President Donald Trump on Sunday night retweeted Russian propaganda about former Vice President Joe Biden that the US intelligence community recently announced was part of Moscow’s ongoing effort to “denigrate” the Democrat ahead of November’s election.
Late Sunday, Trump amplified a tweet that contained audiotapes of a 2016 conversation between Biden and then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko – material that was released earlier this year by Andriy Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker named by the US intelligence community in its August 7 statement about Russia’s disinformation campaign against Biden. US authorities labeled Derkach’s efforts as disinformation because they are intentionally designed to spread false or misleading information about Biden.
By retweeting material that the US government has already labeled as propaganda – and doing so with the 2020 Democratic National Convention kicking off on Monday – Trump demonstrated once again that he is willing to capitalize on foreign election meddling for his own political gain.
There is no proof of wrongdoing on the tapes of Biden and Poroshenko. But Trump and his allies, as well as Kremlin-controlled media outlets, have used the tapes to foment conspiracies about Biden’s dealings with Ukraine.
‘A willing mouthpiece’
Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, responded to Trump’s retweet Monday by calling out the President for amplifying Russian disinformation.
“The President of the United States should never be a willing mouthpiece for Russian propaganda,” Warner wrote in a tweet of his own.
Trump’s amplification of this disinformation comes as Biden is set to accept the Democratic presidential nomination this week, and it poses a significant challenge for US intelligence and national security officials tasked with protecting the 2020 election from foreign interference.
A Twitter spokesman told CNN on Monday that the account Trump retweeted had been suspended “for violations of the Twitter Rules on platform manipulation and spam.” The original post, which contained snippets of the Biden tapes, was no longer online as of Monday night.
“I think this mostly just speaks to how widespread Russian talking points have become,” said Darren Linvill, a professor at Clemson University who tracks Russian disinformation, who added that the account appears to be based in the US yet is spreading Kremlin-backed conspiracies.
While relevant US agencies have adopted a whole-of-government approach focused on countering foreign disinformation and seeks to inform the American public about such efforts, there seems to be no plan in place for addressing false information coming from the President himself.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence referred questions about the President’s tweets to the White House. The White House responded to CNN’s request for comment by directing inquiries to the Trump campaign. The Trump campaign has not responded to CNN’s request.