Fired FBI agent Peter Strzok, whose Crossfire Hurricane probe into the Trump campaign relied on a since-discredited Russia-sourced dossier, is rebooting an unverified Democratic claim that two Republican senators relied on Kremlin disinformation from a Ukrainian politician.
Mr. Strzok re-aired the claim in a March 16 tweet. GOP Sens. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin have hotly denied the allegation. They assert that Democrats, not Republicans, injected Ukrainian politician Andriy Derkach‘s name into the investigative record in a probe of Hunter Biden, President Biden‘s son.
Democrats then leaked to the news media that Mr. Derkach was working with Republicans. Mr. Johnson says Democrats knowingly lied. Republicans never communicated or received information from the Kremlin-linked Ukrainian parliament member, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Grassley said.
Last week, the director of national intelligence (DNI) released the Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) on foreign influence in the 2020 election. The report said Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a disinformation campaign to favor former President Donald Trump.
One of the key facilitators was Mr. Derkach and his Ukraine network of social media and political operatives, the ICA said.
Mr. Strzok sprang into action on Twitter, reviving the Democrats’ disinformation claims from last year.
“Report details some of the same players — Kilimnik — and new ones, like Derkach, who routed Russian disinformation to Rudy and Sens. Johnson and Grassley,” Mr. Strzok tweeted.
“Kilimnik” is Konstantin Kilimnik, the Ukraine office manager for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Mr. Manafort earned big bucks as a political consultant for a Russia-linked political party in Ukraine and went to prison for failing to disclose payments on his federal tax returns.
“Rudy” is Mr. Trump‘s former attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani. He conducted a probe in 2019-20 to show that the former president’s July 2019 phone call with Ukraine’s new president, in which Mr. Trump suggested an investigation of the Bidens, was well-founded.
Mr. Giuliani relied on Mr. Derkach for information on then-Vice President Biden‘s role as the Obama administration’s point man in Ukraine. Mr. Giuliani later told ABC News that he saw no evidence Mr. Derkach was a Russian provocateur.
Mr. Strzok‘s tweet prompted Mr. Grassley to take to the Senate floor on March 18 to denounce the former agent, who now teaches at Georgetown University.
“Based on that [March 15 ICA] report, some in the liberal media have falsely claimed that my and Sen. Johnson‘s Hunter Biden-related oversight activities last Congress were based on Russian disinformation,” Mr. Grassley said. “Even Peter Strzok felt the need to chime in on Twitter to say we received Russian disinformation. Such claims are false and misleading.
“To be precise, Sen. Johnson and I didn’t receive, solicit or rely upon any information from Andriy Derkach, and we’ve publicly said so many times. It seems like Strzok pays just about as careful attention to these facts as he did the Crossfire Hurricane FISA applications,” he said.
This is a reference to Mr. Strzok‘s unit relying on the Democratic Party-financed dossier by ex-British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to obtain four wiretaps in 2016-17 on Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page. Agents also used the 35-page dossier to guide the overall investigation.
The dossier and its dozen felony claims against Mr. Trump and his associates collapsed under scrutiny by the Justice Department inspector general and by Republican congressional probes. No Trump person was charged with colluding with the Kremlin, which interfered in the 2016 election via computer hacking and social media posts aimed at Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Republicans won declassification of FBI documents that showed the intelligence community had warned Crossfire Hurricane in early 2017 that some dossier claims came from Russian disinformation aimed at harming Mr. Trump.
Mr. Strzok himself told The Atlantic that the dossier was a mix of inaccuracies and “disinformation.”
“The Steele report was a problem for the investigation, because it sent people off on a series of wild goose chases,” Mr. Strzok said.
The Republican investigation turned up that Russia-born U.S. resident Igor Danchenko (though not named in declassified documents) was Mr. Steele’s main collector of gossip-like items from secondhand and thirdhand Kremlin sources.
