“That’s Rudy.” Trump Proves, Yet Again, That He Would Just Ignore a Defensive Briefing

For years, the frothy right has wailed that candidate Donald Trump should have been given a defensive briefing back in July 2016, rather than have the FBI open an investigation to figure out which member(s) of his campaign had gotten advance notice that the Russians were planning on dropping emails to help Trump win. Never mind that his top advisor in the briefing where that would have occurred was secretly working for the Turkish government at the time.

The complaint has always rung hollow given that, after President Obama warned Trump against hiring Mike Flynn (the aforementioned secret agent for Turkey), Trump went ahead and hired him anyway.

Today, however, we have further proof that Trump would have done nothing if he had gotten a defensive briefing rather than have the FBI investigate whether — as turned out to be true, in every single case — Flynn and Paul Manafort and George Papadopoulos and Carter Page were trying to cash in on their ties to Trump with foreign governments.

Yesterday, the WaPo reported that Trump’s national security advisor warned Trump that Russia was feeding Trump bullshit though Rudy.

U.S. intelligence agencies warned the White House last year that President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani was the target of an influence operation by Russian intelligence, according to four former officials familiar with the matter.

The warnings were based on multiple sources, including intercepted communications, that showed Giuliani was interacting with people tied to Russian intelligence during a December 2019 trip to Ukraine, where he was gathering information that he thought would expose corrupt acts by former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

The intelligence raised concerns that Giuliani was being used to feed Russian misinformation to the president, the former officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information and conversations.

The warnings to the White House, which have not previously been reported, led national security adviser Robert O’Brien to caution Trump in a private conversation that any information Giuliani brought back from Ukraine should be considered contaminated by Russia, one of the former officials said.

The message was, “Do what you want to do, but your friend Rudy has been worked by Russian assets in Ukraine,” this person said. Officials wanted “to protect the president from coming out and saying something stupid,” particularly since he was facing impeachment over his own efforts to strong-arm Ukraine’s president into investigating the Bidens.

But O’Brien emerged from the meeting uncertain whether he had gotten through to the president. Trump had “shrugged his shoulders” at O’Brien’s warning, the former official said, and dismissed concern about his lawyer’s activities by saying, “That’s Rudy.”

The WaPo goes on to reveal that Bill Barr and Pat Cipollone — who helped Trump survive impeachment for asking for this help — along with Chris Wray all understood that Rudy was being targeted by Russia.

Several senior administration officials “all had a common understanding” that Giuliani was being targeted by the Russians, said the former official who recounted O’Brien’s intervention. That group included Attorney General William P. Barr, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and White Counsel Pat Cipollone.

Today, the NYT matched the WaPo story, albeit with one of their fewer than WaPo’s sources pushing back somewhat.

The agencies imparted the warning months before disclosing publicly in August that Moscow was trying to interfere in the election by taking aim at Mr. Biden’s campaign, the officials said. Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani have promoted unsubstantiated claims about Mr. Biden that have aligned with Russian disinformation efforts, and Mr. Giuliani has met with a Ukrainian lawmaker whom American officials believe is a Russian agent.

Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser, presented the warning about Mr. Giuliani to Mr. Trump in December. Two former officials gave conflicting accounts about its nature. One said the report was presented to Mr. Trump as unverified and vague, but another said the intelligence agencies had developed solid and credible information that Mr. Giuliani was being “worked over” by Russian operatives.

Mr. Trump shrugged it off, officials said, but the first former official cautioned that his reaction could have been colored in part by other information given to him not long before that appeared to back some of Mr. Giuliani’s claims about Ukraine.

Both stories, however, agree that Trump blew off this warning.

So in 2016, the FBI investigated and Trump wailed and cried and said he wished he had gotten a defensive briefing.

Last December, he got a defensive briefing, and he just let his attorney continue to mainline him Russian disinformation.

And along the way, Billy Barr seems to have sidelined a tip (and possibly tried to squelch others) — in the form of the whistleblower complaint that launched impeachment — that might get Rudy investigated for serving as such a willing agent of Russian intelligence.

