Donald Trump, Sen. Ron Johnson and plenty of their cronies have some ‘splaining to do about why their 2020 campaign rhetoric and actions fit so perfectly with Putin’s designs, thanks to the revelations in a newly-declassified intelligence report.
March 17, 2021

Donald Trump, Sen. Ron Johnson and plenty of their cronies have some ‘splaining to do about why their 2020 campaign rhetoric and actions fit so perfectly with Putin’s designs, thanks to the revelations in a newly-declassified intelligence report.

The report does not explicitly state that Trump and Russia used the same messaging or tactics. But no one familiar with Trump’s tactics or what was seen nightly on Fox News could miss the implications.

For example, from the report:

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 allegations against President Biden through U.S. media organizations, U.S. officials, and prominent U.S. individuals, some of whom were close to former President Trump and his administration.

The primary effort the intelligence community uncovered revolved around a narrative that Russian actors began spreading as early as 2014, alleging corrupt ties between President Biden, his family, and other U.S. officials and Ukraine.

Sound familiar? MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace connected the dots between Trump’s 2019 effort to get dirt on Biden from the president of Ukraine (the subject of Trump’s first impeachment) and Russia's already-ongoing smear campaign of the same subject.

Guest Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence, explained the larger seriousness of the report.

FIGLIUZZI: I'll tell you what, there's a lot to unpack in this very concise overview of this report. And you're right to key in on a couple of things. First, that Trump and his administration had complete access to this intelligence. They were suppressing it. They weren't letting it out.

And also, it wasn't just that Russia, at Putin's direction, with Putin's knowledge, was directing and supporting a campaign to back Trump. That would be bad enough. But they were doing it - part and parcel of that campaign, was to go after Joe Biden and his family. It was a scorched-earth, no-holds-barred, we're going after his family, we're going to besmirch him, we're going to denigrate him. This is, you know, you talk about dirty politics - this is dirty geopolitics on a national and national security level.


[The 2020 election] was a narrow victory. There's no rest for the weary because this doesn't stop with this. It will keep coming. It is the new battlefield.

And then, secondly, all of the people who just regurgitated every day and every night and, by the way, still do it every night on cable television, this mantra of Russian propaganda, they're not just liars now. Now we have to call them what they are. They are Russian assets when they regurgitate the lies that they know come from the Russian intelligence service.

Wallace noted that Konstantin Kilimnik (a key figure in the Mueller investigation) appeared in this latest report as having taken steps to damage U.S. ties to Ukraine, denigrate Biden and his candidacy and benefit Trump’s prospects for re-election.

She also noted that much of the same propaganda “came out of the mouths of American members of Congress” during Trump’s first impeachment trial. “Should we go back and trace the puppeting or the puppet strings being pulled between Russian disinformation and the things said by American members of Congress?” she asked.

Figliuzzi thinks we should. He called for getting out the facts and “getting some sunshine on this so that it doesn’t happen again or at least we mitigate the risk.”

He explained that the report reveals Russia’s goals and operation are bigger than just the 2020 election:

FIGLIUZZI: Here's what worries me. There are several references throughout the reports today to something bigger than just the campaign. That gets my attention. There's some subtle reference there that the Russians were -- this wasn't just about getting Trump elected. They had -- they were backing others. They were backing others. They were trying to help a party. They were trying to hurt another party. There's more to this, and until we get this out in the sunshine, we're not going to know the truth here.

Wallace named two other names: Andriy Derkach and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). The report described Derkach as a Russia-tied Ukrainian legislator who played “a prominent role in Russia's election influence activities.” The report also assessed that Putin had “purview” over Derkach’s activities.

Johnson, you may recall, led the Senate investigation into Hunter Biden last year. Although he has denied receiving information from Derkach and laughably claimed not to know who he is, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Johnson “repeatedly cited information provided by Ukrainian official Andriy Telizhenko” as part of an effort to discredit Biden. Then in January, the Trump administration sanctioned Telizhenko and named him as part of a Russia-linked, foreign-influence network associated with Derkach.

Figliuzzi didn’t mince words about Johnson’s complicity:

FIGLIUZZI: I'm just going to call it what it is. These people now are on notice, right? So, they knew quietly. Now it's out in the open. So, when they -- people like Senator Johnson start regurgitating this stuff, just say, “Russia.” Just say, “Russian asset.” You know, “Why are you saying something we now know is not only fake but it's our adversary telling you to say it? Why are you doing that?”

And it's going to continue, Nicolle. It's not just this. Understand that even as we speak, Russia and its intelligence services are trying to undermine what we think about the COVID vaccine. This just keeps going and so when you see people questioning the effectiveness of the vaccine, you've got to go, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Haven't I -- haven't I seen that in some Russian propaganda campaign?”

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