Intelligence officials warned Trump that Giuliani was target of Russian influence campaign: report
Intelligence officials warned President Trump that his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was the target of an influence campaign conducted by Russian intelligence, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
Four former officials familiar with the matter told the Post that the intelligence officers were worried that the president’s personal lawyer was being used to pass Russian misinformation to Trump.
The intelligence community reportedly learned of the campaign through multiple sources, including intercepted communications, that determined Giuliani was communicating with people tied to Russian intelligence during his 2019 trip to Ukraine.
National security adviser Robert O’Brien led efforts to warn Trump about the campaign, saying information provided by Giuliani after trips to Ukraine should be considered to be tainted by Russia, one former official told the newspaper.
The former official told the paper that the message to Trump was,“Do what you want to do, but your friend Rudy has been worked by Russian assets in Ukraine.” The person added the warning was intended to “to protect” the president “from coming out and saying something stupid,” according to the report.
O’Brien reportedly was unsure if his message went through to Trump who “shrugged his shoulders” in response and said, “That’s Rudy.”
Giuliani visited Ukraine in December 2019 amid the impeachment investigation into the president’s dealings with the country with a goal to dig up information on now-Democratic nominee Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden previously served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, Burisma.
Intelligence officers had also provided written warnings to the White House about Giuliani being a target for Russians earlier in 2019 before his trip.
One former official said “that everybody [in the intelligence community who knew about it] was talking about how hard it was going to be to try to get [Giuliani] to stop, to take seriously the idea that he was being used as a conduit for misinformation.”
The Post noted that the information Giuliani was looking for was similar to what was included in emails published in the controversial New York Post piece this week. The New York Post said those documents came from a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden that Giuliani and Trump’s former political adviser Stephen Bannon gave to reporters.
The newspaper said it was unable to verify the authenticity of the alleged communications that detailed Hunter Biden.
Several senior administration officials, including Attorney General William Barr, FBI Director Christopher Wray and White House counsel Pat Cipollone “all had common understanding” that Russia was targeting the president’s personal lawyer.
The FBI declined to comment, and the Justice Department did not immediately return a request for comment to The Hill.
A spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) directed the Post to the White House for comment.
“National Security Advisor O’Brien and White House Counsel Cipollone meet with the President frequently on a variety of matters. Ambassador O’Brien does not comment on sensitive intelligence topics, or on the advice he provides President Trump,” National Security Council spokesperson John Ullyot told The Hill.
He added that O’Brien “can say that the President always treats such briefings with the utmost seriousness. The characterization of the meeting as described in this article is not accurate.”
The former officials told the Post that Giuliani was not under U.S. surveillance while in Ukraine but was talking to alleged Russian intelligence who were being surveilled.
Giuliani told the Post he was never informed that Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russia legislator in Ukraine, was a Russian asset and he “only had secondary information and I was not considering him a witness.”
Derkach, whom Giuliani met with in Ukraine and New York, was sanctioned by the Department of Treasury in September and accused by ODNI of “spreading claims about corruption … to undermine” Biden and the Democratic Party in August.