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Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman and the Great Naftogaz ‘Quid Pro Quo’

“Take her out”. That’s the now infa­mous line from an audio record­ing of Pres­i­dent Trump that rocked the polit­i­cal world in DC on the final day of the Democ­rats’ impeach­ment case against Trump in the Sen­ate impeach­ment tri­al. The record­ing of Trump call­ing for the fir­ing of for­mer US ambas­sador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, tak­en at an inti­mate din­ner for Repub­li­can mega-donors to a pro-Trump super PAC in of April 2018 by Igor Fru­man, clear­ly con­tra­dict­ed Trump’s claims that he did­n’t know the two Sovi­et-born Amer­i­can fig­ures at the hear of the #UkraineGate scan­dal, Fru­man and Lev Par­nas. The leaked audio also made clear that the whole #UkraineGate scheme was up and run­ning by at least as ear­ly as April 2018 . This sto­ry was the kind of sud­den rev­e­la­tion that made clear there is much more yet to be revealed in this entire sor­did affair, whether or not they arrive before the end of this Sen­ate impeach­ment tri­al. In oth­er words, the end of the Sen­ate impeach­ment tri­al prob­a­bly isn’t going to be the end of this #UkraineGate sto­ry, espe­cial­ly in an elec­tion year like 2020.

But as we’re going to see in this post, per­haps the most sig­nif­i­cant aspect of this leaked audio arriv­ing at this moment is that it’s a time­ly reminder that there is an entire chap­ter of the #UkraineGate sto­ry that’s been large­ly ignored up to now. Almost all of the atten­tion has been focused on the sleazy extor­tion scheme led by Trump and Rudy Giu­liani to force the new­ly elect­ed pres­i­dent of Ukrain­ian in 2019, Volodymyr Zelen­sky, into pub­licly open­ing inves­ti­ga­tion into Joe Biden and his son Hunter over the alle­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion involv­ing Buris­ma, Ukraine’s largest pri­vate nat­ur­al gas com­pa­ny. The motive for the fir­ing of Ambas­sador Yovanovitch is par­tial­ly explained by the ‘take out the Bidens’ side of this sto­ry because, as Giu­liani has admit­ted, Yovanovitch was thwart­ing these attempts to force those pub­lic inves­ti­ga­tions into the Biden. But there’s a whole oth­er nat­ur­al gas chap­ter in this broad­er fias­co that’s been large­ly for­got­ten and the fir­ing of Marie Yovanovitch was very much a part of it. It also hap­pens to be the side of the sto­ry that appears to explain how the var­i­ous fig­ures at the heart of this scheme all came togeth­er in the first place: how Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man tried to use their con­nec­tions in Ukraine com­bined with large dona­tions to the Repub­li­can Par­ty and their per­son­al ties to Rudy Giu­liani to arrange for a wid­ly cor­rupt nat­ur­al gas busi­ness scheme involv­ing Ukraine’s mas­sive state-owned nat­ur­al gas com­pa­ny Naftogaz.

This post is going to sim­ply lay out some of basic facts known so far about that Naftogaz chap­ter of this broad­er sto­ry. Basic facts that include a num­ber of very scan­dalous facts that high­light how the Naftogaz scheme real­ly should be seen as part of a broad­er Repub­li­can scan­dal intend­ed to set up an extreme­ly cor­rupt nat­ur­al gas deal to the ben­e­fit of peo­ple in Trump’s orbit. But also ben­e­fit peo­ple in the orbit of Trump’s for­mer Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry. A for­mer gov­er­nor of Texas, Per­ry is close to a num­ber of Texas-based nat­ur­al gas inter­ests that were very inter­est­ed in export­ing liqui­fied nat­ur­al gas (LNG) to Ukraine. As such, Per­ry and a num­ber of those close asso­ci­at­ed in the Texas gas indus­try were involved in the US-side of this scheme.

One huge exam­ple of how cor­rupt this scheme was is the fact that Par­nas and Fru­man were report­ed­ly try­ing to ensure that if they man­aged to get ‘their guy’ pro­mot­ed to CEO of Naftogaz he would agree to grant Par­nas and Fru­man the author­i­ty to nego­ti­ate Naftogaz’s nat­ur­al gas export deals with the US. So Par­nas and Fru­man, who were work­ing close­ly with the US-side of this scheme, were try­ing to ensure they would be the nego­tia­tors for the Ukrain­ian-side of this scheme. A Ukrain­ian side that con­sist­ed of a large state-owned enter­prise.

It remains unclear which par­tic­u­lar Ukrain­ian inter­ests were work­ing with Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man to prof­it from a US-to-Ukraine nat­ur­al gas export scheme. Part of what makes Par­nas and Fru­man such inter­est­ing fig­ures is they have a lot of con­nec­tions so there isn’t a sin­gle obvi­ous set of actors who they may have been work­ing with in Ukraine. They’ve got ties to fig­ures like Dmytro Fir­tash, the Ukrain­ian nat­ur­al gas oli­garch cur­rent­ly fight­ing a US extra­di­tion request in Vien­na. But they also appear to have ties to fig­ures in the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment. The gov­ern­ment of Petro Poroshenko — who lost his reelec­tion bid in April of 2019, lead­ing to the extortive shake­down of the incom­ing Zelen­sky gov­ern­ment — actu­al­ly made moves to remove the author­i­ty of Naftogaz’s inde­pen­dent super­vi­so­ry board which is the kind of move that would be con­sis­tent with the broad­er aims of the scheme Par­nas and Fru­man were push­ing. So it appears that at least some of the fig­ures on the Ukrain­ian side of the Naftogaz sto­ry were part of the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment. At least until Poroshenko lost in reelec­tion bid. So like much of this broad­er #UkraineGate sto­ry, there is much yet to be revealed about what was actu­al­ly going on with the Naftogaz scheme.

Here’s a quick sum­ma­ry of the key facts we’re going to learn in the fol­low­ing arti­cles. In the Asso­ci­at­ed Press arti­cle from Octo­ber of 2019 below we’ll see:

1. In addi­tion to Par­nas and Frug­man, a third key fig­ure on the US side of the Naftogaz scheme was an oil mag­nate from Boca Raton, Flori­da, named Har­ry Sargeant III. Sargeant is a large donor to the Repub­li­can par­ty.

2. The pol­i­cy of encour­ag­ing US LNG exports to Ukraine goes back to the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion. So under­ly­ing goals of this scheme aren’t in con­flict with US pol­i­cy. It’s the cor­rupt nature of the actu­al arrange­ment they were try­ing to set up that’s in con­flict with US pol­i­cy and that’s part of why the fir­ing of Ambas­sador Yovanovitch was nec­es­sary.

3. Igor Fru­man was friends with an indi­vid­ual who was appoint­ed to the senior board of Naftogaz in late 2018, Andrew Favorov, from their nights out social­iz­ing in Odessa.

4. It was in March of 2019 that Par­nas, Fru­man and Sargeant began explor­ing with Favorov whether or he would be will­ing to be ‘their guy’ if they made him Naftogaz’s CEO. Favorov, who was per­son­al friends with the cur­rent CEO, Andriy Kobolyev, claims he ini­tial­ly turned down their offer and did­n’t view it as seri­ous. But after he learned about Par­nas’s and Fru­man’s ties to Flori­da REpub­li­cans and his rela­tion­ship with Rudy Giu­liani, Favorov began to view their offer as seri­ous. Favorov also claims he felt like their offer was more like a shake­down.

5. As part of their pitch to Favorov, Par­nas, Fru­man and Sargeant repeat­ed­ly stressed their con­nec­tions to Trump admin­is­tra­tion and claimed to meet with Trump him­self fre­quent­ly and that Trump was ful­ly on board with the scheme.

6. In an exam­ple of how this scheme was­n’t just a pri­vate for-prof­it shad­ow for­eign pol­i­cy but also bled into offi­cial pol­i­cy, in May of 2019, then-Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry trav­els to Kyiv to serve as then senior US rep­re­sen­ta­tive at Pres­i­dent Zelenksy’s nom­i­na­tion. Note that the absence of Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence from the inau­gu­ra­tion is notable because Par­nas and Fru­man attempt­ed to shake­down Ukrain­ian oli­garch Ihor Kolo­moisky — a key backer of Zelen­sky — for $250,000 in exchange for get­ting Pence to show up at Zelenskey’s inau­gu­ra­tion. At least that’s what Kolo­moisky claims. Also note that May was the same month Yovanovitch was fired. Dur­ing that May trip, Per­ry had a pri­vate meet­ing with Zelenskey where he appar­ent­ly made clear that he want­ed the exist­ing US rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the Naftogaz board who was appoint­ed under Pres­i­dent Oba­ma replaced with some “rep­utable in Repub­li­can cir­cles.” Per­ry lat­er had a sec­ond meet­ing dur­ing this trip to Kyiv where it made clear that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion did­n’t just want the US rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the Naftogaz board replace. The admin­is­tra­tion want­ed the entire super­vi­so­ry board replaced. And it was wide­ly inter­pret­ted that Per­ry specif­i­cal­ly want­ed Michael Bleyz­er on the board. Bleyz­er hap­pens to be a long-time polit­i­cal patron of Rick Per­ry. Per­ry also want­ed anoth­er Tex­an, Robert Bensh, on the board and this was report­ed­ly con­firmed by the Ener­gy Depart­ment. Gor­don D. Sond­land, the U.S. ambas­sador to the Euro­pean Union, and Kurt D. Volk­er, then the State Department’s spe­cial envoy to Ukraine, were in the room dur­ing this meet­ing.

