Speaking before the House Homeland Security Committee last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray made clear that Russia has two primary tactics in this 2020 election. One of those is a strategy Russia has employed in every election since Soviet times: play on American racial and economic divides to generate hatred and disunity. The other is to boost Donald Trump by spreading rumors that Joe Biden isn’t up to the task of being president.
Now, as The Washington Post reports, information from the CIA makes it clear that Vladimir Putin is likely to be personally directing the effort to demean Biden. But whether Putin or his lieutenants are in charge of that effort, the means of carrying it out are clear enough. To hurt Biden, Russian operatives in Ukraine are playing up exactly the claims that Donald Trump was pressing in the extortion scheme that resulted in his being impeached. And because Trump-era Republicans never feel any shame, even when they are caught consorting with America’s enemies in a scheme to plant false information against an opposition candidate, the Russian effort to derail Biden is being directed through Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani.
The report on Russian activities in the 2020 election was published at the end of August—by what is surely a coincidence, this would be just two days after Republican congressman turned Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told the House there would be no more in person briefings on election interference in the 2020 cycle. Instead, Ratcliffe said he intended to “crackdown on leaks” of intelligence information going to Congress. Apparently that included not providing the House with the latest CIA analysis, which was marked “highly classified.”
The August 31 Worldwide Intelligence Review compiles information from both public sources and classified assets, and what it describes is how pro-Russia member of the Ukrainian legislature Andrii Derkach—Giuliani’s primary contact in Ukraine—worked to spread Russian disinformation about Biden “inside the United States through lobbyists, Congress, the media and contacts with figures close to the president.”
The assessment notes that Putin and Russian senior leadership are most likely leading this effort, and are certainly aware of what’s happening in the Derkach-Giuliani pipeline. Derkach is decisively identified not just as a Russia-leaning legislator, but as an active Russian asset, which echoes previous evaluation from both the Office of the DNI and the Treasury Department.
On September 11, Giuliani made light of his connections to Derkach after the Treasury Department issued sanctions. But Giuliani has been the instrument by which Derkach has spread his information in the United States for months. Giuliani has frequently repeated statements from Derkach on both Fox News and actual media, saying that the charges justified Trump’s efforts to extort the Ukrainian government. Giuliani also released a series of altered and heavily edited audiotapes created to make it seem that Biden engaged in pushing Ukraine to help his son. Those recordings are likely a direct product of Russia propaganda. The CIA assessment reportedly describes the details of Derkach’s efforts with Giuliani and others to disseminate Russian lies about Biden.
In August, Donald Trump tweeted a part of the Russia-created “recording,” spread by Derkach and Giuliani, in which both Biden’s words and those of the then Ukrainian president had been altered. That Twitter user who posted that recording as since been banned. Trump is still there.