Wednesday, March 17, 2021

It Was All True


Photos via Radio Free Europe,  February 2019; one of the US government–run news organizations Trump started attacking around October 2019 and taking measures to destroy after his first impeachment.

Well, well, well. I do believe the National Intelligence Council's unclassified report on Foreign Threats to the 2020 US Federal Elections just confirmed it for me:

Rudolph Giuliani and the rest of the rightwing Hunter Biden industry last year were working under the direction of the Kremlin.

In an extension of the same long-term project as the one that contributed to electing Donald Trump in 2016, with the same elfin figure at the center, Kostya Kilimnik, Paul Manafort's Ukraine amanuensis who was actually his Russian handler. The document doesn't actually tell us what Kilimnik personally did in 2020, but it does name him:

The "materials" evidently include the audio recordings supplied to Giuliani by Derkach of calls from 2016 between Biden and then-president Poroshenko and presumably computer files phished from Hunter Biden's old employer Burisma—Giuliani claimed the latter came from the laptop Hunter abandoned in Delaware, but apparently they were for sale in Ukraine at the same time Giuliani was there doing his "investigation". One of Time's sources
alleges that the people offering this material had a buyer in mind for it: they said they wanted to sell it to Republican allies of President Trump. Their asking price was $5 million, he says, adding: “I walked away from it, because it smelled awful.”
and the magazine commented.
Over the past year, the practice of selling or leaking private communications has become so common in Ukraine that the government has announced plans to pass a law against it. Igor Novikov, a former adviser to Ukraine’s President who now researches disinformation, referred to the practice as Ukraine’s “national sport” in a recent interview with the Washington Post.

Meanwhile, Kilimnik's February 2018 FBI arrest warrant has been supplemented with more (unspecified) crimes and a previously unmentioned offer of a $250,000 award:

What was Kilimnik up to between February and April 2018? 

I mean, we know that Kilimnik was the conduit for getting very granular polling data from Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania to Russian intelligence, by way of persuading the Russians that the Trump campaign stood a serious chance of winning, as I learned from Rob Waldeck in November, but that's not obstruction of justice. What was he doing after Manafort was forced out of the campaign by the revelation of his own Ukraine crimes, and what was the obstruction charge about? It had to do with witness tampering in Manafort's criminal case:

Another set of surreptitious communications came from a longtime associate of Manafort’s whom the special counsel had previously called “Person A.” We now know that person is Konstantin Kilimnik, a longtime business associate of Manafort’s who’s been called his protégé.

Mueller claims that in February and April of this year, Kilimnik repeatedly tried to contact the two PR firm principals, on behalf of someone he called “my friend P.” This person also tried to emphasize Manafort’s message that the Hapsburg group “never lobbied in the US.”

The second PR firm principal, “Person D2,” also told the FBI that he knew this wasn’t true, and that the Hapbsurg group did in fact lobby in the US.

That was the period between Manafort's and Gates's indictments and the release, 27 April, of the House Intelligence Committee report on Russian active measures in the 2016 election (Devin Nunes, chairman, and no Democrat on the committee endorsed the report). June is when that indictment was issued, and I guess it was shortly after that that Kilimnik fled from Ukraine to Russia, with or without prosecutor Lutsenko's assistance. Oh, and when House Intelligence was questioning Robert Mueller in July 2019, Nunes tried to get him to explain why the Report said Kilimnik "had ties to Russian intelligence", and Mueller refused to answer (it's at around 2:04). What I mean to say is, I don't have a clue, but Nunes (and his deputy John Ratcliffe, later Trump's second Director of National Intelligence) is in it too. And I still don't have a clue what Kilimnik is suspected of with reference to the 2020 election.

The Internet Research Agency, now known as Lakhta Internet Research, is back as well, meanwhile, doing the same stuff as if was doing in 2016:

And so is Giuliani, obviously. And Junior (speaking of allegations of social media censorship). And the noise machine in general, which kept up this idiocy so long and so frantically, in much the same way as they conducted themselves in the 2016 election, in the endless search for "dirt", the amplification of whatever garbage they find through Twitter and Facebook, the louche associations where you can never quite see who's making a deal with whom, and the constant theme, which you'd think wouldn't be central to a US election, of dumping on independent Ukraine and justifying Russia's activity there. It's all been one campaign, from 2014 until now, and much of what we thought about 2016, and the activities of Manafort and Stone and Junior and Nunes and Big Donald himself, is clearly true.

Call me a sucker, and you won't be wrong, but I can't stop myself from thinking if the intelligence community is now willing to go this far it has to be willing to go just that little step further and let some of it get prosecuted.


Emptywheel explains why this document was written (for the Trump administration, as required by Trump's own executive order in September 2018, which was meant to stop Congress from mandating sanctions on Russia by proposing that he'd lay on the sanctions himself if Russia interfered with 2020 elections, which he of course didn't do. The declassified version seems to be a gift from the Biden administration's DNI, Avril Haines—at least I can't find any place in Executive Order 13848(1)(b) requiring it, as the report's cover letter seems to suggest I should—and meant to prepare us for whatever sanctions they impose.

She also notes that the report associates Kilimnik for the first time with the Russian FSB, Federal Security Service, which is responsible for counterintelligence, and is also linked to our old pals Oleg Deripaska and Natalya Veselnitskaya; while previous reports linked him to the military-intelligence agency GRU (of which he is probably a veteran himself), which was the agency that hacked the Democratic National Committee. Bafflingly, in comments she claims Kilimnik is living in Ukraine rather than Russia (he went to Russia in 2018 after his US indictment, because Ukraine and US have an extradition treaty).

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