Next, in a Decem­ber 2019 Asso­ci­at­ed Press arti­cle, we’re going to see:

7. Naftogaz has been expand­ing its nat­ur­al gas stor­age capac­i­ty at the same time a gas boom in Texas was leav­ing pro­duc­ers with so much gas they were burn­ing off excess reserves. So some sort of US-to-Ukraine LNG trade is some­thing that has seemed increas­ing­ly like­ly in recent years. That makes this scheme more of an attempt to ensure inter­ests close to Trump and close to the Ukrain­ian inter­ests work­ing with Par­nas and Fru­man are the prime ben­e­fi­cia­ries. Which is pret­ty scan­dalous giv­en that one of the enti­ties involved here is the state-owned nat­ur­al gas com­pa­ny Naftogaz that plays a huge part in Ukraine’s econ­o­my and, as we’ll see, Fru­man and Par­nas want­ed to get the author­i­ty to nego­ti­ate on behalf of Naftogaz.

8. While Favorov did­n’t take offer of Par­nas, Fru­man, and Sargeant seri­ous­ly when they first made it in March of 2018, he did note that the Poroshenko gov­ern­ment had indeed made moves to weak­en the inde­pen­dence of the Naftogaz super­vi­so­ry board, which sounds a lot like what Rick Per­ry and the rest of the schemers want­ed to hap­pen. So it would appear that the Poroshenko gov­ern­ment was like­ly open this scheme which makes sense since it was clear­ly hatched be as least as far back as April of 2018 when the “Take her out” con­ver­sa­tion took place.

9. Fol­low­ing the elec­tion of Zelen­sky in April of 2019, both Favorov and Kobolyev trav­eled to DC where they were the ones pitch­ing LNG exports to Ukraine. This is before Rick Per­ry’s trip in May were he demand­ed changes to the Naftogaz super­vi­so­ry board. So the Zelenksy gov­ern­ment was def­i­nite­ly open to exports, but what­ev­er Per­ry had in mind required a weak­en­ing of the super­vi­so­ry board.

10. Dur­ing this late April vis­it to DC, Favorov and Kobolyev met with Par­nas and Fru­man at the Trump Inter­na­tion­al Hotel. They were intro­duced to Jeff Miller, a for­mer polit­i­cal advis­er to Rick Per­ry, and now vice finance chair for the 2020 Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion. They also met Tom­my Hicks Jr., a pri­vate equi­ty investor who is co-chair­man of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee and a friend of Don­ald Trump Jr. Dur­ing this meet­ing they dis­cussed the logis­tics of export­ing the pro­posed vol­ume of nat­ur­al gas to Ukraine and con­clud­ed that it would have to be done through Poland and required an expan­sion of a Poland-to-Ukraine pipeline.

11. Three months lat­er, Rick Per­ry made a trip to Poland where he met with min­is­ters from Poland and Ukraine and pledged that the US would make the resources avail­able to expand that Poland-to-Ukraine pipeline. So we have the US ener­gy sec­re­tary pledg­ing to use US resources to expand a Poland-to-Ukraine pipeline to facil­i­tate a deal involv­ing Ukraine’s state-owned nat­ur­al gas com­pa­ny and that all evi­dence indi­cates was being designed to pri­mar­i­ly ben­e­fit these pri­vate schemers. It’s anoth­er exam­ple of how this scheme was in keep­ing with the US forieng pol­i­cy of pro­mot­ing LNG exports to Ukraine, but not in keep­ing with offi­cial US for­eign pol­i­cy of pro­mot­ing cor­rupt busi­ness deal­ings.

Final­ly, in a Decem­ber 2019 Wall Street Jour­nal arti­cle, we’re going to find:

12. Dur­ing a meet­ing in May of 2019 between Fru­man, Par­nas and Favorov, Fru­man asked Favorov to sign an agree­ment autho­riz­ing Fru­man and Par­nas to bro­ker sales of US LNG gas to Naftogaz on the com­pa­ny’s behalf.

13. Naftogaz rep­re­sents ~10% of Ukraine’s eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty. So any scheme to fleece Naftogaz is a scheme to sign­f­i­cant­ly fleece the Ukrain­ian peo­ple.

14. As part of their pitch to Favorov, Fru­man and Par­nas tout­ed how they wer close friends with Giu­liani and met with Trump in the White House. Keep in mind that the “Take her out” record­ing con­ser­va­tion of Trump, Par­nas, and Fru­man did­n’t take place at the White House. It’s a reminder that the now noto­ri­ous April 2018 din­ner where they con­ver­sa­tion took place was­n’t the only time Par­nas and Fru­man met with Trump.

15. Favorov claims to have been shocked after he met with Fru­man and Par­nas in March of 2019 and they made their pitch to him, in part because Kobolyev was his friend, but also because it was under Kobolyev’s lead­er­ship at Naftogaz that the com­pa­ny launched cor­rup­tion and com­pli­ance efforts with the sup­port of Ambas­sador Yovanovitch.

16. When Zelen­sky won the Ukrain­ian pres­i­den­cy in April of 2019, one of his agen­da items was break­ing up and pri­va­tiz­ing much of Naftogaz, some­thing the West had long called for. This is some­thing to keep in mind since the pri­va­ti­za­tion of Naftogaz would be a poten­tial­ly high­ly lucra­tive event for insid­ers poised to ben­e­fit from it. So the elec­tion of Zelen­sky would have added an addi­tion­al urgency for these schemers because not only did it upend what­ev­er arrange­ment they qui­et­ly worked out with the Poroshenko gov­ern­ment but it also put the high­ly lucra­tive pri­va­ti­za­tion of Naftogaz on the table.

17. Fru­man and Par­nas spent the spring and sum­mer of 2019 meet­ing with Ukrain­ian offi­cials and ener­gy exec­u­tives, assur­ing them they could guar­an­tee large ship­ments of US LNG through an expand­ed Poland pipeline. Recall that Rick Per­ry was mak­ing these same arrange­ments dur­ing this time, high­light­ing how Per­ry was very much a part of this scheme.

And, again, this is real­ly just a peek at this chap­ter in this larg­er sto­ry. There’s still much we don’t know, like what tran­spired between Par­nas’s and Fru­man’s April 2018 “Take her out” din­ner with Trump and their March 2019 ini­tial pitch­es made to Favorov. And there’s still much to learn about how this all over­lap with the ‘Take out the Bidens’ chap­ter in this sto­ry. And all of this has yet to be revealed even with the Democ­rats hav­ing wrapped up their impeach­ment case in the Sen­ate tri­al and the Repub­li­cans hav­ing only got­ten start­ed on their defense.

Ok, first, let’s start off with the fol­low­ing ABC News arti­cle about the now noto­ri­ous “Take her out” audio record­ing from an inti­mate din­ner in April of 2018 between Trump and mega-donors to a pro-Trump super PAC at the Trump Inter­na­tion­al Hotel in DC. As the arti­cle describes, Trump’s calls for the fir­ing of Yovanovitch were prompt­ed by Par­nas relay­ing to Trump how he hear that Yovanovitch was telling peo­ple in Ukraine that Trump would be impeached. Trump’s team is defend­ing the com­ments as being in response to those claims of the ambas­sador bad­mouthing him. And per­haps that’s true. What’s impor­tant is that it estab­lish­es that Par­nas and Fru­man were already direct­ly talk­ing with Trump him­self as ear­ly as April 2018:

ABC News

‘Take her out’: Record­ing appears to cap­ture Trump at pri­vate din­ner say­ing he wants Ukraine ambas­sador fired
Trump appar­ent­ly heard dis­cussing fir­ing Ukraine ambas­sador Marie Yovanovitch.

By Kather­ine Faul­ders, John San­tuc­ci, Alli­son Pecorin and Olivia Rubin
Jan­u­ary 24, 2020, 9:04 PM

A record­ing obtained by ABC News appears to cap­ture Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump telling asso­ciates he want­ed the then‑U.S. ambas­sador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch fired while speak­ing at a small gath­er­ing that includ­ed Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man — two for­mer busi­ness asso­ciates of Trump’s per­son­al lawyer Rudy Giu­liani who have since been indict­ed in New York.

