Putin likely directed meddling in 2020 US election, report claims

WION Web Team
Washington, DC, United States of America Published: Mar 17, 2021, 08:05 AM(IST)

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The report named Derkach, who met Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani in 2019, as someone whose movements were tracked, if not directed, by Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin likely directed efforts to try to swing the 2020 US presidential election to Donald Trump, an American intelligence report has claimed.

Democrat Biden defeated Republican Trump and became president in January.

The 15-page report, released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Tuesday, will likely trigger US sanctions on Russia. According to Reuters, Washington is now expected to impose sanctions on Moscow as soon as next week because of the allegations.

The report named Derkach, who met Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani in 2019, as someone whose movements were tracked, if not directed, by Putin. It added heft to longstanding allegations that some of Trump's top lieutenants were playing into Moscow's hands by amplifying claims made against then-candidate Joe Biden by Russian-linked Ukrainian figures in the run-up to the November 3 election. It also added new findings that Putin either oversaw or at least approved of the election meddling to benefit Trump.

The said report has concluded that Russia-backed figures such as Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach enlisted unnamed US political figures in their campaign to smear Biden and his son Hunter.

"Putin had purview over the activities of Andriy Derkach," the report said. "Other senior officials also participated in Russia's election influence efforts - including senior national security and intelligence officials who we assess would not act without receiving at least Putin's tacit approval."

US intelligence agencies and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller had previously concluded that Russia also interfered in the 2016 election to boost Trump's candidacy with a campaign of propaganda aimed at harming his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.

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Mueller found extensive contacts between Trump's campaign and Russia. Trump while president also faced questions about ties by his associates with Russia and Russia-linked figures in Ukraine. The US House of Representatives impeached Trump in 2019 - the first of two times - on charges arising from his request that Ukraine investigate the Bidens.

The US intelligence report also found other foreign attempts to sway American voters in 2020 including a "multi-pronged covert influence campaign" by Iran intended to undercut Trump. As president, Trump pulled the United States out of a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran and imposed fresh sanctions.

The report also punctured a counter-narrative pushed by Trump's allies that China was interfering on Biden's behalf, concluding that Beijing "did not deploy interference efforts."

"China sought stability in its relationship with the United States and did not view either election outcome as being advantageous enough for China to risk blowback if caught," the report said.

US officials said they also saw efforts by Cuba, Venezuela and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to influence the election, although "in general, we assess that they were smaller in scale than those conducted by Russia and Iran."

Also read | US election 2020: Russia and Iran call meddling claims 'groundless'

A key role was played by another man with Russian intelligence ties, Konstantin Kilimnik, according to the report. It said Kilimnik and Derkach met and gave materials to Trump-linked people to push for formal investigations, and Derkach released four audio recordings seeking to suggest Biden tried to protect his son Hunter from a corruption probe in Ukraine. Giuliani was among those promoting such claims.

Kilimnik was an associate of Paul Manafort, who served as Trump's 2016 campaign chairman. Trump last year pardoned Manafort for a criminal conviction stemming from Mueller's investigation.

(with inputs)

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