Poet, Journalist, Translator

Stephen Komarnyckyj


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I write about poetry, Ukraine and money laundering- why the hell not?

Trump's Russian intelligence inspired plan to steal the 2020 election

By Steve Komarnyckyj, Nov 2 2020 11:56AM

By Steve Komarnyckyj

Washington, 4 November, the day after the US presidential election, President Donald Trump seems to have lost the popular vote but postal ballots have yet to be counted in several states. In the Oval Office President Trump's thumbs tap furiously on his iPhone. Tweet after tweet accuses the “Biden Crime Family” and “George Soros” of trying to steal his victory. President Trump's campaign press secretary, J Hogan Gidley, who has already claimed on 4 September that postal votes could be used to rig the election, holds a press conference in front of The White House on 5 November. To the amazement of reporters he claims that President Trump's campaign has evidence of the count being rigged by mailed ballots in some states such as Wisconsin.

The legislators in these states are pressured to appoint Republican delegates to the Electoral College whose votes determine who will become the US president, although Biden has probably won the popular vote in their ballots. On December 14, the delegates are counted and President Trump is declared the winner. The Supreme Court dismisses a legal challenge from the Biden campaign and President Trump is inaugurated on 21 January 2021. However, the ceremony in front of the Capitol is only attended by a few dozen noisy supporters in MAGA hats and the cameras carefully avoid the empty bleachers. The scenario above is unlikely but there is growing evidence that President Trump plans to restrict absentee voting, while claiming that mail votes might be rigged by his foes who are supposedly attempting a coup against him. And who knows what he might ultimately do to hang on to power? The plot also appears to involve Russian and possibly Chinese intelligence. How have two hostile states potentially penetrated US democracy?

On 25 July 2019, President Trump made a phone call to President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he pressured him to investigate Joe Biden's son Hunter's business links in Ukraine. President Zelenskyy agreed and assured President Trump that the next Ukrainian prosecutor was “100% my man”. They also agreed that Rudy Giuliani, President Trump's attorney, could travel to Ukraine and dig into Biden's affairs. President Trump was similarly telephoning Chinese President Xi Jinping and asking for his help with the 2020 election. Giuliani then travelled to Ukraine in December 2019, accompanied by a Ukrainian ex diplomat Andrii Telizhenko.

Telizhenko, who was once a junior staffer at Ukraine's Washington embassy, had met Giuliani in 2016. He had also worked at Blue Star Strategies, a Washington consultancy with links to Burisma, the Ukrainian energy firm where Hunter Biden was a board member from 2014 to 2019. Telizhenko subsequently launched a second career as a right wing provocateur on media outlets such as One America News in the US.

Telizhenko arranged for Giuliani to meet Andrii Derkach, a Russian agent operating in Ukraine, in December 2019. During the meeting Derkach claimed that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 elections to try to stop President Trump winning and that Biden was working alongside Soros's agents to run Ukraine. During 2020, he publicised hacked tapes of phone calls between Biden and Poroshenko and supplied Giuliani with supposedly compromising material about Hunter Biden's links to Burisma. Telizhenko also began peddling a conspiracy theory that Soros had financed Ukraine's revolution and was now planning a coup against President Trump. Giuliani lapped it up. In 2020, the theory that Soros was planning a coup was peddled on right wing sites in the US and through FortRuss, a US site linked to Russian fascists. Giuliani had become a willing collaborator with Russian agents peddling a fantasy designed to destabilise the US. In early 2020, his ally in the Senate, Ron Johnson, launched an investigation into Biden's business links in the US through the senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC).

On 10 September 2020, the US government, belatedly with the treasury, actioned sanctions against Andrii Derkach. They mentioned that he was a Russian agent but no reference was made to Giuliani's role and American right-wing sites in spreading his fantasies. Telizhenko's visa was revoked by the State Department in the same month and the US Media reported that the government was considering designating him a Russian agent. But perhaps because of his closeness to Giuliani, the State Department avoided an official statement that Telizhenko was a Russian asset.

However, the US was powerless to stop Giuliani and his cronies pumping out Russian disinformation. On 8 October 2020, Johnson published a sanitised version of the crackpot theory that Biden and Obama were attempting a coup against President Trump from 2016 onwards in the Murdoch owned Wall Street Journal. He avoided any mention of Soros but the tale was basically the same as that told by Derkach and Telizhenko. The HSGAC amazingly is full of smears about Burisma and Hunter Biden: the political body charged with overseeing security in the US is pumping out a propaganda narrative dreamed up by Kremlin assets.

Then, on 22 October, a set of emails relating to Hunter Biden's Chinese business links were handed to the Wall Street Journal by his ex business partner Tony Bobulinski. The emails, if genuine, indicated that Hunter knew the Chinese firms he was dealing with were linked to Chinese intelligence. On 24 October, videos allegedly showing Hunter Biden taking drugs and having sex were uploaded to GTV, a site linked to a Chinese Billionaire, Guo Wengui, who knows both Rudy Giuliani and President Trump's ally Steve Bannon. The caption to one of the videos accused Hunter of being controlled by Communist China. It dove-tailed perfectly with the conspiracy theory that Soros was working with Communist China to install a Marxist government in the US. President Trump slyly alluded to the theory and the compromising material on 28 October when he tweeted, “If Biden wins, China will OWN the USA”. One possible explanation for the compromising emails and footage is that Chinese intelligence have provided the help which President Trump requested from President Jinping.

What happens now? President Trump is losing the popular vote on the basis of early voting. He will try to limit Biden's lead by restricting postal votes and, helped by his Chinese and Russian friends, try to use Hunter Biden's business dealings to damage his foe. But his efforts to restrict the deadline for voting by mail are not working. So if all else fails this most unpredictable US president might try to steal the election by sabotaging the vote, rigging the electoral college and amplifying the claim. He would undertake a real right-wing coup to prevent the fictitious left-wing coup dreamed up in the Kremlin. The plan would of course be utterly impossible if Biden wins a thumping victory. However, if the margin of his triumph is quite narrow President Trump might be tempted to launch his Kremlin inspired coup. It probably wouldn't work because some of his supporters in the Supreme Court and state legislatures might baulk at burying the remnants of US democracy, but the resulting chaos would delight the Russian and Chinese assets who have helped him craft his toxic fairytale about Soros. If the US is really serious about tackling foreign disinformation it needs to shut down its own president's Twitter account.

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