The record­ing appears to con­tra­dict state­ments by Trump and sup­port the nar­ra­tive that has been offered by Par­nas dur­ing broad­cast inter­views in recent days. Sources famil­iar with the record­ing said the record­ing was made dur­ing an inti­mate April 30, 2018, din­ner at the Trump Inter­na­tion­al Hotel in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Trump has said repeat­ed­ly he does not know Par­nas, a Sovi­et-born Amer­i­can who has emerged as a wild card in Trump’s impeach­ment tri­al, espe­cial­ly in the days since Trump was impeached.

“Get rid of her!” is what the voice that appears to be Trump’s is heard say­ing. “Get her out tomor­row. I don’t care. Get her out tomor­row. Take her out. OK? Do it.”

On the record­ing, it appears the two Giu­liani asso­ciates are telling Trump that the U.S. ambas­sador has been bad-mouthing him, which leads direct­ly to the appar­ent remarks by the pres­i­dent. The record­ing was made by Fru­man, accord­ing to sources famil­iar with the tape.

“Every pres­i­dent in our his­to­ry has had the right to place peo­ple who sup­port his agen­da and his poli­cies with­in his Admin­is­tra­tion,” White House press sec­re­tary Stephanie Grisham said.

Dur­ing the con­ver­sa­tion, sev­er­al of the par­tic­i­pants can be heard laugh­ing with the pres­i­dent. At anoth­er point, the record­ing appears to cap­ture Trump prais­ing his new choice of sec­re­tary of state, say­ing emphat­i­cal­ly: “[Mike] Pom­peo is the best.” But the most strik­ing moment comes when Par­nas and the pres­i­dent dis­cuss the dis­missal of his ambas­sador to Ukraine.

Par­nas appears to say: “The biggest prob­lem there, I think where we need to start is we got­ta get rid of the ambas­sador. She’s still left over from the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion,” Par­nas can be heard telling Trump. “She’s basi­cal­ly walk­ing around telling every­body ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached, just wait.” (Yovanovitch actu­al­ly had served in the State Depart­ment since the Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion.)

It was not until a year lat­er that Yovanovitch was recalled from her posi­tion — in April 2019. She said the deci­sion was based on “unfound­ed and false claims by peo­ple with clear­ly ques­tion­able motives” that she was dis­loy­al to Trump.

House inves­ti­ga­tors have been attempt­ing to doc­u­ment – in part with text mes­sages sup­plied by Par­nas — an almost year-long effort on the part of Par­nas and Giu­liani to get Yovanovitch removed from her post. At times, the mes­sages made pub­lic by the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee show Giu­liani ref­er­enc­ing his repeat­ed efforts to have Yovanovitch recalled from Kyiv, a push that was ini­tial­ly unsuc­cess­ful.

“Boy I’m so pow­er­ful I can intim­i­date the entire Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment,” Giu­liani mes­saged Par­nas in May 2019. “Please don’t tell any­one I can’t get the crooked Ambas­sador fired or I did three times and she’s still there.”

The iden­ti­ties of oth­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing in the record­ed con­ver­sa­tion are unclear. Dur­ing an ear­ly por­tion of the record­ing where video can be seen, Don­ald Trump Jr. appears on the record­ing pos­ing for pic­tures with oth­ers. Sources say they were attend­ing a larg­er event hap­pen­ing at the hotel that night for a super PAC that sup­ports the pres­i­dent.

Anoth­er clip seen on the record­ing, accord­ing to the sources, is of indi­vid­u­als enter­ing what appears to be a suite at the Trump Hotel for the inti­mate din­ner. The phone that was record­ing the Trump con­ver­sa­tion appears to be placed down on a table with the audio still record­ing the con­ver­sa­tion between the com­man­der-in-chief and oth­er guests, accord­ing to the sources. The image of the pres­i­dent does not appear on the video reviewed by ABC News.

In a recent inter­view with MSNBC, Par­nas pub­licly recount­ed his mem­o­ries of the scene at the din­ner and said that Trump turned to John [DeSte­fano], who was his deputy chief of staff at the time, and said “Fire her,” he claimed. Sources famil­iar with the closed-door meet­ing cor­rob­o­rate that DeSte­fano was in atten­dance.

“We all, there was a silence in the room. He respond­ed to him, said Mr. Pres­i­dent, we can’t do that right now because [Sec­re­tary of State Mike] Pom­peo has­n’t been con­firmed yet, that Pom­peo is not con­firmed yet and we don’t have — this is when [for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Rex] Tiller­son was gone, but Pom­peo was con­firmed, so they go, wait until — so sev­er­al con­ver­sa­tions he men­tioned it again.”

How­ev­er, Pom­peo had been con­firmed and pri­vate­ly sworn in days ear­li­er.

A copy of the record­ing is now in the cus­tody of fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors in New York’s South­ern Dis­trict, who declined to com­ment to ABC News.

Trump’s sup­port­ers have main­tained that no evi­dence has been put for­ward direct­ly link­ing Trump to any of the alleged impeach­able actions. And Trump has main­tained that remov­ing Yovanovitch was with­in his right.

Trump has dis­tanced him­self from Par­nas, who is under fed­er­al indict­ment in New York in a cam­paign finance case, and the president’s sup­port­ers have ques­tioned his cred­i­bil­i­ty and motives.

“I don’t know him,” the pres­i­dent said just last week when asked about Par­nas. “I don’t know Par­nas oth­er than I guess I had pic­tures tak­en, which I do with thou­sands of peo­ple, includ­ing peo­ple today that I did­n’t meet. But I just met him. I don’t know him at all. Don’t know what he’s about, don’t know where he comes from, know noth­ing about him. I can only tell you this thing is a big hoax.”

...

The records, which were most­ly What­sApp mes­sages, also includ­ed 59 pages of emails and hand­writ­ten let­ters that appear to describe Giu­lian­i’s attempts to meet with Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skiy and an effort to remove Yovanovitch from her post.

One email exchange appears to sug­gest Par­nas and his asso­ciates had Yovanovitch “under phys­i­cal sur­veil­lance in Kyiv,” accord­ing to the committee’s cov­er let­ter.

Dur­ing her con­gres­sion­al tes­ti­mo­ny, Yovanovitch said she received a call from the State Depart­ment that “there were con­cerns about my secu­ri­ty.”

Giu­liani is a sub­ject of the probe being led by the New York pros­e­cu­tors, sources said. Par­nas’ cohort, Fru­man was also arrest­ed at the same time and faces sim­i­lar charges though he is not coop­er­at­ing with the con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tions.

Par­nas and Fru­man were indict­ed by the South­ern Dis­trict of New York on charges includ­ing con­spir­a­cy to com­mit cam­paign finance fraud, false state­ments to the Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion and fal­si­fi­ca­tion of records as part of an alleged scheme to cir­cum­vent fed­er­al cam­paign finance laws against straw dona­tions and for­eign con­tri­bu­tions. Both have plead­ed not guilty.

————-

“ ‘Take her out’: Record­ing appears to cap­ture Trump at pri­vate din­ner say­ing he wants Ukraine ambas­sador fired” by Kather­ine Faul­ders, John San­tuc­ci, Alli­son Pecorin and Olivia Rubin; ABC News; 01/24/2020

““Get rid of her!” is what the voice that appears to be Trump’s is heard say­ing. “Get her out tomor­row. I don’t care. Get her out tomor­row. Take her out. OK? Do it.””

It’s quite a record­ing. And notice how Par­nas leads into this dis­cus­sion about Yovanovitch by say­ing, “The biggest prob­lem there, I think where we need to start is we got­ta get rid of the ambas­sador.” That rais­es the ques­tion of what Par­nas was talk­ing about “start­ing” with Trump? Did this involve the Biden/Burisma side of this sto­ry already by this point or was it just about Naftogaz? It’s not obvi­ous giv­en that Ambas­sador Yovanovitch was act­ing as an obsta­cle to both of those sides of this larg­er scheme:

...
Par­nas appears to say: “The biggest prob­lem there, I think where we need to start is we got­ta get rid of the ambas­sador. She’s still left over from the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion,” Par­nas can be heard telling Trump. “She’s basi­cal­ly walk­ing around telling every­body ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached, just wait.” (Yovanovitch actu­al­ly had served in the State Depart­ment since the Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion.)

It was not until a year lat­er that Yovanovitch was recalled from her posi­tion — in April 2019. She said the deci­sion was based on “unfound­ed and false claims by peo­ple with clear­ly ques­tion­able motives” that she was dis­loy­al to Trump.

...

The iden­ti­ties of oth­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing in the record­ed con­ver­sa­tion are unclear. Dur­ing an ear­ly por­tion of the record­ing where video can be seen, Don­ald Trump Jr. appears on the record­ing pos­ing for pic­tures with oth­ers. Sources say they were attend­ing a larg­er event hap­pen­ing at the hotel that night for a super PAC that sup­ports the pres­i­dent.

...

Trump’s sup­port­ers have main­tained that no evi­dence has been put for­ward direct­ly link­ing Trump to any of the alleged impeach­able actions. And Trump has main­tained that remov­ing Yovanovitch was with­in his right.

Trump has dis­tanced him­self from Par­nas, who is under fed­er­al indict­ment in New York in a cam­paign finance case, and the president’s sup­port­ers have ques­tioned his cred­i­bil­i­ty and motives.

“I don’t know him,” the pres­i­dent said just last week when asked about Par­nas. “I don’t know Par­nas oth­er than I guess I had pic­tures tak­en, which I do with thou­sands of peo­ple, includ­ing peo­ple today that I did­n’t meet. But I just met him. I don’t know him at all. Don’t know what he’s about, don’t know where he comes from, know noth­ing about him. I can only tell you this thing is a big hoax.”
...

You also have to won­der how many of the peo­ple Par­nas and Fru­man were try­ing to enlist in this scheme got to hear this record­ing as evi­dence that they real­ly did have Trump’s ear.

The Parnas/Fruman Naftogaz Scheme Was Real­ly a Par­nas/Fru­man/Sargean­t/Per­ry/Giu­lian­i/Trump/Mys­tery-Ukraini­ans Naftogaz Scheme

Next, here’s an Octo­ber Asso­ci­at­ed Press arti­cle that lays out the var­i­ous fig­ures involved with Par­nas’s and Fru­man’s Naftogaz scheme. Fig­ures like then-Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry and an oil mag­nate from Boca Raton, Flori­da, named Har­ry Sargeant III who hap­pens to be a long-time Repub­li­can donor. The arti­cle also describes how when Andrew Favorov, the can­di­date the schemers had in mind to replace Naftogaz’s CEO, was first approached by Par­nas and Fru­man in March of 2019, Favorov had the impres­sion their offer was more like a shake­down. And as the arti­cle also notes, when Rick Per­ry trav­eled to Kyiv in May of 2019 for Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky’s inau­gu­ra­tion, he made clear dur­ing a meet­ing with Zelen­sky that he want­ed the US rep­re­sen­ta­tive on Naftogaz’s super­vi­so­ry board replaced. Dur­ing a lat­er trip to Ukraine, Per­ry made it clear he want­ed to see the entire super­vi­so­ry board replaced. It’s a key fram­ing to keep in mind with this sto­ry: it was a scheme to shake­down one of Ukraine’s largest pub­licly owned com­pa­nies and replac­ing the super­vi­so­ry board was a nec­es­sary for the scheme to suc­ceed:

Asso­ci­at­ed Press

Prof­it, not pol­i­tics: Trump allies sought Ukraine gas deal

By DESMOND BUTLER, MICHAEL BIESECKER and RICHARD LARDNER
10/07/2019

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — As Rudy Giu­liani was push­ing Ukrain­ian offi­cials last spring to inves­ti­gate one of Don­ald Trump’s main polit­i­cal rivals, a group of indi­vid­u­als with ties to the pres­i­dent and his per­son­al lawyer were also active in the for­mer Sovi­et repub­lic.

Their aims were prof­it, not pol­i­tics. This cir­cle of busi­ness­men and Repub­li­can donors tout­ed con­nec­tions to Giu­liani and Trump while try­ing to install new man­age­ment at the top of Ukraine’s mas­sive state gas com­pa­ny. Their plan was to then steer lucra­tive con­tracts to com­pa­nies con­trolled by Trump allies, accord­ing to two peo­ple with knowl­edge of their plans.

Their plan hit a snag after Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko lost his reelec­tion bid to Volodymyr Zelen­skiy, whose con­ver­sa­tion with Trump about for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden is now at the cen­ter of the House impeach­ment inquiry of Trump.

But the effort to install a friend­lier man­age­ment team at the helm of the gas com­pa­ny, Naftogaz, would soon be tak­en up with Ukraine’s new pres­i­dent by U.S. Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry, whose slate of can­di­dates includ­ed a fel­low Tex­an who is one of Perry’s past polit­i­cal donors.

It’s unclear if Perry’s attempts to replace board mem­bers at Naftogaz were coor­di­nat­ed with the Giu­liani allies push­ing for a sim­i­lar out­come, and no one has alleged that there is crim­i­nal activ­i­ty in any of these efforts. And it’s unclear what role, if any, Giu­liani had in help­ing his clients push to get gas sales agree­ments with the state-owned com­pa­ny.

But the affair shows how those with ties to Trump and his admin­is­tra­tion were pur­su­ing busi­ness deals in Ukraine that went far beyond advanc­ing the president’s per­son­al polit­i­cal inter­ests. It also rais­es ques­tions about whether Trump allies were mix­ing busi­ness and pol­i­tics just as Repub­li­cans were call­ing for a probe of Biden and his son Hunter, who served five years on the board of anoth­er Ukrain­ian ener­gy com­pa­ny, Buris­ma.

On Fri­day, Trump told a group of Repub­li­can law­mak­ers that it had been Per­ry who had prompt­ed the phone call in which Trump asked Zelen­skiy for a “favor” regard­ing Biden, accord­ing to a per­son famil­iar with Trump’s remarks.

The per­son, who spoke to the AP on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to describe a closed con­ver­sa­tion among GOP offi­cials, recount­ed that Trump said it was Per­ry who asked him to make the July call to dis­cuss “some­thing about an LNG (liq­ue­fied nat­ur­al gas) plant.” Trump’s remarks were first report­ed Sat­ur­day by the news site Axios.

While it’s unclear whether Trump’s remark Fri­day referred specif­i­cal­ly to the behind-the-scenes maneu­vers this spring involv­ing the multi­bil­lion-dol­lar state gas com­pa­ny, The Asso­ci­at­ed Press has inter­viewed four peo­ple with direct knowl­edge of the attempts to influ­ence Naftogaz, and their accounts show Per­ry play­ing a key role in the effort. Three of the four spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty for fear of retal­i­a­tion. The fourth is an Amer­i­can busi­ness­man with close ties to the Ukrain­ian ener­gy sec­tor.

A spokes­woman for the U.S. Ener­gy Depart­ment said Per­ry, a for­mer Texas gov­er­nor and Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, was not advanc­ing anyone’s per­son­al inter­ests. She said his con­ver­sa­tions with Ukrain­ian offi­cials about Naftogaz were part of his efforts to reform the country’s ener­gy sec­tor and cre­ate an envi­ron­ment in which West­ern com­pa­nies can do busi­ness.

Per­ry was asked about the AP’s report­ing on Mon­day while in Lithua­nia, where he was meet­ing with offi­cials from Ukraine and oth­er east­ern Euro­pean coun­tries to dis­cuss ener­gy secu­ri­ty and coop­er­a­tion. He said any sug­ges­tion that he tried to force a man­age­ment change at Naftogaz was a “total­ly dreamed up sto­ry.”

“We get asked for our rec­om­men­da­tions about peo­ple who are experts in areas, var­i­ous areas,” Per­ry said. “Folks who have exper­tise in par­tic­u­lar areas. Obvi­ous­ly hav­ing been the gov­er­nor of the state of Texas, I know a lot of peo­ple in the ener­gy indus­try.”

Per­ry also con­firmed he had urged Trump to call Zelen­skiy, but said the sub­ject was the poten­tial growth of Ukraine’s ener­gy sec­tor.

“Absolute­ly, I asked the pres­i­dent mul­ti­ple times, ‘Mr. Pres­i­dent, we think it is in the Unit­ed States’ and in Ukraine’s best inter­est that you and the pres­i­dent of Ukraine have con­ver­sa­tions, that you dis­cuss the options that are there,’” Per­ry said, recount­ing his con­ver­sa­tions with Trump.

The Trump and Giu­liani allies dri­ving the attempt to change the senior man­age­ment at Naftogaz, how­ev­er, appear to have had inside knowl­edge of the U.S. government’s plans in Ukraine. For exam­ple, they told peo­ple that Trump would replace the U.S. ambas­sador there months before she was actu­al­ly recalled to Wash­ing­ton, accord­ing to three of the indi­vid­u­als inter­viewed by the AP. One of the indi­vid­u­als said he was so con­cerned by the whole affair that he report­ed it to a U.S. Embassy offi­cial in Ukraine months ago.

___

THE BUSINESSMEN

Ukraine, a resource-rich nation that sits on the geo­graph­ic and sym­bol­ic bor­der between Rus­sia and the West, has long been plagued by cor­rup­tion and gov­ern­ment dys­func­tion, mak­ing it a mag­net for for­eign prof­i­teers.
d
At the cen­ter of the Naftogaz plan, accord­ing to three indi­vid­u­als famil­iar with the details, were three such busi­ness­men: two Sovi­et-born Flori­da real estate entre­pre­neurs, Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man, and an oil mag­nate from Boca Raton, Flori­da, named Har­ry Sargeant III.

Par­nas and Fru­man have made hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in polit­i­cal dona­tions to Repub­li­cans, includ­ing $325,000 to a Trump-allied polit­i­cal action com­mit­tee in 2018. This helped the rel­a­tive­ly unknown entre­pre­neurs gain access to top lev­els of the Repub­li­can Par­ty — includ­ing meet­ings with Trump at the White House and Mar-a-Lago.

The two have also faced law­suits from dis­grun­tled investors over unpaid debts. Dur­ing the same peri­od they were pur­su­ing the Naftogaz deal, the two were coor­di­nat­ing with Giu­liani to set up meet­ings with Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment offi­cials and push for an inves­ti­ga­tion of the Bidens.

Sargeant, his wife and cor­po­rate enti­ties tied to the fam­i­ly have donat­ed at least $1.2 mil­lion to Repub­li­can cam­paigns and PACs over the last 20 years, includ­ing $100,000 in June to the Trump Vic­to­ry Fund, accord­ing to fed­er­al and state cam­paign finance records. He has also served as finance chair of the Flori­da state GOP, and gave near­ly $14,000 to Giuliani’s failed 2008 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

In ear­ly March, Fru­man, Par­nas and Sargeant were tout­ing a plan to replace Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolyev with anoth­er senior exec­u­tive at the com­pa­ny, Andrew Favorov, accord­ing to two indi­vid­u­als who spoke to the AP as well as a mem­o­ran­dum about the meet­ing that was lat­er sub­mit­ted to the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, for­mer­ly known as Kiev.

Going back to the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, the U.S. Ener­gy Depart­ment and the State Depart­ment have long sup­port­ed efforts to import Amer­i­can nat­ur­al gas into Ukraine to reduce the country’s depen­dence on Rus­sia.

The three approached Favorov with the idea while the Ukrain­ian exec­u­tive was attend­ing an ener­gy indus­try con­fer­ence in Texas. Par­nas and Fru­man told him they had flown in from Flori­da on a pri­vate jet to recruit him to be their part­ner in a new ven­ture to export up to 100 tanker ship­ments a year of U.S. liq­ue­fied gas into Ukraine, where Naftogaz is the largest dis­trib­u­tor, accord­ing to two peo­ple briefed on the details.

Sargeant told Favorov that he reg­u­lar­ly meets with Trump at Mar-a-Lago and that the gas-sales plan had the president’s full sup­port, accord­ing to the two peo­ple who said Favorov recount­ed the dis­cus­sion to them.

These con­ver­sa­tions were recount­ed to AP by Dale W. Per­ry, an Amer­i­can who is a for­mer busi­ness part­ner of Favorov. He told AP in an inter­view that Favorov described the meet­ing to him soon after it hap­pened and that Favorov per­ceived it to be a shake­down. Per­ry, who is no rela­tion to the ener­gy sec­re­tary, is the man­ag­ing part­ner of Ener­gy Resources of Ukraine, which cur­rent­ly has busi­ness agree­ments to import nat­ur­al gas and elec­tric­i­ty to Ukraine.

A sec­ond per­son who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty also con­firmed to the AP that Favorov had recount­ed details of the Hous­ton meet­ing to him.

Accord­ing to Dale Per­ry and the oth­er per­son, Favorov said Par­nas told him Trump planned to remove U.S. Ambas­sador Marie Yovanovitch and replace her with some­one more open to aid­ing their busi­ness inter­ests.

Dale Per­ry told the AP he was so con­cerned about the efforts to change the man­age­ment at Naftogaz and to get rid of Yovanovitch that he report­ed what he had heard to Suriya Jayan­ti, a State Depart­ment for­eign ser­vice offi­cer sta­tioned at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv who focus­es on the ener­gy indus­try.

He also wrote a detailed memo about Favorov’s account, dat­ed April 12, which was shared with anoth­er cur­rent State Depart­ment offi­cial. Per­ry recent­ly pro­vid­ed a copy of the April memo to AP.

...

A Flori­da lawyer rep­re­sent­ing Sargeant, Christo­pher Kise, issued a state­ment Mon­day con­firm­ing that his client was at the Hous­ton din­ner with Par­nas, Fru­man and Favorov, but insist­ed he was there only to offer “broad indus­try guid­ance and his expert view on the chal­lenges pre­sent­ed by oper­at­ing in for­eign mar­kets.”

“Attend­ing a sin­gle, infor­mal din­ner in Hous­ton does not place Mr. Sargeant at the cen­ter of any Naftogaz or Ukrain­ian busi­ness plan,” Kise said. “Mr. Sargeant nev­er dis­cussed any role or par­tic­i­pa­tion in any Ukraine ven­ture, nor any specifics regard­ing the poten­tial busi­ness ven­tures of the oth­er din­ner par­tic­i­pants.”

The state­ment did not address whether Yovanovitch’s fate was dis­cussed at the din­ner. Kise also said Sargeant has not met at Mar-a-Lago with Trump since he became pres­i­dent.

On March 24, Giu­liani and Par­nas gath­ered at the Trump Inter­na­tion­al Hotel in Wash­ing­ton with Healy E. Baum­gard­ner, a for­mer Trump cam­paign advis­er who once served as deputy com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor for Giuliani’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and as a com­mu­ni­ca­tions offi­cial dur­ing the George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion.

She is now list­ed as the CEO of 45 Ener­gy Group, a Hous­ton-based ener­gy com­pa­ny whose web­site describes it as a “gov­ern­ment rela­tions, pub­lic affairs and busi­ness devel­op­ment prac­tice group.” The company’s name is an appar­ent nod to Trump, the 45th pres­i­dent.

This was a cou­ple of weeks after the Hous­ton meet­ing with Favorov, the Naftogaz exec­u­tive. Giu­liani, Par­nas and Baum­gard­ner were there to make a busi­ness pitch involv­ing gas deals in the for­mer Sovi­et bloc to a poten­tial investor.

This time, accord­ing to Giu­liani, the deals that were dis­cussed involved Uzbek­istan, not Ukraine.

“I have not pur­sued a deal in the Ukraine. I don’t know about a deal in the Ukraine. I would not do a deal in the Ukraine now, obvi­ous­ly,” said Giu­liani, reached while attend­ing a play­off base­ball game between the New York Yan­kees and Min­neso­ta Twins. “There is absolute­ly no proof that I did it, because I didn’t do it.”

Dur­ing this meet­ing, Par­nas again repeat­ed that Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambas­sador in Kyiv, would soon be replaced, accord­ing to a per­son with direct knowl­edge of the gath­er­ing. She was removed two months lat­er.

Giu­liani, who serves as Trump’s per­son­al lawyer and has no offi­cial role in gov­ern­ment, acknowl­edged Fri­day that he was among those push­ing the pres­i­dent to replace the ambas­sador, a career diplo­mat with a his­to­ry of fight­ing cor­rup­tion.

“The ambas­sador to Ukraine was replaced,” he said. “I did play a role in that.”

But Giu­liani refused to dis­cuss the details of his busi­ness deal­ings, or whether he helped his asso­ciates in their push to forge gas sales con­tracts with the Ukrain­ian com­pa­ny. He did describe Sergeant as a friend and referred to Par­nas and Fru­man as his clients in a tweet in May.

As part of their impeach­ment inquiry, House Democ­rats have sub­poe­naed Giu­liani for doc­u­ments and com­mu­ni­ca­tions relat­ed to dozens of peo­ple, includ­ing Favorov, Par­nas, Fru­man and Baumgardner’s 45 Ener­gy Group.

The House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee also issued sweep­ing doc­u­ment requests to Par­nas and Fru­man, due Mon­day, and sched­uled depo­si­tions for lat­er in the week.

John Dowd, a for­mer Trump attor­ney who now rep­re­sents Par­nas and Fru­man, said he and his clients have not yet decid­ed whether to com­ply. Democ­rats on Mon­day threat­ened to issue sub­poe­nas if they don’t show.

Baum­gard­ner issued a writ­ten state­ment, say­ing: “While I won’t com­ment on busi­ness dis­cus­sions, I will say this: this polit­i­cal assault on pri­vate busi­ness by the Democ­rats in Con­gress is com­plete harass­ment and an inva­sion of pri­va­cy that should scare the hell out of every Amer­i­can busi­ness own­er.”

Baum­gard­ner lat­er denied that she had any busi­ness deal­ings in Ukraine but refused to say whether the replace­ment of Ambas­sador Yovanovitch was dis­cussed.

Dowd said it was actu­al­ly the Naftogaz exec­u­tives who approached his clients about mak­ing a deal. Dowd says the group then approached Rick Per­ry to get the Ener­gy Depart­ment on board.

“The peo­ple from the com­pa­ny solicit­ed my clients because Igor is in the gas busi­ness, and they asked them, and they flew to Wash­ing­ton and they solicit­ed,” Dowd said. “They sat down and talked about it. And then it was pre­sent­ed to Sec­re­tary Per­ry to see if they could get it togeth­er.

“It wasn’t a shake­down; it was an attempt to do legit­i­mate busi­ness that didn’t work out.”

___

THE ENERGY SECRETARY

In May, Rick Per­ry trav­eled to Kyiv to serve as the senior U.S. gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tive at the inau­gu­ra­tion of the county’s new pres­i­dent.

In a pri­vate meet­ing with Zelen­skiy, Per­ry pressed the Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent to fire mem­bers of the Naftogaz advi­so­ry board. Atten­dees left the meet­ing with the impres­sion that Per­ry want­ed to replace the Amer­i­can rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Amos Hochstein, a for­mer diplo­mat and ener­gy rep­re­sen­ta­tive who served in the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, with some­one “rep­utable in Repub­li­can cir­cles,” accord­ing to some­one who was in the room.

Perry’s push for Ukraine’s state-owned nat­ur­al gas com­pa­ny Naftogaz to change its super­vi­so­ry board was first report­ed by Politi­co.

A sec­ond meet­ing dur­ing the trip, at a Kyiv hotel, includ­ed Ukrain­ian offi­cials and ener­gy sec­tor peo­ple. There, Per­ry made clear that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion want­ed to see the entire Naftogaz super­vi­so­ry board replaced, accord­ing to a per­son who attend­ed both meet­ings. Per­ry again ref­er­enced the list of advis­ers that he had giv­en Zelen­skiy, and it was wide­ly inter­pret­ed that he want­ed Michael Bleyz­er, a Ukrain­ian-Amer­i­can busi­ness­man from Texas, to join the new­ly formed board, the per­son said. Also on the list was Robert Bensh, anoth­er Tex­an who fre­quent­ly works in Ukraine, the Ener­gy Depart­ment con­firmed.

Gor­don D. Sond­land, the U.S. ambas­sador to the Euro­pean Union, and Kurt D. Volk­er, then the State Department’s spe­cial envoy to Ukraine, were also in the room, accord­ing to pho­tographs reviewed by AP. The per­son, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty due to fear of retal­i­a­tion, said he was floored by the Amer­i­can requests because the per­son had always viewed the U.S. gov­ern­ment “as hav­ing a high­er eth­i­cal stan­dard.”

The Naftogaz super­vi­so­ry board is sup­posed to be select­ed by the Ukrain­ian president’s Cab­i­net in con­sul­ta­tion with inter­na­tion­al insti­tu­tions, includ­ing the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund, the Unit­ed States and the Euro­pean Union. It must be approved by the Ukrain­ian Cab­i­net. Ukrain­ian offi­cials per­ceived Perry’s push to swap out the board as cir­cum­vent­ing that estab­lished process, accord­ing to the per­son in the room.

U.S. Ener­gy Depart­ment spokes­woman Shay­lyn Hynes said Per­ry had con­sis­tent­ly called for the mod­ern­iza­tion of Ukraine’s busi­ness and ener­gy sec­tor in an effort to cre­ate an envi­ron­ment that will incen­tivize West­ern com­pa­nies to do busi­ness there. She said Per­ry deliv­ered that same mes­sage in the May meet­ing with Zelen­skiy.

“What he did not do is advo­cate for the busi­ness inter­ests of any one indi­vid­ual or com­pa­ny,” Hynes said Sat­ur­day. “That is fic­tion being pushed by those who are disin­gen­u­ous­ly seek­ing to advance a nefar­i­ous nar­ra­tive that does not exist.”

Hynes said the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment had request­ed U.S. rec­om­men­da­tions to advise the coun­try on ener­gy mat­ters, and Per­ry pro­vid­ed those rec­om­men­da­tions. She con­firmed Bleyz­er was on the list.

Bleyz­er, whose com­pa­ny is based in Hous­ton, did not respond on Sat­ur­day to a voice­mail seek­ing com­ment. Bensh also did not respond to a phone mes­sage.

Per­ry has close ties to the Texas oil and gas indus­try. He appoint­ed Bleyz­er to a two-year term on a state tech­nolo­gies fund board in 2009. The fol­low­ing year, records show Bleyz­er donat­ed $20,000 to Perry’s reelec­tion cam­paign.

...

In an inter­view Fri­day with the Chris­t­ian Broad­cast­ing Net­work, Per­ry said that “as God as my wit­ness” he nev­er dis­cussed Biden or his son in meet­ings with Ukrain­ian or U.S. offi­cials, includ­ing Trump or Giu­liani. He did con­firm he had had a con­ver­sa­tion with Giu­liani by phone, but a spokes­woman for the ener­gy sec­re­tary declined to say when that call was or whether the two had dis­cussed Naftogaz.

In Lithua­nia on Mon­day, Per­ry said he could not recall whether Bleyzer’s name was on the list pro­vid­ed to Zelen­skiy. But Per­ry con­firmed he had known Bleyz­er for years and called him “a real­ly bril­liant, capa­ble busi­ness­man.”

“I would rec­om­mend him for a host of dif­fer­ent things in Kyiv because he knows the coun­try,” Per­ry said of Bleyz­er. “He’s from there. So, why not? I mean I would be stunned if some­one said that would you elim­i­nate Michael Bleyz­er from a rec­om­men­da­tion of peo­ple you ought to talk to about how to do busi­ness in the coun­try, whether they’re knowl­edge­able. It’d be remark­able if I didn’t say, ‘Talk to Michael.’”

———-

“Prof­it, not pol­i­tics: Trump allies sought Ukraine gas deal” by DESMOND BUTLER, MICHAEL BIESECKER and RICHARD LARDNER; Asso­ci­at­ed Press; 10/07/2019

At the cen­ter of the Naftogaz plan, accord­ing to three indi­vid­u­als famil­iar with the details, were three such busi­ness­men: two Sovi­et-born Flori­da real estate entre­pre­neurs, Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man, and an oil mag­nate from Boca Raton, Flori­da, named Har­ry Sargeant III.”

There were many plans in this sto­ry. Trump and Giu­lian­i’s ‘get Biden’ plan. Vik­tor Shok­in’s plan to get his old job back as Ukraine’s Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­er­al. Dmytro Fir­tash’s plan to get the US extra­di­tion request dropped. But it was the Naftogaz plan that appears to be the orig­i­nal fac­tor that brought Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man into the orbit of Rudy Giu­liani and Trump. Because Par­nas and Fru­man want­ed to exploit their con­nec­tions to Giu­liani, and there­fore Trump, to make mon­ey as mid­dle-men in the US-backed ‘reforms’ at Naftogaz. That was their plan. A plan that required using their con­nec­tions to Giu­liani — and $325,000 in polit­i­cal dona­tions — to get close to Trump and pitch the plan. It was that inti­mate din­ner with the mega-donors to the pro-Trump super-PAC where the now infa­mous “take her out” con­ver­sa­tion took place in April of 2018. Arrang­ing shady deals in the nat­ur­al gas sec­tor was how Par­nas and Fru­man were mak­ing them­selves use­ful to both the Ukrain­ian and US inter­ests who stood to ben­e­fit from these pro­posed nat­ur­al gas schemes.

But Giu­liani was­n’t Par­nas’s and Fru­man’s only con­tact in the GOP. They were work­ing close­ly with Flori­da-based oil-mag­nate Har­ry Sargeant III, who has give at least $1.2 mil­lion to the GOP over the last 20 years and $100,000 to the Trump Vic­to­ry Fund. And by ear­ly March of 2019, Par­nas, Fru­man, and Sargeant were push­ing a plan to replace the CEO of Naftogaz, Andriy Kobolyev, with Andrew Favorov:

...
Par­nas and Fru­man have made hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in polit­i­cal dona­tions to Repub­li­cans, includ­ing $325,000 to a Trump-allied polit­i­cal action com­mit­tee in 2018. This helped the rel­a­tive­ly unknown entre­pre­neurs gain access to top lev­els of the Repub­li­can Par­ty — includ­ing meet­ings with Trump at the White House and Mar-a-Lago.

The two have also faced law­suits from dis­grun­tled investors over unpaid debts. Dur­ing the same peri­od they were pur­su­ing the Naftogaz deal, the two were coor­di­nat­ing with Giu­liani to set up meet­ings with Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment offi­cials and push for an inves­ti­ga­tion of the Bidens.

Sargeant, his wife and cor­po­rate enti­ties tied to the fam­i­ly have donat­ed at least $1.2 mil­lion to Repub­li­can cam­paigns and PACs over the last 20 years, includ­ing $100,000 in June to the Trump Vic­to­ry Fund, accord­ing to fed­er­al and state cam­paign finance records. He has also served as finance chair of the Flori­da state GOP, and gave near­ly $14,000 to Giuliani’s failed 2008 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

In ear­ly March, Fru­man, Par­nas and Sargeant were tout­ing a plan to replace Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolyev with anoth­er senior exec­u­tive at the com­pa­ny, Andrew Favorov, accord­ing to two indi­vid­u­als who spoke to the AP as well as a mem­o­ran­dum about the meet­ing that was lat­er sub­mit­ted to the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, for­mer­ly known as Kiev.
...

And as part of the Par­nas, Fru­man, Sargeant pitch to Favorov of a plan that would involve export­ing up to 100 tankers of liq­uid nat­ur­al gas a year from the US to Ukraine, Sargeant told Favorov that he reg­u­lar­ly meets with Trump at Mar-a-Lago and that their nat­ur­al gas scheme had Trump’s full sup­port:

...
Going back to the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, the U.S. Ener­gy Depart­ment and the State Depart­ment have long sup­port­ed efforts to import Amer­i­can nat­ur­al gas into Ukraine to reduce the country’s depen­dence on Rus­sia.

The three approached Favorov with the idea while the Ukrain­ian exec­u­tive was attend­ing an ener­gy indus­try con­fer­ence in Texas. Par­nas and Fru­man told him they had flown in from Flori­da on a pri­vate jet to recruit him to be their part­ner in a new ven­ture to export up to 100 tanker ship­ments a year of U.S. liq­ue­fied gas into Ukraine, where Naftogaz is the largest dis­trib­u­tor, accord­ing to two peo­ple briefed on the details.

Sargeant told Favorov that he reg­u­lar­ly meets with Trump at Mar-a-Lago and that the gas-sales plan had the president’s full sup­port, accord­ing to the two peo­ple who said Favorov recount­ed the dis­cus­sion to them.
...

In as sign of how shady the pro­posed gas deal was, Favorov claims he viewed their offer as a shake­down. That’s pret­ty awful. But Par­nas and Fru­man coun­tered back in Octo­ber that it was the Naftogaz exec­u­tives who first approached Par­nas and Fru­man and then that group approached Rick Per­ry, then the Ener­gy Sec­re­tary. So did Par­nas and Fru­man first get approached by the Ukrain­ian side or US side of this pro­posed nat­ur­al gas scheme? That remains unclear. Either way, Rick Per­ry and a num­ber of fig­ures tied to Rick Per­ry clear­ly became ful­ly on board with this scheme:

...
These con­ver­sa­tions were recount­ed to AP by Dale W. Per­ry, an Amer­i­can who is a for­mer busi­ness part­ner of Favorov. He told AP in an inter­view that Favorov described the meet­ing to him soon after it hap­pened and that Favorov per­ceived it to be a shake­down. Per­ry, who is no rela­tion to the ener­gy sec­re­tary, is the man­ag­ing part­ner of Ener­gy Resources of Ukraine, which cur­rent­ly has busi­ness agree­ments to import nat­ur­al gas and elec­tric­i­ty to Ukraine.

A sec­ond per­son who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty also con­firmed to the AP that Favorov had recount­ed details of the Hous­ton meet­ing to him.

...

John Dowd, a for­mer Trump attor­ney who now rep­re­sents Par­nas and Fru­man, said he and his clients have not yet decid­ed whether to com­ply. Democ­rats on Mon­day threat­ened to issue sub­poe­nas if they don’t show.

...

Dowd said it was actu­al­ly the Naftogaz exec­u­tives who approached his clients about mak­ing a deal. Dowd says the group then approached Rick Per­ry to get the Ener­gy Depart­ment on board.

“The peo­ple from the com­pa­ny solicit­ed my clients because Igor is in the gas busi­ness, and they asked them, and they flew to Wash­ing­ton and they solicit­ed,” Dowd said. “They sat down and talked about it. And then it was pre­sent­ed to Sec­re­tary Per­ry to see if they could get it togeth­er.

“It wasn’t a shake­down; it was an attempt to do legit­i­mate busi­ness that didn’t work out.”
...

And then, a cou­ple weeks after this ‘shake­down’ meet­ing with Favorov, Giu­lani and Par­nas meet with for­mer Trump cam­paign advis­er Healy E. Baum­gard­ner who became the CEO for 45 Ener­gy Group, a Hous­ton-based ener­gy com­pa­ny that named itself after Trump being the 45th pres­i­den­cy. So this March 24, 2019, meet­ing pre­sum­ably involved con­nect­ing a bunch of Trump donors to this Ukraine deal they were hatch­ing. Behold the non-cor­rup­tion:

...
On March 24, Giu­liani and Par­nas gath­ered at the Trump Inter­na­tion­al Hotel in Wash­ing­ton with Healy E. Baum­gard­ner, a for­mer Trump cam­paign advis­er who once served as deputy com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor for Giuliani’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign and as a com­mu­ni­ca­tions offi­cial dur­ing the George W. Bush admin­is­tra­tion.

She is now list­ed as the CEO of 45 Ener­gy Group, a Hous­ton-based ener­gy com­pa­ny whose web­site describes it as a “gov­ern­ment rela­tions, pub­lic affairs and busi­ness devel­op­ment prac­tice group.” The company’s name is an appar­ent nod to Trump, the 45th pres­i­dent.

This was a cou­ple of weeks after the Hous­ton meet­ing with Favorov, the Naftogaz exec­u­tive. Giu­liani, Par­nas and Baum­gard­ner were there to make a busi­ness pitch involv­ing gas deals in the for­mer Sovi­et bloc to a poten­tial investor.
...

Then in May of 2019, Rick Per­ry trav­els to Kyiv to serve as then senior US rep­re­sen­ta­tive at Pres­i­dent Zelenksy’s nom­i­na­tion. The absence of Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence from the inau­gu­ra­tion is notable because, as we’ll see lat­er, Par­nas and Fru­man attempt­ed to shake­down Ukrain­ian oli­garch Ihor Kolo­moisky — a key backer of Zelen­sky — for $250,000 in exchange for get­ting Pence to show up at Zelenskey’s inau­gu­ra­tion. At least that’s what Kolo­moisky claims. Again, behold the lack of cor­rup­tion. So Per­ry shows up to the inau­gu­ra­tion in May and has a pri­vate meet­ing with Zelenskey where he appar­ent­ly made clear that he want­ed the exist­ing US rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the Naftogaz board who was appoint­ed under Pres­i­dent Oba­ma replaced with some “rep­utable in Repub­li­can cir­cles.” Per­ry lat­er had a sec­ond meet­ing dur­ing this trip to Kyiv where it made clear that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion did­n’t just want the US rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the Naftogaz board replace. The admin­is­tra­tion want­ed the entire super­vi­so­ry board replaced. And it was wide­ly inter­pret­ed that Per­ry specif­i­cal­ly want­ed Michael Bleyz­er on the board. Bleyz­er hap­pens to be a long-time polit­i­cal patron of Rick Per­ry. Per­ry also want­ed anoth­er Tex­an, Robert Bensh, on the board and this was report­ed­ly con­firmed by the Ener­gy Depart­ment. So it sounds like the Ener­gy Depart­ment has already con­firmed that this push by the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion to replace the super­vi­so­ry baord of Naftogaz real­ly did hap­pen:

...
THE ENERGY SECRETARY

In May, Rick Per­ry trav­eled to Kyiv to serve as the senior U.S. gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tive at the inau­gu­ra­tion of the county’s new pres­i­dent.

In a pri­vate meet­ing with Zelen­skiy, Per­ry pressed the Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent to fire mem­bers of the Naftogaz advi­so­ry board. Atten­dees left the meet­ing with the impres­sion that Per­ry want­ed to replace the Amer­i­can rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Amos Hochstein, a for­mer diplo­mat and ener­gy rep­re­sen­ta­tive who served in the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion, with some­one “rep­utable in Repub­li­can cir­cles,” accord­ing to some­one who was in the room.

Perry’s push for Ukraine’s state-owned nat­ur­al gas com­pa­ny Naftogaz to change its super­vi­so­ry board was first report­ed by Politi­co.

A sec­ond meet­ing dur­ing the trip, at a Kyiv hotel, includ­ed Ukrain­ian offi­cials and ener­gy sec­tor peo­ple. There, Per­ry made clear that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion want­ed to see the entire Naftogaz super­vi­so­ry board replaced, accord­ing to a per­son who attend­ed both meet­ings. Per­ry again ref­er­enced the list of advis­ers that he had giv­en Zelen­skiy, and it was wide­ly inter­pret­ed that he want­ed Michael Bleyz­er, a Ukrain­ian-Amer­i­can busi­ness­man from Texas, to join the new­ly formed board, the per­son said. Also on the list was Robert Bensh, anoth­er Tex­an who fre­quent­ly works in Ukraine, the Ener­gy Depart­ment con­firmed

...

