the national interest

I Have This Crazy Theory Trump’s Campaign Is Colluding With Russia Right Now

Photo: Kathy Willens/AP/Shutterstock

There is a certain class of Trump defender who have made the president’s complete and total innocence of any wrongdoing with regard to Russia the foundation of their worldview, and evaluated any new developments in relation to how it comports with that eternal truth. And so my suggestion that yesterday’s hack-and-leak operation targeting Joe Biden probably involved Russian cooperation set off several Trump defenders.

James Freeman’s Wall Street Journal column, headlined, “Collusion Theory Promoters Attack New Biden Story,” argues, “If the New York Times and other media outlets in 2016 had made the same effort they’ve made in today’s attempt to poke holes in the Post report, the bogus Russia collusion story would have died before Donald Trump even took office.” Glenn Greenwald joined the complaints:

It did not take long for the same people who pushed the “Russiagate” conspiracy theory for years to do it again, claiming that the documents obtained by the Post were really from a “Russian hack,” sneers, uh, Russia Today.

All these people are committed to the view that suspicions about collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia is so transparently nutty that merely invoking the idea is enough to discredit any suspicion. In an attempt to explain the connection between these hacked materials and Russia without triggering them, I will demonstrate the nexus between the two sources by using the most credible sources, and the fewest possible steps: two.

Step 1: Adriy Derkach is an active Russian agent

My source is the United States Treasury Department, which last month issued a statement designating Derkach an active Russian agent who is engaged in an ongoing effort to influence the 2020 election by disseminating “false and unsubstantiated narratives” about U.S. officials:

Treasury designated Andrii Derkach (Derkach) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13848 for his efforts to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Derkach, a Member of the Ukrainian Parliament, has been an active Russian agent for over a decade, maintaining close connections with the Russian Intelligence Services. Derkach has directly or indirectly engaged in, sponsored, concealed, or otherwise been complicit in foreign interference in an attempt to undermine the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential election. Today’s designation of Derkach is focused on exposing Russian malign influence campaigns and protecting our upcoming elections from foreign interference. …

From at least late 2019 through mid-2020, Derkach waged a covert influence campaign centered on cultivating false and unsubstantiated narratives concerning U.S. officials in the upcoming 2020 Presidential Election, spurring corruption investigations in both Ukraine and the United States designed to culminate prior to election day. Derkach’s unsubstantiated narratives were pushed in Western media through coverage of press conferences and other news events, including interviews and statements.

The statement includes a quote from Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who may or may not be a Deep State Never Trumper whose brain has been broken by Trump Derangement Syndrome but certainly was picked for his job by Donald Trump.

Step 2: Derkach is working with Giuliani

This is the real mind-blowing part of the conspiracy. I have found multiple videos of Derkach and Giuliani working together on a website. It’s true that the proprietor of this site is a highly disreputable figure, who frequently appears publicly in an apparently intoxicated state, comported with criminals, and is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation. However, since it counts as an admission against interest, and Rudy Giuliani is definitely not a Never Trump Deep State agent, the videos of Derkach and Giuliani on Rudy Giuliani’s Common Sense seems pertinent.

Here they are!

Photo: Rudy W. Giuliani/YouTube

Even the most die-hard believers in No Collusion would have to concede this relationship seems at least somewhat collusive.

Okay, so Giuliani and his Russian intelligence-agent partner have been collud— sorry, working cooperatively — to further their common interest in electing Trump. What’s more, Burisma (the Ukrainian energy company whose stolen emails appear in Giuliani’s leak) was hacked in January by the same Russian GRU unit that hacked Democratic emails in 2016, according to the New York Times. In August, the Director of National Intelligence warned, “We assess that Russia is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice-President Biden … For example, pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach is spreading claims about corruption — including through publicizing leaked phone calls — to undermine former Vice-President Biden’s candidacy and the Democratic Party.”

“Last month,” the Times reported last night, “United States intelligence analysts contacted several people with knowledge of the Burisma hack for further information after they had picked up chatter that stolen Burisma emails would be leaked in the form of an ‘October surprise.’”

Of course, as I conceded yesterday, we don’t know they’re behind this latest hack-and-leak. The mere fact that Russia hacked Burisma, and that U.S. intelligence warned they would use the hacked material to discredit Joe Biden in an October surprise, and that Giuliani is working with a Russian agent is not proof. This could simply be a different October surprise Burisma hack that just happened to fall into the hands of a guy who is working with Russia to use Burisma to discredit Biden in totally different ways.

That is what Giuliani claims to the New York Post: Hunter Biden gave his laptop to a repair shop in Delaware, never bothered to reclaim it despite it containing tons of embarrassing details, and then the shop owner — rather than trying to be paid for his work — turned it over to Giuliani’s lawyer.

However, neither the shop owner nor Giuliani has managed to keep the story straight. In an interview with the Daily Beast, the owner “switched back and forth from saying he reached out to law enforcement after viewing the files in the laptop to saying that it was actually the Federal Bureau of Investigation that reached out to him,” and “refused to answer specific questions about whether he had been in contact with Rudy Giuliani before the laptop drop-off or at any other time before the Post’s publication.”

Giuliani seems to have forgotten that he told the Post that the computer-shop owner only knew the computer was Biden’s because it had a Beau Biden Foundation sticker. In a radio interview today, he said the owner had a document “signed by Hunter Biden [that] says that after 90 days the hard drive is abandoned and becomes the property of the merchant.” This contradicts the Post report, which stated, “The shop owner couldn’t positively identify the customer as Hunter Biden, but said the laptop bore a sticker from the Beau Biden Foundation.”

Could one of the versions of the story being told by Giuliani and the Trump-loving computer-shop owner be true? It’s possible. But it seems way more likely that the people who used a hack-and-leak operation to influence the 2016 election and are using more hack-and-leak operations to influence the 2020 election and already hacked Burisma and are working with Giuliani right now may — just may — have had a hand in this one.

The Trump Campaign and Russia Are Colluding Right Now