Report: Russian agents targeted Giuliani in effort to influence Trump

President’s personal lawyer ‘contaminated by Russia’, according to December warning to White House

President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was targeted by a Russian intelligence operation in Ukraine last year that sought to politically influence the commander in chief with misinformation, according to an exclusive report by The Washington Post.

The Post report cited four former administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

U.S. intelligence warned the White House last year that its agents had collected evidence that showed Giuliani had communicated with individuals tied to Russian intelligence during his December 2019 visit to Ukraine.

While there, Giuliani sought desperately to uncover information that would prove alleged corruption by former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter which could be used to smear the Democratic candidate ahead of the 2020 election.

Alarm raised at White House

The warnings to the Trump White House were so serious that national security adviser Robert O’Brien sat down for a private conversation with the president to caution him about the findings, the Post reported.

O’Brien told Trump that any information provided by Giuliani about Biden and his son “should be considered contaminated by Russia,” the report said.

“Do what you want to do, but your friend Rudy has been worked by Russian assets in Ukraine,” O’Brien told Trump, according to the report.

O’Brien, however, left the meeting unsure whether the president had taken the information seriously after Trump “shrugged his shoulders” and said “That’s Rudy,” the Post reported.

Intelligence officials were trying “to protect the president from coming out and saying something stupid” as impeachment loomed over Trump, who was accused of withholding aid to pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate Biden’s activities in the country.

Meetings with President Donald Trump

Giuliani met with Trump at the White House on Dec. 13, five days before congressional proceedings began against the president and shortly after the House Judiciary Committee had voted to accept two articles of impeachment for abuse of power and obstruction of justice.

Eight days after the White House meeting, Giuliani met with Trump again at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Giuliani didn’t come on the radar of U.S. surveillance in Ukraine until after the interception of some of his communications with Russian operatives, the Post reported.

Giuliani put pressure on his foreign contacts for information about Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company where Hunter Biden held a board seat, as well as Biden’s activities in Ukraine, China and Romania, two former officials said, according to the Post.

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The intelligence officials expressed concern that Russia was seeking to repeat its 2016 interference efforts, but this time had upped the stakes by specifically targeting unwitting members of the president’s inner circle.

Giuliani was so driven to uncover dirt on the Bidens “that everybody [in the intelligence community who knew about it] was talking about how hard it was going to be to try to get him to stop, to take seriously the idea that he was being used as a conduit for misinformation,” one former official said, according to the Post.

Several senior administration officials — including Attorney General William Barr, FBI Director Christopher Wray and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone — “all had a common understanding” that Russian agents were using Giuliani as a pawn, said the former official who recounted O’Brien’s intervention.

Echoes of 2016

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the effort to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election on behalf of then-candidate Trump, according to the findings of an exhaustive investigation released in August by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

That report found no conspiracy between foreign operatives and Trump associates, but it did explicitly state that the Kremlin was directly behind the hacking and release of emails between Democratic Party officials, actions that were designed to harm Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Earlier this week, The New York Post published a controversial report about a hard drive from a laptop computer that Hunter Biden allegedly dropped off at a repair shop in Delaware, which purportedly contained emails and other correspondence that Giuliani had tried to dig up in Ukraine.

Reports said Giuliani and Stephen Bannon, Trump’s former top political adviser at the White House, provided the alleged communications of Hunter Biden to the newspaper, although there were serious questions about the origin and authenticity of the emails.

The FBI has reportedly stepped in to investigate whether there are any links to Russia.