues:
"Derkach, Kilimnik, and their associates sought to use prominent US persons and media conduits to launder their narratives to US officials and audiences. 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."
In his analysis of the report, Philip Bump of the Washington Post writes that "[t]here's no reading of that last paragraph that doesn't obviously implicate Giuliani as an unwitting part of the effort."
Bump emphasized, however, that Giuliani's purported aiding of the interference was "unwitting."
In case you missed it yesterday, a government reported strongly indicated that Giuliani was an unwitting ally of a… https://t.co/YgmmcTm6mI— Philip Bump (@Philip Bump)1615995646.0
People weren't surprised that Giuliani, on behalf of Trump, was yet again purveying foreign disinformation.
Yup. That warning by Watts four years ago, every bit as valid. https://t.co/XHPaRue7Pq https://t.co/Aat9pwXLRL— Jason Kint (@Jason Kint)1616041856.0
Is anyone really surprised? https://t.co/8JY9op2x0g— Robin (@Robin)1616009882.0
Surprise - because of his blind zeal, the POTUS’ attorney was a “useful idiot” hooked by Russian agents to spread d… https://t.co/hrcnxufMiW— Delric: Stealer of Goals (@Delric: Stealer of Goals)1616040284.0
Despite Giuliani's bumbling antics, many of his critics speculated that his participation wasn't "unwitting" at all.
Unwitting? He was warned by intel that he was playing with russian operatives and said he didnt care abt the warnin… https://t.co/uMGGukSFEv— Christopher C. Cuomo (@Christopher C. Cuomo)1616040735.0
@pbump “Unwitting” my whole ass https://t.co/4STkRpNava— Burt McGirt (@Burt McGirt)1615995838.0
Giuliani is not unwitting in his support of russians and trump It was widely reported what the Russians were up t… https://t.co/etDKTBF9zS— ᎠᏌNᎬᎷYᎢᎻᎪNᏩ™️ (@ᎠᏌNᎬᎷYᎢᎻᎪNᏩ™️)1615998144.0
“Witless” is not a synonym for “unwitting” https://t.co/wNg1YpxJnR— Turing Pest (@Turing Pest)1616005746.0
@pbump As dumb as he is, nothing he did was “unwitting.” He knew exactly what he was doing. He’s a traitor who belongs in prison.— Andrew Wortman 🏳️🌈 (@Andrew Wortman 🏳️🌈)1616005456.0
He can't be "unwitting" when people told him like a thousand times. At some point, it becomes "witting." https://t.co/KuDEPsLO83— Karen Piper (@Karen Piper)1616008694.0
Trump was reportedly warned in 2019 that Giuliani was amplifying Russian disinformation efforts.