Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to make efforts to try to turn the US presidential election in 2020 to Donald Trump, according to a US intelligence report released on Tuesday, which sources said would likely trigger US sanctions against Moscow.
The 15-page report, released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, raised long-standing allegations that some of Trump’s top lieutenants were playing into Moscow’s hands by reinforcing allegations against then-candidate Joe Biden of Russian-affiliated Ukrainian figures ahead of the November 3 election. .
It also added new conclusions that Putin either monitored or at least approved of the election in favor of Trump.
Washington is expected to impose sanctions on Moscow as soon as next week because of the allegations, three sources said on condition of anonymity.
The results of Putin’s role are likely to receive particular attention, given the report’s conclusions that Russian – backed figures such as Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach hired unnamed US politicians in his campaign to smear Biden and his son Hunter.
The report names Derkach, who met Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani in 2019, as someone whose movements were tracked, if not directed, by Putin.
“Putin was convinced of Andriy Derkach’s activities,” the report said. “Other senior officials also took part in Russia’s electoral influence – including senior national security and intelligence officials who we believe would not act without at least getting Putin’s tacit approval.”
Democrat Biden defeated Republican Trump and became president in January.
US intelligence services and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller previously concluded that Russia also intervened in the 2016 US election to increase Trump’s candidacy with a propaganda campaign aimed at harming his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
Mueller found extensive contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. Trump while president also asked questions about his allies’ ties with Russia and Russia-linked people in Ukraine. The US House of Representatives accused Trump in 2019 – the first of two times – of accusations stemming from his request that Ukraine investigate Biden’s.
The U.S. intelligence report also found other foreign attempts to lead U.S. voters by 2020, including a “versatile secret influence campaign” by Iran aimed at underestimating Trump. As president, Trump pulled the United States out of a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran and imposed new sanctions.
The report also punctuated a counter-report driven by Trump’s allies that China intervened on Biden’s behalf and the conclusion that Beijing “did not use interference.”
“China sought stability in its relations with the United States and did not consider the election results to be favorable enough for China to risk recurrence if captured,” the report said.
U.S. officials said they also saw efforts by Cuba, Venezuela and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to influence the election, although “in general, we believe they were smaller in scale than those conducted by Russia and Iran.”
The Russian, Chinese and Cuban embassies in Washington did not immediately return messages for comment. The Iranian mission to the UN and the Venezuelan Ministry of Information also did not respond directly to requests for comment. Moscow, Beijing and Tehran routinely deny allegations of cyber espionage and election fraud.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment on whether to impose sanctions on Russia as early as next week, as first reported by CNN.
Asked about a CNN report, a US official said Biden had “been clear” that Washington would respond to destabilizing Russian actions and noted the US move to respond to Russia’s alleged chemical weapons against Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
“There will be more soon,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
Two sources told Reuters that the sanctions could address the hacking of Russia, which used the US company SolarWinds Corp to infiltrate US government networks, and reports that Russia offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Moscow has denied involvement in the hack and abolished allegations of bounties.
The intelligence report judged with high confidence that Russian leaders “preferred former President Trump to win re-election despite perceiving part of his government’s policies as anti-Russian.”
A key role was played by another man with Russian intelligence services, Konstantin Kilimnik, according to the report. It said Kilimnik and Derkach met and provided material to Trump-linked individuals to conduct formal investigations, and Derkach released four audio recordings to suggest that Biden was trying to protect his son Hunter from a corruption probe in Ukraine. Giuliani was among those who promoted such claims.
Kilimnik was an employee of Paul Manafort, who served as Trump’s campaign chairman in 2016. Trump pardoned Manafort last year for a criminal conviction stemming from Mueller’s investigation.
Russian agents also tried to hack into subsidiaries of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, “probably in an attempt to gather information related to President Biden’s family,” it said. Hunter Biden had been on Burisma’s board.