The intelligence report confirms that these near Trump have been used to unfold Russian disinformation
It was Russia that advanced a narrative claiming "corrupt relations between President Biden, his family" and Ukraine, using Ukrainian proxies to "plausibly deny Moscow," and it wasn't just done about that yielding and always gullible Trump to get into the White House, but with the aim of "lessening the Trump administration's support for Ukraine" as it tried to fend off Russian military attacks. Among the proxies expressly named in the unclassified report: the Ukrainian legislator Andriy Derkach and the Russian "agent of influence" Konstantin Kilimnik. Methods used included the production of a "documentary that aired on a US television station in late January 2020" and Derkach's release of audio recordings alleged to "involve" Biden in alleged corruption.
While the people "close" to Trump are not identified in the document, there is no mystery who they are. The identification of Derkach and Kilimnik is enough to put unpaid (?) Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani at the center of this Russian disinformation effort. However, whether Giuliani was knowingly involved in Russian endeavors, or simply the most gullible man in American politics, is, as always, unknown. Kilimnik is both a Russian "influence agent" and a former employee of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, whose work for pro-Russian Ukrainian leaders is currently well documented.
The "documentary" produced is almost certainly the OANN propaganda job "The Ukraine Hoax" hosted by Michael Caputo, an extremely bizarre attempt to blame Ukraine, not Russia, for Russia's interference in the 2016 elections, and one which imitated the Russian line in all things of Biden and Biden Ukraine to such an extent that Putin would be perfectly entitled to demand royalties.
So the short version: Rudy Giuliani and others "close" Trump were ardent channels for fabricated Russian disinformation, both trying to keep Dear Bumbling Leader in the White House – a man who had always done his best to shield Putin from the consequences, himself when it turned out that Putin not only attacked our national elections, but also rewarded American troops overseas – and as an attempt to damage US support for Ukraine when Russia tried to annex large parts of that country. Trump and his staff not only accepted and promoted this aid (again), they also promoted Russia's goals in Ukraine by refusing to grant Ukraine the financial assistance required by Congress during an aggressive Russian advance into the country.
Did Trump, Pompeo, and the others know what they were doing when they withheld that aid? It's still not clear. The pleasant explanation is that Rudy Giuliani was betrayed; This theory evades all the warnings he's received about his new Ukrainian hires and the seemingly endless connections between those in Trump's political orbit and anything related to Russia from Manafort's Ukrainian sabotage of Trump's long-term financial deals. No one can plausibly argue that Donald Trump would not deliberately sabotage Ukrainian sovereignty just because Vladimir Putin asked him to.
With a new team taking over U.S. foreign policy, the next question is how the United States should respond to Putin-backed attacks that are set in boosterism for an incompetent clown-faced sociopath and the relentless production of disinformation aimed at ours Very undermined democracy, had the side effect of killing half a million Americans, invaded the US Capitol and made your choice. President Joe Biden said Tuesday that Putin would "pay a price" for his attacks.
In an interview, Biden said he had a "long conversation" with Putin in January and "the conversation started, I said I know you and you know me. If I find (2020 interference) then be prepared."
This more personal-sounding threat is the right approach. Putin's Russian government can best be viewed not as a government but as a ring of organized crime. It exists to enrich its oligarchs, eliminate its enemies, and launder profits. Russia's interference in other nations requires that democracies be undermined in order to discredit calls for democratic reform in Russia.
What is most feared by Putin's allies is punitive reactions that directly harm Putin's top allies rather than Russia as a whole. Biden is now in a situation where new responses to Russian attacks are all but needed – after the orange president left everything from cybercrime to bounties against American soldiers unanswered, there is a backlog.
It is almost certain that Republicans close to Trump will continue to deny that their actions helped advance Russian interests, and it is almost certain that they will by continuing to claim that all American intelligence officials are wrong , so shut up. Fox News is set to take the matter up, with the usual suspects Hannity and Carlson insisting that intelligence conspire against Russia to make Trump supporters look bad.
Somewhere in the bowels of the government there might still be a secret server archiving transcripts of Trump's own conversations with Putin and other leaders. These would surely be conversations that the new administration would like to sift through to see where things really stand between our two nations before further discussions begin. What if these archives no longer exist? Well that would be even more interesting.