Trump retweets Russian propaganda about Biden that US intel agencies say is

Late Sunday, Trump amplified a tweet that contained audiotapes of a 2016 conversation between Biden and then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko — material that was released earlier this year by Andriy Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker named by the US intelligence community in its August 7 statement about Russia’s disinformation campaign against Biden. US authorities labeled Derkach’s efforts as disinformation because they are intentionally designed to spread false or misleading information about Biden.

By retweeting material that the US government has already labeled as propaganda — and doing so with the 2020 Democratic National Convention kicking off on Monday — Trump demonstrated once again that he is willing to capitalize on foreign election meddling for his own political gain.

There is no proof of wrongdoing on the tapes of Biden and Poroshenko. But Trump and his allies, as well as Kremlin-controlled media outlets, have used the tapes to foment conspiracies about Biden’s dealings with Ukraine.

Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, responded to Trump’s retweet Monday by calling out the President for amplifying Russian disinformation.

“The President of the United States should never be a willing mouthpiece for Russian propaganda,” Warner wrote in a tweet of his own.

Trump’s amplification of this disinformation comes as Biden is set to accept the Democratic presidential nomination this week, and it poses a significant challenge for US intelligence and national security officials tasked with protecting the 2020 election from foreign interference.

While relevant US agencies have adopted a whole-of-government approach focused on countering foreign disinformation and seeks to inform the American public about such efforts, there seems to be no plan in place for addressing false information coming from the President himself.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence referred questions about the President’s tweets to the White House. The White House responded to CNN’s request for comment by directing inquiries to the Trump campaign. The Trump campaign has not responded to CNN’s request.

After this story was published, Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates told CNN in a statement that Trump “habitually attacked the sovereignty of American elections” and said the President has “irrevocably shown his true colors yet again” by retweeting Russian propaganda.

Intelligence community's top election official: China and Iran don't want Trump to win reelection, Russia working to 'denigrate' Biden
However, top US intelligence officials made clear in the August 7 statement on foreign election interference that Derkach is part of the Russian disinformation effort intended to damage Biden’s candidacy.

“We assess that Russia is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia ‘establishment.’ This is consistent with Moscow’s public criticism of him when he was Vice President for his role in the Obama Administration’s policies on Ukraine and its support for the anti-Putin opposition inside Russia,” William R. Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said in a statement earlier this month updating the election threat landscape heading into the November election.

“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,” Evanina said.

Derkach denies that he’s working for the Kremlin.

The anti-Biden content retweeted by Trump ahead of this week’s Democratic National Convention was posted by an account with the name “Walt Kowalski,” Clint Eastwood’s character in the 2008 film “Gran Torino.”

The account was created in September 2019, around the same time that the anti-Biden disinformation campaign ramped up, coinciding with the impeachment inquiry into the President. The account has only a few hundred followers, and the user’s biography section is solely focused on anti-Biden disinformation.

Kremlin connections

Derkach is among a small group of Ukrainian political figures who have, in recent months, injected themselves into the 2020 US presidential election by releasing and promoting alleged audiotapes of Biden. Some of these figures are connected to Kremlin interests or to Russian intelligence agencies, according to experts and the intelligence community, which says they are part of a Russian-backed misinformation campaign.

The recordings are of Biden’s dealings with Poroshenko, the former Ukrainian President, and they appear authentic. But the material reinforces Biden’s claims that he promoted US interests and didn’t do anything improper in Ukraine. There is no proof of wrongdoing on the tapes, and the Biden campaign maintains that these releases are blatant Russian meddling against the former vice president.

Trump’s willingness to capitalize on Russian meddling in the 2020 election is a similar tactic to the one that Trump’s campaign embraced…

Read More: Trump retweets Russian propaganda about Biden that US intel agencies say is

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