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Treasury Hits Ukrainian Anti-Biden Lawmaker Who Met with Giuliani with Sanctions for Election Interference

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Treasury Hits Ukrainian Anti-Biden Lawmaker Who Met with Giuliani with Sanctions for Election Interference

2020-09-11 11:26:53

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Steve Mnuchin (Image source: Screenshot)

In a message that says it's okay for Donald Trump to ask Ukraine to interfere in the U.S. election, but it's not okay for Ukraine to do it on its own, the Treasury Department slapped sanctions on a pro-Russian Ukrainian for election interference. He'd met with Rudy Giuliani last December to discuss disproven allegations about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Previously considered a malign actor by the intelligence community, Andriy Derkach met with Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, in Ukraine in December. His client was being impeached at the time, and he was looking to explore Biden's relationships in Ukraine. But on Thursday, the Treasury was connecting Derkach to Moscow.

"Derkach, a Member of the Ukrainian Parliament, has been an active Russian agent for over a decade, maintaining close connections with the Russian Intelligence Services," explained Treasury. "Derkach 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."

Previously, he'd denied he was trying to interfere in the election. He referred to it as "nonsense" in a statement earlier this summer.

This points to the repeated references that Russia attempted a similar interference campaign four years ago while trying to boost Trump's chances and damage his rival. Intelligence has determined that Russia is trying to damage Biden and support Trump through people like Derkach. Three Russian nationals were accused of trying to influence the election through identify theft. They were sanctioned as well.

Separately, the Justice Department charged one of the Russian nationals with conspiracy to commit wire fraud connected to large-scale election interference. His connection to a group known as the Lakhta Project is mentioned in the charging document.

Since 2014, the Lakhta Project has been trying to influence U.S. politics and those of other nations. It relies on illegal cryptocurrency transfers and stolen identities to carry out its actions as well as fanning racial and political flames through social media.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin referred to the decision to issue sanctions as an effort to "counter these Russian disinformation campaigns and uphold the integrity of our election system."

Mnuchin added, "Andriy Derkach and other Russian agents employ manipulation and deceit to attempt to influence elections in the United States and elsewhere around the world."

In a separate statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo celebrated the sanctions decision, noting that Derkach "sought to influence the views of American voters through a Russian-directed covert influence campaign centered on manipulating the American political process." He said the goal was "to advance Russia's malign interests in Ukraine." It was "designed," he said, to "culminate prior to Election Day."

Earlier, Derkach denounced the efforts "to tie me to the special services of other countries," such as Russia. He said his critics were attempting to discredit him by bringing attention to his studies at FSB academy in Moscow, what was formerly known as the Dzerzhinsky Higher School of the KGB.

His father Leonid had been a KGB operative for many years before heading up security services in Ukraine. In 2004 he was fired because of his alleged involvement in a murder plot.

"The main purpose of our activity is pursuing the interests of Ukraine, exposing international corruption, [and] maintaining partnership relations between strategic partners — Ukraine and the USA," he said them.

Earlier this year Derkach hired lobbyists to set up meetings with White House officials and members of the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs committees.

Since then, he's claimed that his visa was revoked and that the lobbyists ended their ties with him last month. One of them told POLITICO they have been cooperating with U.S. law enforcement.

Democrats are concerned that it appears Derkach has disseminated packets of anti-Biden information to Republican lawmakers who are investigating Biden's role in Ukraine. They worry Derkach was spreading his information into the ongoing congressional investigations.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chair Ron Johnson (R-WI) and his panel have been investigating Biden's son Hunter's work when he was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. Derkach has said he supplied the panel with information. Democrats accused him of spreading discredited allegations that originated from pro-Russia groups in Ukraine. 

Leaked audio recordings of former Vice President Joe Biden's conversations with Ukrainian leaders when he was in office have been promoted by Derkach. Trump has pushed the knowledge of the tapes and promoted coverage of them on OANN.

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