Intelligence officials warned President Donald Trump that Rudy Giuliani – hero of 9/11 and once New York’s and America’s mayor – was likely a Russian dupe, a bombshell Washington Post story reported Thursday.
The report came as Giuliani came under fire over the authenticity of an “October surprise” email behind a tale linking Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his son Hunter to a Ukrainian gas company.
The October surprise story, supposedly based on an April 2015 message uncovered by Giuliani from a hard drive on an abandoned laptop discovered in a Delaware computer repair shop, purports to show a message from an adviser to the company Burisma thanking Hunter Biden for arranging a meeting with his father, who was then the vice president.
Joe Biden and his son denied any such meeting ever occurred. Hunter Biden was named to Burisma’s board in 2014.
“We have no idea where this came from, and certainly cannot credit anything that Rudy Giuliani provided,” said a statement from Hunter Biden’s attorney, George Mesires. “What I do know for certain is this meeting never happened.”
When Giuliani went to Ukraine in December to investigate Burisma and the Bidens, he interacted with “people tied to Russian intelligence,” The Washington Post said.
Intelligence officials feared Giuliani – a former federal prosecutor who is now a Trump lawyer and freelance White House investigator – was being used to feed Russian misinformation to the president, four former officials familiar with the matter told the newspaper.
Their warning to Trump, one of the officials told the newspaper, was: “Do what you want to do, but your friend Rudy has been worked by Russian assets in Ukraine.”
Trump “shrugged his shoulders” at the warning, the former official said. “That’s Rudy,” the president said dismissively.
In his latest effort to push Trump’s narrative about Biden’s supposed ties to Burisma, Giuliani was joined by Steve Bannon, the former top White House adviser.
Trump has been advancing for years a widely discredited tale about Biden lobbying for the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor to protect his son and Burisma from a criminal probe.
The Obama administration favored the dismissal because the prosecutor was perceived as soft on crime.
Bannon was arrested last month for wire fraud and money laundering after allegedly pocketing 1 million dollars in a scam fundraiser for the construction of a wall on America’s southern border. He is currently free on 5 million dollars bail.
Disinformation experts questioned whether the email promoted by Giuliani was legit, noting multiple red flags around the case _ most importantly, whether the laptop even belonged to Hunter Biden.
The laptop was supposedly dropped off at the Delaware computer repair shop in April 2019, and sat there for the next 18 months until Giuliani went public with its contents.
“We should view it as a Trump campaign product,” said Nina Jankowitz of the nonpartisan Wilson Center in Washington.
Political scientist and disinformation expert Thomas Rid of Johns Hopkins University said the emails could be hacked, doctored or both.
“It’s a common feature in these operations that you combine generic content, accurate content, with forged content,” he said.
Both Facebook and Twitter immediately clamped down on the dissemination of the sketchy story via social media, prompting calls from angry Republican senators to subpoena the heads of the companies.
“We have seen big tech, we’ve seen Twitter and Facebook, actively interfering in this election in a way that has no precedent in the history of our country,” said Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. “The Senate Judiciary Committee wants to know what the hell is going on.”
Cruz, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, acknowledged they have no idea of the tale’s veracity but still want Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to explain his decision.
“The social media platforms have a dominance in our lives – they’re newspapers, they’re TV stations, they’re radio stations, they’re publishers,” said Graham. “It could be you tomorrow… The power behind these platforms have been taken to a level that truly is dangerous.”