A very damning report in The Daily Beast reveals that U.S. intelligence has warned for more than a year that Andriy Derkach – recently cited as an “active Russian agent” by the U.S. Treasury Department – was suspected of election interference.
The blacklisting [of Derkach] has caused problems for one legislator in particular: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who is nearing the end of a probe into Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s activities in Ukraine—specifically, the discredited notion that the then-vice president halted a corruption probe that might have interfered with his son Hunter’s business interests there. It’s a would-be controversy that’s been fueled by a nexus of Trump allies and pro-Russian Ukrainians.
A few days ago, I wrote about Johnson’s admission that his taxpayer-funded investigation into Biden is politically driven. Now we know that Johnson’s investigation relied on a Derkach-associated source. Last weekend, I wrote about Politico reporter Natasha Bertrand's contention that Russian disinformation has been mainstreamed and legitimized by Johnson's probe. Now there's this:
Asked by The Daily Beast if Johnson had been warned, or specifically briefed, about the threat posed by pro-Russian Ukrainian figures, a spokesperson for Johnson did not provide comment as of press time.
But by the early months of 2020, those observing the course of the Johnson investigation up close clearly saw Derkach’s links to a Ukrainian self-described source of the investigation, the Giuliani associate and former Ukrainian diplomat Andrii Telizhenko. At that point, said the source, it should have been clear to all involved that Russian disinformation underpinned the Johnson inquiry.
Derkach told Politico in July that he’d sent materials related to Biden to members of Congress, including to Johnson and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), his partner in the probe.
Johnson denies any dealing with Derkach and claims not to know who he is.
“We did not accept any information from Mr. Derkach whatsoever,” said Johnson. “I don’t know who Derkach is.”
But did Johnson accept information from someone who got it from Derkach, like, say, Rudy Giuliani or some other U.S. source?
Johnson, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s panel for Europe and has frequently traveled to the region, was among the first prominent U.S. politicians to amplify claims and theories known to have been fueled by pro-Russia actors like Derkach. Johnson has endorsed the narrative that the government of Ukraine tried to undermine Trump during the last election—a story that Derkach has also been pushing since 2017. In an Aug. 10 letter describing his current investigation, Johnson explained that its origins date to 2017, when his committee focused on Ukraine as the alleged source of the real foreign collusion in the prior year’s presidential race.
“Our investigation relies on U.S. documents from U.S. agencies and U.S. persons—there is no Russian disinformation in our record,” said Johnson during a meeting of his committee on Wednesday morning.