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That Package From Russian Asset Derkach To Nunes Looks Even More Suspicious Now

A newly-declassified intelligence report raises very serious questions about the role top Republicans Rep. Devin Nunes and Sen. Ron Johnson played in laundering Russian disinformation during the 2020 presidential election cycle.

As I wrote previously, the intelligence report stated that Andriy Derkach, a Russia-tied Ukrainian legislator, played “a prominent role in Russia's election influence activities.” The report also assessed that Putin had “purview” over Derkach’s activities. It’s not hard to connect the dots between Derkach and Johnson:

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.

Then there’s Nunes, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee. He has refused to say what was in a package he received from Derkach, sent to him at the committee. From a July 30, 2020 Politico report:

Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, this week declined to answer a colleague's question about whether he had received derogatory information about Vice President Joe Biden from Andrii Derkach, a Kremlin-linked Ukrainian lawmaker who has worked to foment allegations of corruption by Biden and his son Hunter.

During a closed-door business meeting of the panel on Wednesday — a transcript of which was made publicly available Thursday — Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) pressed Nunes about news reports indicating that he was one of several GOP lawmakers to whom packets of information were delivered from Derkach in December 2019 that contained allegations about Joe Biden. Derkach has confirmed he sent the packages to Nunes, as well as GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

In a statement to POLITICO last week, Derkach said he sent the materials to the lawmakers and former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney with the goal of “creating an interparliamentary association called ‘Friends of Ukraine STOP Corruption.’” He added that he recently notified Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Grassley, Graham, and Democratic Sens. Gary Peters of Michigan and Ron Wyden of Oregon “about the content and materials published and voiced” at his news conferences. Graham, Grassley, Peters and Wyden indicated they never received materials from Derkach.

Johnson's and Mulvaney's names are conspicuously absent from that last list.

Maloney, a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, expressed his alarm on Deadline: White House Wednesday about how Republicans were so willing to do Putin’s bidding.

MALONEY: The fact is, is that [the Russians] were so comfortable using people like Devin Nunes that Andriy Derkach, a known Russian asset, sent information to Devin Nunes at the Intelligence Committee. We literally had the package receipt. … [It was] the same information, presumably, that Ron Johnson trying to spread around using the position in the Senate as the Chairman, at that time, of the Homeland Security Committee.

So it's extraordinary that Russia's strategy was to spread disinformation using American media organizations like Fox and OAN, but even more alarmingly seen senior members of the Senate and U.S. House, like Ron Johnson and Devin Nunes, in an effort to launder the disinformation in a way that the media might find credible.

Luckily the media, I think most of it and the rest of us, knew what was up and called foul on it, but it's just an extraordinary statement about how the Republican party has lost its way, that they would somehow talk themselves into becoming - and this is a term of art - useful idiots for the Kremlin, for Vladimir Putin. And let's not forget about Rudy Giuliani, either. Because all of these people were more than willing to do the bidding of a Russian dictator to try to win an American election. it's breath taking.

Maloney called for Nunes, Johnson and others to be held accountable. But it’s not just elected officials. Maloney also reminded us that others, such as Trump’s Attorney General, Bill Barr, and Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, lied to Congress and to the public by over-hyping the threat that China played and downplayed that of Russia in the election cycle. “Those people should be held accountable because what they were doing was actively disguising this Russian plot to use American officials and American media outlets to do their bidding and what's remarkable is they found willing partners in the Republican party.”

This is part of our continuing coverage of the 2020 elections.

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