- The Russian government may know more than Congress and the US public 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 Friday that the phones Trump and Giuliani use to communicate with each other were likely vulnerable to infiltration 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 past 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, 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, 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 Friday that the phones Trump and Giuliani use to communicate with each other were likely vulnerable to infiltration by Russian intelligence.
The House Intelligence Committee said in a report this week that Giuliani often spoke with several top Trump administration officials, and likely the president himself, on his personal cellphone. All the while, Giuliani was working with former Ukrainian officials to dig up political dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, and his son Hunter.
Congressional investigators believe they have enough evidence to 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 Giuliani, the former national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, 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 said that Rep. 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.
It also said Nunes spoke that month with Lev Parnas, one of Giuliani's Ukraine associates who was recently charged with campaign-finance violations in connection with his efforts to help Giuliani dig up dirt on the Bidens.
Officials told The Post that Parnas was 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 many calls Giuliani likely had with the president himself throughout his work as Trump's personal lawyer.
One former aide told The Post that senior White House aides were increasingly concerned with Trump's tendency to use his own phone or other unsecured lines.
"It's absolutely a security issue,'' the former aide said, adding that Trump's actions created 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."
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