Daniel Goldman, the former federal prosecutor who served as the chief counsel for House Democrats in the impeachment of President Donald Trump, said on Saturday that the president and his allies are going back to the 2016 playbook ahead of the 2020 election by encouraging and promulgating Russian disinformation to influence voters.
“Trump was told that Russia was using Giuliani to spread disinformation to influence the election,” Goldman wrote. “What did he do? He encouraged [Rudy Giuliani’s] efforts and welcomed the help from Russia. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it is. The same thing happened in 2016. This is collusion. Again.”
Following publication of the extremely suspicious story from the Trump-friendly New York Post involving the blind owner of a computer repair shop providing Giuliani with a copy of the hard drive from a laptop said to have been abandoned at the store by Hunter Biden, several news outlets reported that intelligence agencies had already warned the Trump administration that the Russians were actively trying to manipulate Giuliani.
According to a Friday evening report from CBS News, national security adviser Robert O’Brien told President Trump in Dec. 2019 that U.S. intelligence agencies had “concerns” that Giuliani was being “targeted by a Russian disinformation campaign” in an effort to undermine the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
One former administration official told the New York Times that the agencies “had developed solid and credible information” that Giuliani was being actively “worked over” by Russian intelligence operatives, but said the president simply “shrugged it off,” and continued to promote unverified claims from his personal attorney.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has even opened an investigation into whether the emails purportedly contained on Hunter Biden’s laptop were actually part of a foreign influence operation launched by Russia, NBC News reported Thursday. The precise scope of the probe is not yet clear. Federal officials have already confirmed that the Russian government is attempting, once again, to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) on Saturday also said he had seen the underlying intelligence regarding the emails, stating they were “very likely Russian propaganda.”
Giuliani has publicly denied that he obtained the material from a foreign source. On Friday, Giuliani said he knows for sure the laptop came straight from Hunter Biden. “It’s authentic as hell,” he said during an interview with Fox & Friends.
“Some of those pictures on it can only have come from him, and I’ll tell you why I know it for sure. I have about 10 pieces of confidential information nobody knows except me and Hunter Biden,” he said.
But Giuliani has a history of pushing false and conspiratorial claims from Russian sources, particularly from Andrii Derkach, a pro-Russian member of the Ukrainian Parliament whom the Treasury Department sanctioned last month, labeling him an “active Russian agent” who’s had close ties to the Kremlin for more than a decade.
Derkach was one of the largest proponents of the false conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 election. More recently, he has released “leaked” recordings of calls between then-vice president Biden president and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko which had been heavily edited to paint Biden as corrupt.
Despite U.S. intelligence agencies repeatedly warning Trump and Giuliani the theory was false, both consistently amplified the conspiracy. The president has also tweeted the edited Biden calls after officials described them as part of a Russian disinformation campaign.
[Image via DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images]
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