UPDATE, 0630 GMT:
The Russian Embassy in the US insists that the findings of Moscow’s interference in the 2020 US elections, including co-operation with the camp of Donald Trump, are not supported by facts.
The document prepared by the US intelligence community is another set of groundless accusations against our country of interfering in American internal political processes. The conclusions of the report on Russia conducting influence operations in America are confirmed solely by the confidence of the intelligence services of their self-righteousness. No facts or specific evidence of such claims were provided.
The Embassy threatened disruption of diplomacy with the US if the intelligence assessment was not rescinded, “Washington’s actions do not lead to the normalization of bilateral relations.”
Russia’s Deputy UN Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy tried a different angle, in a tweet complete with emojis, by insisting that it was Ukraine rather than Russia which interfered in the US elections — even though Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy rejected Donald Trump’s personal pressure to spread disinformation about Joe Biden.
Polyanskiy added that the US agencies are “hopless”.
That’s well-known US logic: #Ukraine interferes in US elections, but #Russia is sanctioned for this! 😝😜 we’ve got used to this comedy, don’t worry! US establishment is hopless in its #Russophobia #DoubleStandards #KeepCalmAndBlameRussia https://t.co/IFJGwvf0lf
— Dmitry Polyanskiy (@Dpol_un) March 17, 2021
ORIGINAL ENTRY: The US intelligence community assesses that the Kremlin worked with Donald Trump’s camp in an effort to influence the 2020 Presidential election.
The National Intelligence Council released a 15-page report on Tuesday, “Foreign Threats to the 2020 US Federal Elections”. The analysts found that Iran pursued a multi-pronged covert influence campaign, while China assessed that the risk was too great and stuck to “traditional” efforts such as lobbying.
But the most explosive revelations concern. The report assesses with “high confidence” that Russian President “Vladimir Putin authorized wide-ranging operations, carried out in co-operation with Trump’s inner circle.
A key element of Moscow’s strategy this election cycle was its use of people linked to Russian intelligence to launder influence narratives — including misleading or unsubstantiated allegations against President Biden —through US media organizations, US officials, and prominent US individuals, some of whom were close to former President Trump and his administration.
The primary line of attack was “a narrative…alleging corrupt ties between President Biden, his family, and other US officials and Ukraine”. That narrative intersected with the Trump camp’s unsupported claims and disinformation, focusing on Joe Biden’s son Hunter, who had been on the board of the leading Ukraine gas company Burisma.
The Giuliani Link?
The report does not name the individuals “close to” Trump. But significantly, it says that Putin supervised the “key role” of Ukrainian legislator Andriy Derkach.
Derkach worked closely with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, after Giuliani’s 10-month campaign from November 2018 to spread disinformation about Joe Biden and his family.
That effort ended in September 2019 amid Trump’s pressure, including the suspension of US military aid, on Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelenskiy to publicly declare the allegations against Biden. Trump was impeached over the scandal, but escaped conviction in January 2020 in the Republican-majority Senate.
In late 2019, amid the move towards Trump’s impeachment, Derkach and Giuliani appeared together on the hard-right One America “News” Network, repeating the disinformation against Joe Biden. Giuliani used clips of the segment on his podcast in March 2020.
In September, the US Treasury announced sanctions against Derkach over the “covert influence campaign” with “false and unsubstantiated narratives concerning US officials in the upcoming 2020 Presidential election” through press conferences, interviews, and statements.
Giuliani then distanced himself from the Ukrainian legislator, “I never tried to influence the election, and my work with him was over months ago well before the election.”
From 2016 Trump-Russia to 2020 Trump-Russia
In another connection between the 2016 Trump-Russia links and the 2020 election, the report also names Russian operative Konstantin Kilimnik as a key actor in the most recent campaign.
In 2016, Kilimnik collaborated with Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, to the point where Manafort offered the Russian vital polling information. The Senate Intelligence Committee assessed last year that Manafort was a “grave counterintelligence threat” because of the “sustained contact”.
The report says Kilimick and other operatives used “prominent US persons and media conduits to launder their narratives” and “met with and provided materials to Trump administration-linked US persons”.
That network was behind a “documentary that aired on a US television network in late January 2020″. The program is not named, but appears to be One America “News” Network’s “The Ukraine Hoax: Impeachment, Biden Cash, and Mass Murder.” The host was Michael Caputo, later named by Trump as the chief spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services.
The NIC report notes that Russia did not pursue the widespread computer hacking that marked its intervention in the 2016 US election, and says it found no attempt to attempt the voting process, including the compromise of voting machines or the alteration of ballots.
However, Moscow did continue the Internet troll and disinformation efforts that it developed in 2016, including the operations of the Internet Research Agency.