Trump was warned Giuliani was target of Russian disinformation campaign

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In early December 2019, national security adviser Robert O’Brien conveyed to President Trump concerns that his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was being targeted by a Russian disinformation campaign aimed at discrediting Joe Biden, current and former administration advisers familiar with the situation told CBS News.

Giuliani and others with influence with the administration were also notified that they could be targets of foreign disinformation during the presidential campaign, according to another source. Giuliani denied this was the case, telling CBS News, “I was never warned by anyone inside or outside the [U.S. government] that I might be a target for a Russian intelligence operation.” This reporting comes after the New York Post began publishing stories this week with emails and photos alleged to be from a laptop abandoned by Hunter Biden — material Giuliani says his lawyer obtained. 

The sources said that among the incidents that led to the warning was Giuliani’s meeting with Andrii Derkach, who has been labeled “an active Russian agent” and was sanctioned by the treasury department in September. The department’s press release on Derkach said that he “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,” and its designation of him was “focused on exposing Russian malign influence campaigns and protecting our upcoming elections from foreign interference.” 

Months before the sanctions were announced, in December 2019, Derkach and Giuliani met in Ukraine at the height of the impeachment saga, as Giuliani worked to uncover damaging information about Hunter Biden. In the course of the investigation leading up to President Trump’s impeachment, current and former administration officials testified before Congress about a campaign by Mr. Trump and his allies, led by Giuliani, to pressure the Ukrainian government for political favors, including an investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden. 

But Giuliani claims he wasn’t warned. Giuliani told CBS News, “I was never warned by anyone inside or outside the [U.S. government] that I might be a target for a Russian intelligence operation.”

Mr. Trump was impeached in December 2019 over allegations he wrongly sought help from Ukraine to boost his reelection chances. He was acquitted by the Senate.

Giuliani told CBS News he would have been willing to participate in the impeachment defense, but was kept at a distance by the other lawyers on the case. But the president did not appear especially concerned by warnings about Giuliani’s conduct, which is part of the reason he remains on the president’s legal team, CBS News has been told. 

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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