In his prepared Senate floor remarks, Mr. Grassley went over some of the Republicans’ findings into Hunter Biden‘s financial gains from shady foreigners in Moscow, Ukraine and China. At one point, as Democratic staffers were interviewing State Department official George Kent, they brought up Mr. Derkach‘s name and presented his materials that Democrats, not Republicans, had acquired.
“The Democrats relied upon and disseminated known disinformation from a foreign source whom the intelligence community warned was actively seeking to influence U.S. politics,” Mr. Grassley said. “Yet they accused me and Senator Johnson of doing that very thing It’s clear that the Democrats hoped that their self-created disinformation campaign would drown-out our report and its findings to protect candidate Biden from the facts.”
The dispute already had boiled over. In December, Mr. Johnson, then chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, broke away from the topic of possible election fraud to accuse Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, the then-ranking Democrat, of telling lies.
“You lied repeatedly,” he said in an exchange posted by Fox News. “You lied repeatedly to the press that I was spreading Russian disinformation, and that was an outright lie, and I told you to stop lying and you continued to do it.”
“This is terrible what you’re doing to this committee,” Mr. Peters responded.
“So it’s just galling,” Mr. Johnson said, “that the purveyors of Russian disinformation, Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the DNC, the Steele dossier, the ranking member Peters accusing Senator Grassley and I of disseminating Russian disinformation — that’s where the disinformation is coming, the lies, the false allegations.”
When Mr. Johnson and Mr. Grassley released their Hunter Biden report on Sept. 23, Mr. Peters tied the two to Mr. Derkach.
“In promoting these allegations, the Chairmen have provided a successful platform for the foreign disinformation campaign of known Russian agent Andriy Derkach,” Mr. Peters wrote. “The Russian-backed propaganda of Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach is central to the Chairmen’s claims.”
The Grassley/Johnson report is primarily based on U.S. Treasury suspicious activity reports (SARS) on Hunter Biden‘s financial gains while his father was vice president and afterward. One $3.5 million transfer came from a Moscow oligarch close to Mr. Putin.
The SARS revealed an until-then-unknown network of oligarchs and Chinese Communist-connected billionaires wiring millions of dollars to Hunter Biden and his former business partner, Devon Archer. Archer was convicted in 2018 of stealing bond proceeds meant for an American Indian tribe and is scheduled to be sentenced in May.
The Moscow money arrived for Mr. Hunter in February 2014 as Mr. Putin unleashed an invasion to seize Ukraine‘s Crimea. Vice President Biden then became the Obama administration’s point man on Ukraine.
Two months later, Archer and Hunter Biden joined the board of Burisma Holdings, a natural gas firm owned by a Ukrainian oligarch whom the State Department considered corrupt. Burisma paid the two more than $4 million during their board memberships, the Grassley/Johnson report said.
Two weeks before the senators’ report, the Treasury Department issued a statement officially designating Mr. Derkach as an active Russian agent “maintaining close connections with the Russian intelligence services.” Treasury imposed sanctions for his role in trying to influence the 2020 election.
In January, the Trump administration went after Mr. Derkach‘s inner circle, sanctioning seven individuals and two online companies, NabuLeaks and Era-Media TOV. Treasury called them “media front companies” that pushed Mr. Derkach‘s “false narratives.”
Mr. Derkach was pushing anti-Biden disinformation, though Joseph R. Biden‘s name is not in the statement.
The sanctions prohibit the movement of Mr. Derkach‘s and associates’ assets controlled by U.S. interests and restrict Americans from interacting with them.
Mr. Strzok was kicked off special counsel Robert Mueller’s team in 2017 after the inspector general uncovered the agent’s texts with his then-lover. Mr. Strzok berated Mr. Trump and said he would “stop” him. He was fired for those texts and for failing to act quickly on new developments in the Clinton email investigation.
In August 2019, Mr. Strzok filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department, accusing Mr. Trump of exerting “unrelenting pressure” on the FBI to fire him. Mr. Strzok‘s attorneys are now seeking documents from the Trump campaign.