Even before the 2016 election, Donald Trump and his supporters were pushing back against news that Russia was directly interfering in the U.S. presidential election. Even though Russia had engaged an army of false social media accounts, a network of sites dedicated to generating Trump-favorable false stories, and teams of dedicated hackers digging into documents at the DNC, Trump refused to say a bad word about the land of Vladimir Putin. Instead, Trump and his campaign pushed a conspiracy theory that all the hackers, bots, and Facebook ads didn’t actually come from Russia. Instead, said Trump’s campaign, the U.S. was being taken for a ride by that most powerful of opponents … Ukraine.
Trump and members of his campaign team pushed a completely unsupported idea that the “Cozy Bear” hackers were actually Ukrainians just pretending to be Russian. Then Trump took the whole thing further, insisting that Hillary Clinton’s emails were somehow stored on a “missing server” that was somewhere in Ukraine. That there was no missing server in the first place wasn’t a problem.
It was all ridiculous. But over the next four years, Trump set out to prove that not only was Ukraine behind the 2016 hacks, they were also hiding criminal activity on the part of Joe Biden and his son. So, with the help of Rudy Giuliani and a cast of seemingly hundreds of eager to help scam artists, Trump spent months making connections with pro-Russian elements in Ukraine and leaning on the Ukrainian government. Those efforts not only earned Trump his first impeachment, it seems they also opened the 2020 election to foreign interference … from Ukraine. By way of Rudy Giuliani.
As The New York Times reports, federal prosecutors are now investigating whether a group of Ukrainian officials launched a scheme to use Trump to get things they wanted in exchange for false information that Rudy Giuliani could spread in hopes of harming President Joe Biden. Which … yes. Yes, that happened. And it’s already been well-documented by House investigators.
It’s been clear for months that Giuliani established ties to both exiled oligarch Dmytro Firtash and corrupt officials like parliament member Andriy Derkach. Firtash, who is also connected with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and employs Trump attorneys Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, gave Giuliani the indicted Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas to act as his guides to the Ukrainian underworld. With both Trump and Firtash leaning in, Giuliani had no trouble finding plenty of people willing to sign off on statements that smeared Biden—even if some of those same people instantly folded when questioned and admitted that they were just trying to “curry favor” with Trump.
However, Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine did have some very serious consequences, including giving power to hoodlums who wanted a U.S. ambassador out of the way so they could increase their level of corruption. Giuliani gleefully served that role, helping to demean and dismiss a dedicated career official so that he could get crooks to sign onto his scheme.
Now that Giuliani is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation that has seen his home and office raided, it seems that prosecutors are also looking at the people on the other end of the pipe. Particular attention seems to be focused on Derkach. Derkach has been both named by the intelligence community as an “active Russian agent” and sanctioned by the Treasury Department. He’s also one of Giuliani’s primary sources for claims against Biden and his son, Hunter.
The only person standing up for Derkach appears to be Giuliani, who said in an interview, “I have no reason to believe he is a Russian agent.” He said that after being officially warned that Derkach was … a Russian agent. Which is a pretty important denial for Giuliani.
The federal case against Giuliani seems to center on to what extent he acted as an unregistered foreign agent for Ukrainian elements in lobbying Trump to take actions such as the firing of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. That Giuliani did such a thing as a dupe of corrupt former officials supported by an oligarch who can’t even set foot in his own country for fear of arrest … that’s bad. But if it turns out that Giuliani did this as the knowing partner of someone who had been identified to him as an active agent of Russia … that’s considerably worse.
This investigation is based in the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn, and is apparently running in parallel with the investigation into Giuliani’s activities being based in the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan. Hopefully they’re sharing notes.