Friday, September 11, 2020

Hi It's Stupid: Rudy

Painting by Burhan Dogancay,1998, via WikiArt.

Hi, it's Stupid to say Rodolfo Giuliani really had no idea Andrij Derkach was a Russian agent. No, hear me out!

Giuliani had been hanging out last December with Derkach, a Ukrainian MP formerly from the Russia-backed Party of Regions and supporter of the corrupt president Viktor Yanukovych, now in exile in Russia, and Ph.D. graduate of the KGB's Higher School in Moscow (his dissertation was on the "Organization and Conduct of Meetings With Secret Agents"), and Derkach had supplied him with edited audio of phone conversations between Ukraine's former president Petro Poroshenko and then–Vice President Joe Biden, which Giuliani believes, or claims to believe, are evidence of some kind of corruption on Biden's part, though The Washington Post was not convinced in May:

The recordings played at the news conference Tuesday [19May] shed relatively little new light on Biden’s actions in Ukraine, which were at the center of President Trump’s impeachment last year. They show that Biden, as he has previously said publicly, linked loan guarantees for Ukraine to the ouster of the country’s prosecutor general in 2015. But Derkach used the new clips to make an array of accusations not proven by the tapes...

The tapes released in Kyiv offered no evidence to back Giuliani’s long-standing accusation that Biden pushed for the prosecutor general’s ouster to help his son. At the time, Hunter Biden was earning between $50,000 and $100,000 a month on the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, whose owner, a former government minister, was under investigation in Ukraine. Still, the tapes gave Trump’s allies a chance to recycle that allegation closer to the 2020 election.

Derkach did not say he had gotten the tapes from the FSB, but rather than he got them from unnamed "investigative journalists" who had in turned obtained them from recordings made by President Poroshenko himself, which is not quite easy to believe .

But in a startling twist yesterday, it turned out that Derkach is a Russian agent! According to the US Treasury Department, which has slapped him with sanctions: 

The Treasury Department accused Andriy Derkach, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, of being “an active Russian agent for over a decade” and accused him of releasing “edited audiotapes” and “unsubstantiated allegations against U.S. and international political figures.”...

Mr. Derkach and other Russian agents “employ manipulation and deceit to attempt to influence elections in the United States and elsewhere around the world,” Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said in a statement accompanying the sanctions. “The United States will continue to use all the tools at its disposal to counter these Russian disinformation campaigns and uphold the integrity of our election system.”

And Rudy is shocked-shocked, as you can well imagine!

While he acknowledged that he “didn’t do much investigation” of Mr. Derkach, Mr. Giuliani said: “I have no reason to believe he is a Russian agent. There is nothing I saw that said he was a Russian agent. There is nothing he gave me that seemed to come from Russia at all.” But he added, “How the hell would I know?”

Jonathan Chait thinks that's funny—

I am not an espionage expert, but I have watched enough spy shows to know that one of the basic practices of foreign agents is not to announce that they are foreign agents. If you have ever watched The Americans, you will notice that Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings do not go around wearing furry Russian hats and handing out KGB business cards. It’s basic tradecraft.... Over the last year and a half, Giuliani has taken on a similar role [to] that Manafort played. He has been strong-arming the reformist elements in Ukraine (which are a threat to Moscow) while using his network of Russian agents to gin up material to smear Joe Biden, in an effort to get Trump a second term. Two of his partners have already been arrested, Giuliani remains under federal investigation, and, oh yeah, Trump was already impeached by the House of Representatives.
I guess Giuliani's "network" means Lev Parnas, Andrey Kukushkin (a pal of Felix Sater's), and Foreign National no. 1 in the Parnas indictment, and the criminal energy tycoon Dmytro Firtash

Then again, did Giuliani ever suspect that those guys were Russian agents either? The Russian stuff Parnas was involved in was just funneling illegal Russian campaign contributions to Republican candidates; Firtash's Russia connection was all about organized crime and natural gas. Why should collecting bogus "evidence" in the form of mysteriously sourced documents (Firtash, like Derkach, can't explain where his stuff comes from) to smear Joe Biden on Giuliani's behalf have anything to do with Russia?

Unless, you know, there was some kind of Russian plot to discredit Biden on the way to the 2020 election and reelect Trump, and why would Giuliani imagine anything like that?

Indeed, for that matter, when Chait talks about Giuliani "strong-arming" Ukrainian reformers, he seems to presuppose that Giuliani knows that Russia benefits from it, just a Manafort, who was getting paid huge bucks by Oleg Deripaska for doing it, knew.

When I first read Chait's piece I started thinking, are you kidding? If Giuliani should have known that Derkach was a Russian agent, then he ought to have thought, on the basis of the same kind of evidence, that Trump was a Russian agent! Who had suspicious Russian contacts, underworld and government alike, up the kazoo? Who did Putin try to elect to the presidency? Which president did everything he could to undermine the Ukrainian revolutionary government in its struggle against Russian aggression? Chait could have made virtually the same argument about him.

Or, come to think of it, that Rudy was a Russian agent himself. How absurd is that? "As Rodolfo Giuliani awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed into a big fat Russian spy." Really? Oh wait.

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