May 9, 2021

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FBI warned Giuliani he was target of Russian disinfo campaign: report – Business Insider

3 min read
  • The FBI warned Rudy Giuliani in late 2019 that the Russian government was using him to spread disinformation about the Bidens, WaPo reported.
  • Giuliani ignored the warnings and continued his quest to dig up dirt on the Bidens.
  • He’s now the target of a federal criminal investigation into whether he violated lobbying laws.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The FBI warned former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani in late 2019 that the Russian government was using him to spread disinformation about the Biden family ahead of the 2020 election, The Washington Post reported.

Giuliani was a fixture on conservative airwaves in the months leading up to the election, where he repeatedly amplified bogus conspiracy theories accusing then candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, of having corrupt ties to Ukraine. He also pushed the lie that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election, a talking point that can be traced back to Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.

The former mayor serves as former President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, and his actions were so alarming to US officials that they warned the White House and Trump after Giuliani traveled to Kiev in December 2019 that Russia was using him to funnel disinformation to US audiences before the 2020 election.

Four former officials familiar with the matter told The Post the warnings were based on several sources, including intercepted communications. The intercepts are said to have shown that Giuliani communicated with multiple people who had ties to Russian intelligence during the Ukraine trip.

He specifically made the trip as part of his effort to dig up dirt on Hunter Biden related to his work for the Ukrainian natural-gas company Burisma Holdings. One of the people he met with was the Ukrainian politician Andriy Derkach. The US government has since sanctioned Derkach and described him as an “active Russian agent.”

The Post reported that the intercepted communications raised red flags with US officials who worried that Russian officials were using Giuliani as a conduit to feed disinformation to Trump. After the White House was warned about the possibility, the report said, the national security advisor Robert O’Brien told the president to approach any information Giuliani gave him with caution.

Trump shrugged off the warnings, according to The Post. On Wednesday, the FBI raided Giuliani’s apartment and office in Manhattan and seized his electronic devices, as well as a computer belonging to his personal assistant, Jo Ann Zafonte. Zafonte was served with a grand jury subpoena, and The New York Times reported that the feds also raided the Washington, DC, home of one of Giuliani’s associates and a fellow attorney, Victoria Toensing.

The raids mark an aggressive new phase in a long-running criminal investigation into whether Giuliani broke foreign lobbying laws through his dealings with Ukraine. The Times later reported that at least one of the search warrants sought evidence about the abrupt firing of Marie Yovanovitch, the US’s former ambassador to Ukraine.

Specifically, prosecutors are said to be examining whether Giuliani was working on behalf of the Ukrainian prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, while pushing for Yovanovitch’s dismissal.

Yovannovitch appeared for a nine-hour, closed-door deposition on Capitol Hill related to the first impeachment inquiry into Trump. In her opening statement, she said that then-Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told her she “had done nothing wrong” but that there was a “concerted campaign’ to remove her, and that the department had been “under pressure from the President to remove [her] since Summer of 2018.”

Giuliani and his lawyer have denied any wrongdoing, and his attorney described the FBI’s raids as “legal thuggery.” The former New York mayor also a statement saying he was targeted because of a “corrupt double standard” and alleging that investigators were ignoring purported illicit activities on the part of Hunter Biden.

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