EDITORIAL:

Hostile foreign powers use Giuliani in effort to win reelection for Trump

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Charles Krupa / AP

In this Aug. 1, 2018, file photo, Rudy Giuliani, attorney for President Donald Trump, addresses a gathering during a campaign event in Portsmouth, N.H.

The massive stakes of this year’s election edged up even more after last week’s revelation regarding President Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and Russian interference in U.S. politics.

On Thursday, The Washington Post reported that in 2019, Trump’s own national security adviser warned him that Giuliani had become a tool for Russian intelligence to relay misinformation to Trump on Joe and Hunter Biden. According to the story, Trump’s response was to shrug his shoulders and say, “That’s Rudy.”

If that story is true, it’s damning. It means Trump, who has used the dirt from Giuliani to repeatedly attack Biden, was taking disinformation he knew was coming from foreign operatives and weaponizing it for his personal political gain. That’s not just dirty politics, it’s knowingly aiding Russia’s goal of interfering in U.S. elections.

When it comes to Giuliani’s connections with slimy Russians, there’s not much room for Trump to hide. Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, has been openly seeking info on the Bidens for months, and he’s been engaging with well-known bad actors to get it. Giuliani also made it abundantly clear he’s perfectly willing to consume and spread completely false stories.

Giuliani certainly has well-documented ties to Andriy Derkach, the Russian intelligence operative at the heart of the Post’s story. Giuliani met with Derkach several times, even hosting him on a podcast, and publicly supported Derkach’s unsubstantiated claims regarding the Bidens and Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company on which Hunter Biden held a board seat. According to the Post, Giuliani even invited a documentary crew from the extremist news organization One America News to film one of his meetings with Derkach.

Although an investigation by Senate Republicans this year uncovered no evidence of improper influence or wrongdoing by Joe Biden, Trump and the right-wing conspiracy theorists have pushed a widely discredited claim that the former vice president used his influence to pressure the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor to protect Hunter Biden and the company from investigation into corruption. They also claim the Biden family was enriching itself through Hunter Biden’s position on the board.

Giuliani claimed last week that he didn’t know Derkach was connected to Russian intelligence, but that’s far-fetched. At the least, he should have known Derkach was shady: The Treasury Department sanctioned him in September for running an “influence” campaign against Biden and calling him an “active Russian agent”; and in August the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said Derkach was involved in a Russian effort to influence the 2020 election by smearing Biden.

The Post’s story revived strong memories of the Mueller investigation — which, importantly, uncovered a number of cases of Trump associates approaching connections in Russia for damaging information about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election. Mueller’s findings included some documents found to be forged by Russians, along with actual emails gleaned from Russian hackers.

The warning to Trump from his very own U.S. intelligence officials — and the results of the Senate inquiry — lend credence to Biden’s steadfast denials of using his influence in the matter. Although Biden did indeed press for the prosecutor’s firing, he was acting on the official position of the Obama administration and several Western countries that the prosecutor was soft on corruption and needed to be replaced.

Last week’s report in the Post also creates much more suspicion about a recent New York Post story focusing on an alleged “smoking gun” email purporting to prove that Hunter Biden was selling access to his father.

The New York Post’s story was bizarre: the alleged email came from a copy of a hard drive that was provided to the newspaper by Giuliani, who claimed to have gotten it from a Delaware computer repair shop that had pulled the original hard drive out of a laptop that had been abandoned there.

Fishy, to say the least.

But, to paraphrase Trump, that’s the real Rudy — a man who, like his most famous client, is a chronic liar devoid of ethics and principles. If spreading Russian misinformation helps Trump, and therefore himself, so be it.

But Giuliani isn’t the real story here, Trump is. Once again, this president is connected to a credible report suggesting he’s allowing a foreign nation to interfere in U.S. politics to help him win an election.

At this point, anyone who doesn’t suspect Trump of this isn’t just drinking the Kool-Aid from the extremist right, they’re drowning in it.

It must stop. The nation needs a leader who will protect our elections from outsiders, work to ensure that the process is fair, and tell the truth. That isn’t too much to ask, is it?