Rudy Giuliani has traveled abroad to look for dirt on the Bidens and has established relationships with shadow figures, including a Ukrainian legislature.
The puzzling report by a New York tabloid about allegedly receiving emails from Joe Biden’s son has raised some red flags. One of the biggest concerns the source of the email: Rudy Giuliani.
Giuliani has traveled overseas looking for dirt on the Bidens and has built relationships with shadow figures, including a Ukrainian lawmaker whom US officials have referred to as Russian agents and who are part of a broader Russian effort to get the Democratic presidential candidates denigrate.
According to Giuliani, foreign sources did not provide Hunter Biden’s emails. He says a laptop with the emails and intimate photos was simply left behind at a Delaware repair shop and the shopkeeper turned to Giuliani’s attorney.
That didn’t stop the FBI from investigating whether the emails were part of an operation with foreign influence. The emails surfaced after US officials warned that Russia, which backed Trump’s 2016 campaign by hacking democratic emails and an undercover social media campaign, is intervening again this year. The most recent episode with Giuliani underscores the risk he poses to a White House that has faced years of federal investigation into whether Trump officials had coordinated with Russia.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that intelligence agencies had warned the White House last year that Giuliani was the target of an operation involving Russian influence. Quoting four former officials, the newspaper said the assessment was based on information, including intercepted communications, showing that Giuliani had contact with people linked to Russian intelligence.
The newspaper said National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien warned Trump that information Giuliani brought back from Ukraine should be viewed as contaminated by Russia, but that Trump dismissed the warning.
Far from distancing himself from Giuliani, Trump has made Hunter Biden’s alleged emails one of his main themes in the final weeks of the campaign as he attempts to belittle his Democratic rival.
The Trump-friendly New York Post began posting stories about the emails on Wednesday, saying it received them from the former New York mayor. According to the newspaper, the emails from Hunter Biden, a California resident, were found in a laptop that had been dropped off for service at a Delaware repair shop by an unknown man who never picked her up. They said the shopkeeper gave it to the FBI, but also made a copy of the hard drive and provided it to Giuliani’s attorney.
A 2015 email released by the Post reportedly showed a top advisor to Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company where Hunter Biden held a board seat. He thanked Biden for giving him the opportunity to meet his father when the elder Biden was serving as US Vice President. The Biden campaign and a lawyer for Hunter Biden said they had no record of such a meeting. You haven’t addressed the authenticity of the emails.
Giuliani did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press on Friday. However, in a Thursday interview with a SiriusXM show, he claimed that the laptop had been turned in by Hunter Biden and that the material had not been hacked and the laptop had been legally obtained. He said on Fox News on Friday that the information from the laptop was “authentically as hell”.
The FBI is investigating whether the emails are tied to an operation with foreign influence, according to a person who was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity. The exact scope of the investigation was not clear.
However, the report that intelligence agencies were concerned about Giuliani is hardly surprising.
Andrii Derkach, the Ukrainian parliamentarian who is one of Giuliani’s main contacts, was mentioned in an August intelligence review describing a concerted Russian effort to belittle Biden. An announcement of sanctions by the Treasury Department last month described Derkach as “an active Russian agent for over a decade”.
Derkach has leaked recordings of calls that Biden made to the then Ukrainian head of state as Vice President in recent months. Audio that the Biden campaign claims is heavily edited. Despite his own administration’s warnings about Derkach, Trump has been promoting these recordings on Twitter.
Giuliani was not shy about discussing his foreign contacts, including with Derkach. In December Derkach posted photos of his meeting with Giuliani in Kiev on his Facebook page.
Frustration with Giuliani in the west wing has long been widespread. People around the president are closely watching Giuliani’s efforts to overthrow the Bidens and fear that they might retake the president.
Giuliani was central to advancing a discredited theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 elections. His shadowy efforts to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens helped initiate the impeachment proceedings against Trump.
Even critics in the president’s orbit recognize Giuliani as a force in Trump’s defense during the special adviser’s lengthy investigation into Russia. The investigation included extensive contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, but did not allege any criminal conspiracy between the two to overturn the 2016 election. Efforts to undermine Robert Mueller, however, led Giuliani to Ukraine, which many believe led directly to Trump’s impeachment. He was acquitted by the Senate in February.
After long struggling to find a wired defense attorney, Trump largely valued Giuliani’s attack dog style – and for a while, his broadsides against Müller appeared to play a role in lowering the Envoy’s approval ratings. At other times, the president has voiced his private dismay at Giuliani’s Scattershot style.
Some around Trump fear that the case against the younger Biden has been weakened because Giuliani has become his face.
The Trump campaign has been pushing corruption allegations against the Bidens for more than a year, with the president advancing the widely discredited theory that the vice president attempted to force Ukraine’s chief prosecutor to save his son from scrutiny. Although Trump employees believe Hunter got rich by selling access to his father, they fear Giuliani’s lack of credibility will cause the allegations to implode.
Associate press writers Jonathan Lemire in New York and Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington contributed to this report.