23 replies
  1. klynn says:

    Thank you for this post. Hope more folks put these points together.

    2016 redux. A redux in methods means Ru thinks both citizens and our governmental systems of security are weak and stupid.

  2. harpie says:

    One other similarity Marcy mentioned on twitter:
    1:28 AM · Oct 16, 2020

    One thing we’ve learned from the public records on 2016 Russian interference is that Trump’s handlers TRIED to keep Stone, who was getting Trump personally involved in the operation, away from Trump. But Stone always found a way to speak directly w/him.

    It would be far, far easier for Rudy to retain access to Trump than it was for Stone.

  3. PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

    Didn’t their campaign get a defensive briefing anyways in June/July 2016, that they just pretend never happened?

  4. yogarhythms says:

    Harpie 9:26AM.
    How many smoke filled cafeterias and church halls have hugged shouting B. I. N. G.O.’rs. Today in Pandemic we celebrate BINGO’s where ever we find them. “ Last December, he got a defensive briefing, and he just let his attorney continue to mainline him Russian disinformation.”
    Way OT: Be like Rick; wearing a mask is like throwing up in your mouth and a little dribbles over your lower lip and chin. Every exhale potentially contains airborne virus. Wearing a mask allows your exhale to hit mask wall and bounce back to you as invisible virus mouth vomit dribbling over lower lip and chin. 1918 pandemic persisted three years in US. Wear your mask and stop the spread of airborne virus.

  5. MattyG says:

    Ignoring… He “ignors” defensive briefings because he’s in on the con to begin with. Ignorning is an easier and less emotionally challenging way of dealing with his two-faced role in this sordid tale. He doesn’t know all the details all the time but he’s aware the Kremlin is running interference for him through the Ukraine (in this operation). He detailed Rudy to help in the effort. DT ignors “warnings” to give more the con more chance to succeed.

  6. graham firchlis says:

    Trump did get a national security briefing on foreign interference and corruption efforts shortly after his nomination in July of 2016. Clinton was also briefed then.

    Trump and his campaign did not report multiple contacts with Russian nationals that had already occured, nor did they report subsequent contacts.

    Of note, Paul Manafort resigned as campaign chair two days after that initial foreign interference briefing, and Don Jr opened direct communications with Wikileaks.

    Trump didn’t ignore the briefers. He used what he was told to begin covering his tracks across what was already done, while opening new channels of communication with Putin and his agents.


  7. Rugger9 says:

    No question this was a rehash of 2016, but there are significant differences now that made it clear that it would not work this time. First, Biden is not hated as Hillary was (unfairly, but unfortunately true). Second, the pet DOJ already said there was nothing to this. Third, DJT has established a long-term pattern of teasing big reveals (taxes, ACA replacement, vaccines, etc.) on top of snake oil solutions that never come to fruition. Fourth, this was already dug into as part of the impeachment process that made it clear the WH and DJT were trying to “leverage” Ukraine (and China, and Turkey, and…) into providing dirt on Biden. Fifth, everyone was made aware of Rudy’s perambulations in Ukraine and no one expected anything resembling objectivity. AG Barr’s grand tour of Europe also had the same purpose, and he wasn’t able to find anything worthy of a “summary”.

    All of these made it clearer to the MSM (except for Murdoch’s New York Post) that anything tied to the Ukraine and Biden was likely to be bogus, and while I’m amused that DOJ is “looking into it” for Russian disinformation, it will be a Biden administration that will really investigate.

    • PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

      I think much of the grifty faux-outrage right wing frothers have been producing has at least been partially in anticipation of the next administration investigating this round of shady ratfucking RE Ukraine. They are trying to preemptively intimidate the next DOJ by attaching a political cost to them doing the right thing and investigating how this all came about, and who knew what when.

      Can you imagine the howls and screeches from the right wing froth machine once Biden’s DOJ starts to look into all this?

      • J R in WV says:

        First, a typo report! In a quote from a news report in the WaPo:

        Several senior administration officials “all had a common understanding” that Giuliani was being targeted by the Russians, said the former official who recounted O’Brien’s intervention. That group included Attorney General William P. Barr, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and White ** Counsel Pat Cipollone.

