WASHINGTON — The CIA assessed in late August that Vladimir Putin and other top Russian officials are “probably” directing a Russian operation to intervene in the election by discrediting Joe Biden, current and former intelligence officials told NBC News.
The assessment was first reported by Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin.
Two of the officials said the CIA assessment analyzed the activities of Andreii Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker who has provided information to the president’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani has said he “interviewed” Derkach three times.
According to Rogin’s report, the first line of the classified document is: “We assess that President Vladimir Putin and the senior-most Russian officials are aware of and probably directing Russia’s influence operations aimed at denigrating the former U.S. Vice President, supporting the U.S. president and fueling public discord ahead of the U.S. election in November.”
A U.S. official familiar with the matter did not dispute that language. Two officials said the assessment was contained in a CIA document that is widely distributed in different versions around the government.
Some versions of the assessment reflected what U.S. government officials have already said publicly, with the exception of the finding that Putin was directing the operation, which private experts have long said is likely. The CIA assessed that Putin directed the 2016 operation to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump.
The Treasury Department on Sept. 10 placed sanctions on Derkach, branding him an “active Russian agent for over a decade, maintaining close connections with the Russian Intelligence Services.” Derkach has denied the allegations.
Treasury said Derkach “waged a covert influence campaign centered on cultivating false and unsubstantiated narratives concerning U.S. officials in the upcoming 2020 Presidential Election,” which he did by releasing “edited audio tapes and other unsupported information with the intent to discredit U.S. officials.”
His main focus was Biden, counterintelligence official Bill Evanina said in an Aug. 7 statement.
In a Sept. 12 interview with Jonathan Capehart on MSNBC, Giuliani defended his interactions with Derkach but would not say whether he discussed those conversations with President Trump. The former New York City mayor said Derkach had no useful information about Biden but did have data about American foreign aid allegedly misspent in Ukraine.
The detailed intelligence assessments about Derkach raise the possibility that Giuliani’s interactions with the Russian agent were monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies.