Former FBI agent Peter Strzok said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that Rudy Giuliani's work with a Ukrainian lawmaker who was sanctioned by the U.S. last week for pro-Russian election interference is part of a "pervasive pattern of contact" that Trump associates have had with Russia.

The big picture: Strzok led the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and worked for special counsel Robert Mueller before being removed and later fired by the FBI for sending text messages critical of President Trump.

  • Strzok has been the subject of frequent attacks by Trump allies who believe the Russia investigation was politically motivated.
  • He writes in a new book that he believes Trump is "compromised" by the Russian government due to his financial entanglements.

What they're saying: "[H]e is surrounded by people who have a pervasive pattern of contact with the Russians, and not only contact, but contact that they're hiding," Strzok said.

  • "[L]ook at 2016. His campaign manager who pled guilty and was dealing with people affiliated with Russian intelligence services; one of his foreign policy advisers who lied to us about his connection to the Russians and pled guilty; his former national security adviser who didn't tell the truth to me and who pled guilty twice to not telling the truth about his contact with the Russians," he continued.
  • "And now obviously, with Rudy Giuliani dealing with somebody that the Department of Treasury recently said this last week had been an agent of the government of Russia in their intelligence services for over 10 years."
  • "It is not without exaggeration that there is no president in modern history who has the same broad and deep connections to any foreign intel service, let alone a hostile government like Russia."

The bottom line: Strzok said that his conclusion from the Mueller report was "absolutely not" that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election, and that Mueller's focus on criminal violations is "very, very different" from counterintelligence standards.

Go deeper

Foreign, domestic disinformation deepens U.S. fissures

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

American democracy faces what could be its greatest test in a lifetime as signs mount that Russia is working to interfere in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, while the Trump administration and its allies systematically minimize those efforts, in the process becoming an accessory to them.

Why it matters: It's becoming ever more difficult to find any boundary between foreign meddling and domestic disinformation.

FBI director confirms "very, very active" Russian efforts to interfere in election

FBI Director Chris Wray on Thursday told Congress the bureau has seen "very active efforts by the Russians to influence our election in 2020," primarily to "denigrate Vice President Biden and what the Russians see as kind of an anti-Russian establishment."

Why it matters: It confirms previous statements from various intelligence officials about Russia's interference activities, which continue with less than 50 days until the election.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

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