'This is a trap Giuliani and Trump literally walked into': Russia may know more about the Ukraine scandal than we do
- The Russian government may know more than Congress and the US public does about President Donald Trump's pressure campaign in Ukraine, thanks to Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani's frequent use of unsecured devices.
- The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the cell phones Trump and Giuliani use to communicate with each other were likely vulnerable to being infiltrated by Russian intelligence.
- Giuliani may have become a target of Russian intelligence in the early days of Trump's presidency because of his proximity to the president and his tendency to traffic in conspiracy theories that benefit Russia.
- One recently retired FBI special agent told Insider that the Post's reporting left "little doubt" that the Russians had a hand in the Ukraine controversy.
- "If so," he added, "this a trap that Giuliani and Trump literally walked into. And that's giving them the benefit of doubt that they are useful idiots rather than witting assets."
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Congress and the public have learned a wealth of information over the last several months about President Donald Trump's efforts to strongarm Ukraine into delivering political dirt while withholding military aid and a White House meeting for Ukraine's president.
There's still a lot we don't know because of Trump's decision to stonewall congressional impeachment investigators from getting testimony from senior White House officials and, more importantly, Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
Giuliani spearheaded Trump's pressure campaign in Ukraine, and he and the president have refused to discuss their communications on the matter in the wake of the looming controversy, citing attorney-client privilege. But the Russian government may already know everything the two men spoke about thanks to their frequent use of unsecured devices.
The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the cell phones Trump and Giuliani use to communicate with each other were likely vulnerable to being infiltrated by Russian intelligence.
The House Intelligence Committee revealed in a report this week that Giuliani often spoke with several top Trump administration officials, and likely the president himself, while using his personal cell phone. All the while, Giuliani was working with former Ukrainian officials to dig up political dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Biden is one of the 2020 Democratic presidential frontrunners.
Congressional investigators believe they have enough evidence to potentially bring three articles of impeachment against Trump: abuse of power, obstruction of Congress, and obstruction of justice.
The first two relate to the Ukraine controversy, in which Trump repeatedly pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens. The third relates to Trump's efforts to stymie the former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
That said, there are still many unanswered questions in the Ukraine saga that people like former national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and Giuliani could shed light on.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa
'This a trap that Giuliani and Trump literally walked into'
For instance, the House Intelligence Committee's report revealed that Devin Nunes, the ranking member on the panel, spoke with Giuliani by phone multiple times in April while the former New York mayor was carrying out Trump's agenda in Ukraine.
Nunes also reportedly spoke that month with Lev Parnas, one of Giuliani's Ukrainian associates who was recently arrested and charged with campaign-finance violations in connection to his efforts to help Giuliani dig up dirt on the Bidens.
Parnas, officials told the Post, is a likely target of Russian intelligence. Giuliani also may have become a target early on in Trump's presidency because of his proximity to the president and his willingness to traffic in conspiracy theories that benefit Russia.
Moreover, there's no evidence that any of the phone calls involving Giuliani were protected from foreign surveillance. That means Kremlin-connected operatives could have obtained a treasure trove of information about the Ukraine saga just from Nunes' phone calls with Giuliani and Parnas alone.
"Congress and investigators have call records that suggest certain things but have no means whatsoever of getting the actual text" of what was said, John Sipher, a former CIA clandestine services officer, told the Post. "I guarantee the Russians have the actual information."
That's not to mention the plethora of calls Giuliani likely had with the president himself throughout the course of his work as Trump's personal lawyer.
One official told the Post senior White House aides are increasingly concerned with Trump's tendency to use his own cell phone or other unsecured lines.
"It's absolutely a security issue,'' the former aide said of Trump's habit, adding that his actions create a "bonanza" for foreign intelligence services looking to exploit the US.
Frank Montoya, a recently retired FBI special agent, told Insider he believes there's "little doubt," based on the Post's reporting, "that the Russians are behind this scandal, too."
"If so, this a trap that Giuliani and Trump literally walked into," he added. "And that's giving them the benefit of doubt that they are useful idiots rather than witting assets."