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Putin pushed Biden misinformation to Trump allies and media in 2020 election, U.S. says

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Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government in Moscow, Russia, on February 5, 2020.

Aleksey Nikolskyi | Sputnik | Kremlin | Reuters

Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, authorized intelligence assets to promote misinformation during the 2020 election cycle about Joe Biden through U.S. media and people close to then-President Donald Trump to try to boost Trump’s reelection chances, a U.S. intelligence report said.

In particular, the declassified report, released Tuesday, said that Putin “had purview over the activities of Adriy Derkach, a Ukrainian legislator who played a prominent role in Russia’s election influence activities.”

Derkach, who has ties to Russian intelligence, is known to have met with Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, who for months promoted discredited allegations against Biden, now president, and his son Hunter Biden.

The findings are outlined as the second “key judgment” of the report, “Foreign Threats to the 2020 US Federal Elections,” by the National Intelligence Council.

“A key element of Moscow’s strategy this election cycle was its use of people linked to Russian intelligence to launder influence narratives including misleading or unsubstantiated allegations against President Biden through US media organizations, US officials, and prominent US individuals, some of whom were close to former President Trump and his administration,” the report said.

“We assess that President Putin and other senior Russian officials were aware of and probably directed Russia’s influence operations against the 2020 Presidential election,” the report said.

The report said that Russian intelligence services, and people in Ukraine who had ties to those services, alleged that there were “corrupt ties between President Biden, his family, and other US officials and Ukraine.”

“Russian intelligence services relied on Ukraine-linked proxies and these proxies’ networks — including their US contacts — to spread this narrative to give Moscow plausible deniability of their involvement,” the report said.

“We assess that the goals of this effort went beyond the US presidential campaign to include reducing the Trump administration’s support for Ukraine. As the US presidential election neared, Moscow placed increasing emphasis on undermining the candidate it saw as most detrimental to its global interests.”

The report said, “A network of Ukraine-linked individuals including Russian influence agent Konstantin Kilimnik — who were also connected to the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) took steps throughout the election cycle to damage US ties to Ukraine, denigrate President Biden and his candidacy, and benefit former President Trump’s prospects for reelection.”

“We assess this network also sought to discredit the Obama administration by emphasizing accusations of corruption by US officials, and to falsely blame Ukraine for interfering in the 2016 US presidential election.”

Kilimnik, who was a key associate of Paul Manafort, the disgraced Republican consultant who at one point ran Trump’s 2016 campaign, was identified last summer by the Senate Intelligence Committee as a Russian intelligence officer who may have helped coordinate the hacking and leaking of Democratic emails in 2016.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Tuesday, “The Intelligence Community Assessment released today underscores what we all knew already – that Russia interfered to support former President Trump, hurt President Biden, and undermine confidence in our electoral process.”

“Through proxies, Russia ran a successful intelligence operation that penetrated the former president’s inner circle,” Schiff said. “Individuals close to the former president were targeted by agents of Russian intelligence including Andriy Derkach and Konstantin Kilimnik, who laundered misinformation into our political system, with the intent of denigrating now-President Biden and damaging his candidacy.”

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