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FBI prepared briefing for Giuliani warning he was target of Russian spies, says source

But the briefing was not delivered, out of concerns that it could complicate the criminal investigation into the former New York City mayor.
Rudy Giuliani appears before the Michigan House Oversight Committee in Lansing on Dec. 2, 2020.Jeff Kowalsky / AFP - Getty Images file

CORRECTION (May 1, 2021, 5:20 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article included an incorrect report that Rudolph Giuliani had received a defensive briefing from the FBI in 2019 warning him that he was being targeted by a Russian influence operation. The report was based on a source familiar with the matter, but a second source now says the briefing was only prepared for Giuliani and not delivered to him, in part over concerns it might complicate the criminal investigation of Giuliani. As a result, the premise and headline of the article below have been changed to reflect the corrected information.

WASHINGTON — The FBI prepared a so-called "defensive" briefing for Rudy Giuliani in 2019 in which agents were poised to warn him he was being targeted by a Russian intelligence influence operation as he sought to gather opposition research on the Biden family, according to a source familiar with the matter.

But that briefing was not given, according to a second source familiar with the matter, because of concerns that the briefing could complicate the criminal investigation into the former New York City mayor.

The briefings were prepared by the FBI's counterintelligence division after U.S. intelligence agencies learned Russian spies were targeting Americans as part of a campaign designed to discredit Joe Biden and help Donald Trump win the 2020 presidential election, the source said.

Giuliani's lawyer, Robert Costello, told NBC News there was no such briefing. “The story is totally false according to Mayor Giuliani," said Costello. "The event described never happened.”

The Washington Post first reported that Giuliani, personal lawyer to former President Donald Trump, had received such a briefing. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., has publicly confirmed the Post reporting that he, too, got a similar briefing. The Post has since corrected its article, withdrawing the reporting that the Giuliani received a briefing.

In a public statement last year, the U.S. government later made the warning explicit, saying that one of the people Giuliani had been dealing with, Ukrainian parliamentarian Andrii Derkach, is a Russian intelligence asset.

"Derkach, a Member of the Ukrainian Parliament, has been an active Russian agent for over a decade, maintaining close connections with the Russian Intelligence Services," said a September Treasury Department announcement sanctioning him. "Derkach has directly or indirectly engaged in, sponsored, concealed, or otherwise been complicit in foreign interference in an attempt to undermine the upcoming 2020 U.S. presidential election."

In December 2019, according to the Post, Giuliani went to Ukraine and met with Derkach. He later said he had no idea he was dealing with someone linked to Russian intelligence.

In March, U.S. intelligence agencies released a public assessment stating that Russian President Vladimir Putin likely directed the influence operation designed to hurt Biden and help Trump.