        **I believe the word “House” is missing between the words “White” and “Counsel Pay Cipollone”. Shouldn’t that be “White House Counsel”~?~

        I guess it could be a typo on the part of the newspaper report being quoted, but they’re usually pretty good on that part of editing…

        Now on to my opinions and amusements:

        I don’t have to imagine the RWNJ froth that will ensue when indictments are handed up regarding the penetration of the highest levels of our government by our enemies. We’ve seen it so many times before, most especially when high-ranking Republican leaders are the most guilty of these criminal activities.

        I know it isn’t likely, but I still spend time expecting Mr Trump to be arrested sometime in the afternoon/evening of inauguration day, after he is no longer president and Mr Biden has been installed as our new national leader.

        Taken gently into custody, handed copies of several indictments, some federal, some from NY state, some from Florida state. I know, I know, it isn’t likely at all to happen that quickly. But it helps me cope with the tension and stress of living with a President completely owned by a hostile foreign power, or even several of them. Anything that helps someone stay moderately healthy is a good thing.

        If any readers of this blog are feeling under the weather, I strongly recommend you spend time contemplating Mr Trump being taken into custody, gently, with all due respect, but in custody! With multiple LEOs competing for primacy, arguing about who gets to take Mr Trump home with them. To be fingerprinted, to have a DNA swab taken, photographed, given an orange jumpsuit, to be worn after his close examination for foreign substances anywhere upon or within his person. Makes me smile, just thinking about it~!~

  8. Fran of the North says:

    Trying to discuss a hypothetical with a rabid fundamentalist of any persuasion is an exercise in futility. The fundy claims that their side/actor/whatever will/would address the situation in whatever the ‘appropriate’ manner would be, based upon the needs of the conversation.

    The facts from the past 3+ years (30??) indicate that whatever information Trump receives is used to his advantage. That includes any and all of the ‘eyes only’ information he and his pack of grifters have had access to, but equally as much anything that presents a threat. Either to his sense of self, or to his ‘enterprise’.

    To argue that he would have made decisions that were less that self-serving on any ‘defensive briefing’ when he was a candidate strains credulity.

    I look forward to the day that he and the rest of his pack do the perp walk.

  9. Max404 says:

    Of course Trump knows, and knew, who was feeding Rudy disinfo. Blowing it off with “That’s Rudy” is code for “Of course”.

    What I do not understand, is what appears to be a conscious move on the part of the Biden campaign to avoid the “R” word (Russia) and the “T” word (treason) in the campaign. The main thrust of the campaign is around Trump’s incompetance regarding the pandemic, and the Republican wish to eliminate Obamacare. Why are they not also going after Trump in a concerted and targetted way as a national security threat, as a pawn of Putin. There certainly is plenty of material to work with. Such attacks might serve to peel away a few Republican “anti-Russia” diehards.

    • Chris.EL says:

      If the chessboard fits, move from square to square


      kruglyy peg in площадь
      ploshchad’ hole

      Off topic, has Trump given up golf? I’ve wondered if that’s where he communicated with Kremlin, on the expanses of the golf course (satellite phone?)…

      It would seem Trump is prepping Rudy to lack credibility in case Rudy gets tempted to turn on Trump.

    • P J Evans says:

      The T-word doesn’t apply. (I’m sure the resident lawyers will weigh in on that. Also, that’s for after the inauguration.)
      Voters are tuned in to the pandemic: they know what’s going on there, better than they know international politics.

  10. Rugger9 says:

    I see another 35+ year DOJ veteran quit because of AG Barr’s interference in various cases for political reasons. Turnover like this is usually a sign of poor management, especially when accompanied by a scorching op-ed in the San Diego Union Tribune.

  11. Ken says:

    Almost sounds like djt’s shoulder-shrug said “Yeah, I already knew that.”

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. This is your second user name — or there is a KennethKohl and a KenKohl, which means one of you needs a more unique username. Thanks. /~Rayne]

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