Rudy Giuliani traveled abroad in search of dirt on the Biden family, and developed relationships with mysterious personalities, including a Ukrainian deputy.
A bewildering New York Times novel about how it obtained the emails allegedly from Joe Biden’s son raised some red flags. One of the biggest ones relates to the source of the emails: Rudy Giuliani.
Giuliani traveled abroad in search of dirtiness from Biden, developing relationships with shadowy figures, including a Ukrainian lawmaker described by US officials as a Russian agent and part of a wider Russian effort to discredit the Democratic presidential candidate.
However, Giuliani says the foreign sources did not provide Hunter Biden’s emails. He says the laptop with intimate emails and photos was simply abandoned at a Delaware repair shop and the shopkeeper contacted Giuliani’s attorney.
This did not prevent the FBI from investigating whether the emails were part of an external influence process. The emails appeared as US officials warned that Russia, which had supported the 2016 Trump campaign by hacking into Democrats’ emails and a covert crackdown on social media, is intervening again this year. The final episode with Giuliani underscores the danger he poses to the White House, which has spent years facing a federal investigation into whether Trump’s partners have coordinated with Russia.
The Washington Post reported on Thursday that intelligence agencies warned the White House last year that Giuliani was the target of a Russian influence operation. The newspaper quoted four former officials as saying that the assessment was based on information, including intercepted communications, that showed Giuliani had been in contact with people linked to Russian intelligence.
The newspaper said National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien had warned Trump that information Giuliani brought from Ukraine should be considered contaminated by Russia, but Trump ignored the warning.
Far from distancing himself from Giuliani, Trump made alleged emails from Hunter Biden one of his main talking points in the final weeks of his campaign while trying to downplay his Democratic rival.
The Trump-friendly New York Post began publishing stories of the emails on Wednesday, saying they got them from the former New York mayor. The newspaper said the emails of Hunter Biden, a Californian, were found on a laptop that was delivered for service at a repair shop in Delaware by an unknown man who had never received it. They said the shopkeeper handed it over to the FBI, but that he also made a copy of the hard drive and gave it to Giuliani’s attorney.
One of the 2015 emails published by The Post claimed to show a senior advisor to the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, Hunter Biden taking a seat on the board of directors, and thanking Biden for giving him a chance to meet his father when Biden was the oldest of the US vice president. The Biden campaign and Hunter Biden’s attorney said they had no record of such a meeting taking place. They did not address the authenticity of the emails.
On Friday, Giuliani did not respond to a request for comment from the Associated Press. But in an interview on Thursday with SiriusXM, he confirmed that the laptop had been delivered by Hunter Biden, the material had not been breached and the laptop had been obtained legally. He told Fox News on Friday that the information from the laptop was “very real.”
The FBI is investigating whether the emails are linked to a foreign influence operation, according to an unauthorized person discussing an ongoing investigation and speaking on condition of anonymity to the Associated Press. It was not clear the exact scope of what was being investigated.
But the report that intelligence agencies were concerned about Giuliani is not surprising.
Andrei Dirkash, a Ukrainian parliamentarian who is one of Giuliani’s main contacts, was mentioned in an August intelligence assessment describing the concerted Russian efforts to retrench Biden. The Treasury’s sanctions announcement last month described Dirkash as “an active Russian agent for more than a decade.”
In recent months Dirkash leaked recordings of calls Biden made as the vice president with the then leader of Ukraine, and the Biden campaign claims it has been heavily altered. Despite his administration’s warnings about Derkash, Trump promoted the recordings on Twitter.
Giuliani was not shy about discussing his foreign contacts, including with Dirkach. In December, Dirkache posted photos of him and Giuliani’s meeting in Kiev on his Facebook page.
Frustration over Giuliani prevailed in the West Wing in the long run, as those around the president watched carefully Giuliani’s efforts to bring down Biden and feared they would fall back on the president.
Giuliani played a pivotal role in advancing a discredited theory that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 elections. His opaque efforts to get Ukraine to initiate investigations into the Biden case helped create the impeachment case for Trump.
Even critics in the president’s orbit recognized Giuliani as a force in Trump’s defense during the lengthy Russian investigation by the special counsel. The investigation provided details of extensive contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia, but did not allege a criminal plot between the two to overturn the 2016 election. However, efforts to undermine Robert Mueller led Giuliani to Ukraine, which many feel has directly led to Trump impeachment. The Senate acquitted him in February.
After a long struggle to find a defender ready, Trump had mostly appreciated Giuliani’s offensive style – and for some time, his criticisms against Mueller seemed to play a role in lowering the private attorney’s acceptance rates. But at other times, the president expressed his dissatisfaction particularly with Giuliani’s scattered style.
Some around Trump fear that the case against Biden the Younger will be weakened because Giuliani has become her face.
Trump’s campaign has been pressing corruption allegations against Biden for more than a year, with the president advancing the widely disputed theory that the vice president sought to fire Ukraine’s attorney general to protect his son from scrutiny. Although Trump’s associates believe it can be proven that Hunter enriched himself by selling access to his father, they fear Giuliani’s lack of credibility will lead to the collapse of the allegations.
Associated Press writers Jonathan Lemire in New York and Marie Claire Gallonik in Washington contributed to this report.