The Ukrainian MP sanctioned by the Treasury today for interfering in the 2020 election has had a long streak of cooperation with Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, and has been peddling information to the GOP for years.
Andrii Derkach met with Rudy Giuliani at least twice during period of time in which the Treasury says Derkach was waging “a covert influence campaign centered on cultivating false and unsubstantiated narratives concerning U.S. officials in the upcoming 2020 Presidential Election.”
The Ukrainian MP, who was once a member of the political party that employed Paul Manafort, has spent much of the past three years trying to broadcast disinformation from the former Soviet Republic that would help Republican politicians and hurt the Democrats. Most recently, that has taken the form of supposed recordings of Vice President Joe Biden speaking with Ukraine’s head of state in 2016.
A graduate of Moscow’s Felix Dzerzhinsky Higher School of State Security, Derkach began to push counter-narratives about Russian interference in the 2016 election, claiming that it was Ukraine which interfered to help Hillary and hurt Trump’s candidacy in 2016.
The Treasury Department’s decision to sanction Derkach, calling him “an active Russian agent,” comes as the starkest illustration yet that the Kremlin is waging a disinformation campaign to damage Biden’s election chances in November.
Many of the same theories that Derkach has tried to substantiate have been pushed by the mainstream GOP, including President Trump in his 2019 bid to pressure Ukraine into producing evidence that would substantiate long-discredited allegations, a campaign that led to President Trump’s impeachment.
In a Thursday statement posted onto Facebook, written partly in all-caps, Derkach suggested that the U.S. Treasury had been co-opted by the Democratic Party, and accused Biden of trying to exact “revenge” on him.
Shifting the blame
The elaborate theories had much to do with the so-called Black Ledger: a mysterious bribe ledger released in May 2016 by a Ukrainian anti-corruption law enforcement body which showed millions of dollars in payments next to the name of Paul Manafort, then-chairman of the Trump campaign.
Manafort was forced to resign from the Trump campaign in August 2016 after the New York Times published an article about the ledger. But after Trump’s victory, Derkach sensed an opportunity.
He began to allege that Manafort was the victim of a baroque conspiracy orchestrated by the Ukrainian government, done to “hinder the candidacy of Donald Trump and strengthen the position of Hillary Clinton,” reads a press release issued by Derkach’s office in August 2017.
In July 2017, Derkach sent a letter to Ukrainian authorities demanding that they open a criminal investigation into the allegations.
Republicans in the U.S. were interested in the same allegations. Sean Hannity, who texted Manafort himself in August 2017 about “Ukraine interference,” ran a segment in July alleging that it was Kyiv which stood as the true source of foreign interference in 2016.
And Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), sent a letter to the Justice Department on the same day that Derkach sent his letter, demanding to know whether there was a federal criminal investigation into “collusion” between the Clinton campaign and the Ukrainian government.
A Grassley spokesman told TPM in December that the letter was sent in advance of a “hearing on FARA enforcement that week where several examples of possible violations and enforcement failures were discussed.”
“So it was important to have this inquiry in the public domain in advance,” the spokesman said. “I’m not sure we were even aware of the Ukrainian MP inquiry you reference.”
A bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee released last month found that efforts to blame Ukraine for interference in 2016 occurred as part of a Russian intelligence operation.
Rudy Giuliani first met with Derkach in Kyiv in December 2019.
That trip came after the Trump attorney had spent months trying to substantiate the long-debunked allegations around Biden and his son Hunter’s involvement in Ukraine. Giuliani’s effort had failed, and left his client President Trump impeached.
But on the December trip to Kyiv with pro-Trump network One America News, Giuliani sat down with Derkach.
Derkach said at the time that he had given Giuliani documents that would show “international corruption,” and said that he had sent letters with the same information to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), and Mick Mulvaney.
Only Nunes appears to have received any of the information. The House Intelligence ranking member refused to say in July whether he had taken information from Derkach, after House Democrats discovered a postal receipt addressed to Nunes’ office from Derkach.
After the trip, Giuliani reportedly told President Trump that he had gathered dirt on Biden during the trip and that he was assembling a report on it to brief both the President and Attorney General Bill Barr.
Giuliani has since remained a sieve for Derkach to pour disinformation into the U.S.. Many of the allegations that Derkach described had to do with U.S. foreign aid that was allegedly misallocated during the Obama administration.
Though there is no evidence to support the allegations, Giuliani dug into it in a February 2020 interview with Derkach held in New York.
Bizarrely, the episode does not focus on the Democrats. Rather, Giuliani appears to be doing Derkach’s bidding by attacking his internal Ukrainian political opponents.
Derkach spoke to Giuliani in a mix of English and Russian. For the Russian-language comments, another Ukrainian involved in pushing anti-Biden disinformation, Andrii Telizhenko, voiced over Derkach’s remarks.
Telizhenko denied to TPM earlier on Thursday that he was associated with Derkach. When asked about his role in voicing over Derkach’s remarks on the video, he told TPM that “Rudy Gulliani asked me to do a voice over as I saw the Mayor a couple of days after their interview. Mr. Guliani did not have anyone who could translate and asked for my help.”
“I did not help Derkach I helped Mr. Giuliani,” Telizhenko added.