Per­ry has close ties to the Texas oil and gas indus­try. He appoint­ed Bleyz­er to a two-year term on a state tech­nolo­gies fund board in 2009. The fol­low­ing year, records show Bleyz­er donat­ed $20,000 to Perry’s reelec­tion cam­paign.
...

Cru­cial­ly, the con­text of Rick Per­ry’s demand to the Ukraini­ans that the entire Naftogaz super­vi­so­ry board be replaced dur­ing that that May 2019 trip to Kyiv is that inter­na­tion­al insti­tu­tions, includ­ing the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund, the Unit­ed States and the Euro­pean Union, have had to give their approval to the Naftogaz board as part of an agen­da that osten­si­bly an anti-cor­rup­tion reform agen­da. So when the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is demand­ing the Naftogaz super­vi­so­ry board get replaced, that’s a fla­grant­ly cyn­i­cal action that’s going to stun even the jad­ed:

...
Gor­don D. Sond­land, the U.S. ambas­sador to the Euro­pean Union, and Kurt D. Volk­er, then the State Department’s spe­cial envoy to Ukraine, were also in the room, accord­ing to pho­tographs reviewed by AP. The per­son, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty due to fear of retal­i­a­tion, said he was floored by the Amer­i­can requests because the per­son had always viewed the U.S. gov­ern­ment “as hav­ing a high­er eth­i­cal stan­dard.”

...

The Naftogaz super­vi­so­ry board is sup­posed to be select­ed by the Ukrain­ian president’s Cab­i­net in con­sul­ta­tion with inter­na­tion­al insti­tu­tions, includ­ing the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund, the Unit­ed States and the Euro­pean Union. It must be approved by the Ukrain­ian Cab­i­net. Ukrain­ian offi­cials per­ceived Perry’s push to swap out the board as cir­cum­vent­ing that estab­lished process, accord­ing to the per­son in the room.
...

“The per­son, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty due to fear of retal­i­a­tion, said he was floored by the Amer­i­can requests because the per­son had always viewed the U.S. gov­ern­ment “as hav­ing a high­er eth­i­cal stan­dard.”” LOL. Just imag­ine how bad some­thing has to be for that anony­mous per­son sit­ting in on that meet­ing to be floored.

Is a Pipeline From Poland Required? Rick Per­ry Can Make That Hap­pen

Next, as the fol­low­ing Asso­ci­at­ed Press piece from Decem­ber describes, the fact that there was a push to export US LNG to Ukraine isn’t what’s sur­pris­ing or nec­es­sar­i­ly scan­dalous in this sto­ry. Naftogaz had been build­ing up nat­ur­al gas stor­age capa­bil­i­ties at the same time Texas was in the mid­dle of nat­ur­al gas boom. The US had a pol­i­cy of pro­mot­ing these exports going back to the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion. What’s scan­dalous is how this offi­cial US pol­i­cy was get­ting dis­tort­ed to the ben­e­fit of these pri­vate inter­ests. And as the arti­cle notes, the Zelen­sky gov­ern­ment did indeed have plans for US exports of LNG to Ukraine. In late April, fol­low­ing Zelen­sky’s vic­to­ry, both Favorov and Kobolyev trav­eled to DC and made their own pitch­es for US exports to Ukraine, which is before Rick Per­ry’s meet­ings with Zelenksy in May where Per­ry demand­ed the replace­ment of the Naftogaz super­vi­so­ry board. So the Zelenksy gov­ern­ment was on board with US LNG exports to Ukraine and yet the entire Naftogaz super­vi­so­ry board still need­ed to be replaced in the eyes of the schemers:

Asso­ci­at­ed Press

Giu­liani pals lever­aged GOP access to seek Ukraine gas deal

By DESMOND BUTLER and MICHAEL BIESECKER
Decem­ber 24, 2019

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Two men with close ties to Rudy Giu­liani lever­aged their polit­i­cal con­nec­tions to pur­sue a deal to export nat­ur­al gas from the U.S. to Ukraine intend­ed to ben­e­fit Repub­li­can donors and friends of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s fam­i­ly.

The plan cen­tered on replac­ing the head of Ukraine’s state-owned gas com­pa­ny Naftogaz with its No. 2, Andrew Favorov, in hopes that the dual U.S. Ukraine cit­i­zen would be more amenable than his boss to the pro­pos­al. To make that hap­pen, they also pushed to elim­i­nate the U.S. ambas­sador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who was known for fight­ing cor­rup­tion.

Favorov, in a series of inter­views with The Asso­ci­at­ed Press in Kyiv, described his deal­ings with Giuliani’s asso­ciates, Sovi­et-born Flori­da busi­ness­men Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man. His tale, cor­rob­o­rat­ed with inter­views with key wit­ness­es, shows how Par­nas and Fru­man were able to use their con­tacts in Repub­li­can cir­cles to sug­gest they had access to the peo­ple and mon­ey that could make a com­plex busi­ness and geopo­lit­i­cal deal hap­pen.

...

With West­ern help, Ukraine has been work­ing to wean itself from depen­dence on Rus­sia. Anti-cor­rup­tion reforms at Naftogaz were a key to that effort. The com­pa­ny built enor­mous capac­i­ty to store nat­ur­al gas, just as the gas boom in the Unit­ed States has left Texas pro­duc­ers with so lit­tle stor­age capac­i­ty that they’re burn­ing off their excess.

Yovanovitch, who fought to keep those anti-cor­rup­tion safe­guards in place, is now a key wit­ness in the impeach­ment inquiry, and fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors inves­ti­gat­ing Giu­liani have inter­viewed both Favorov and Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolyev.

...

Favorov says Par­nas and Fruman’s cam­paign start­ed in March, on the fringes of an ener­gy con­fer­ence in Hous­ton dur­ing a din­ner with Har­ry Sargeant III, a bil­lion­aire from Flori­da who made his for­tune in ship­ping and ener­gy.

Favorov recalls the group dis­cussed the poten­tial to export as much as 100 shiploads of liqui­fied nat­ur­al gas from the U.S. to Ukraine.

Chris Kise, Sargeant’s lawyer, said in an email to AP that the bil­lion­aire had no spe­cif­ic busi­ness in mind when he attend­ed the din­ner.

“Mr. Sargeant sim­ply pro­vid­ed broad indus­try guid­ance and his expert view on the chal­lenges pre­sent­ed by oper­at­ing in for­eign mar­kets,” Kise said.

Lat­er that evening, in a smoky Hous­ton bar, Favorov says Par­nas and Fru­man pro­posed he replace his boss as CEO of Naftogaz.

“You’re a Repub­li­can, right?” Par­nas asked. Favorov says he nod­ded.

“Then you’re our man,” Par­nas replied.

They also casu­al­ly informed him that Trump would soon be remov­ing Yovanovitch, who was a key backer of the anti-cor­rup­tion efforts at Naftogaz.

Favorov says he wasn’t inclined to take the men seri­ous­ly. But then pieces of their puz­zle began to fall into place.

Kobolyev’s lead­er­ship of Naftogaz was indeed in a pre­car­i­ous posi­tion. Ukraine’s lead­ers under then Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko took steps to remove the author­i­ty of Naftogaz’s inde­pen­dent super­vi­so­ry board to appoint key exec­u­tives, includ­ing the CEO. They also pressed Kobolyev to for­give mil­lions in loans to a Ukrain­ian oli­garch, Dmit­ry Fir­tash, who is close­ly aligned with Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the effort.

Yovanovitch was recalled to Wash­ing­ton in May, months before her tour was sched­uled to end. The move put Favorov on alert.

Favorov and Kobolyev returned to Wash­ing­ton in late April, short­ly after Volodymir Zelen­skiy, a come­di­an who ran for pres­i­dent of Ukraine on an anti-cor­rup­tion plat­form, defeat­ed Poroshenko.

Once again Par­nas and Fru­man came call­ing. The pair arranged a lunch at the Penn­syl­va­nia Avenue steak­house The Cap­i­tal Grille, where Favorov pitched gas imports to the group which includ­ed an employ­ee of Sargeant’s com­pa­ny. Kise, Sargeant’s lawyer, described it as a “social lunch.”

The fol­low­ing day, Favorov and Kobolyev went to the Trump Inter­na­tion­al Hotel where Par­nas and Fru­man intro­duced them to Jeff Miller, a for­mer polit­i­cal advis­er to for­mer Texas gov­er­nor and U.S. Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry, and now vice finance chair for the 2020 Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion, and Tom­my Hicks Jr., a pri­vate equi­ty investor who is co-chair­man of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee and a friend of Don­ald Trump Jr. Three peo­ple with direct knowl­edge of the meet­ing described it to AP on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty.

The group dis­cussed how much gas could be shipped to Ukraine and at what price, accord­ing to the peo­ple. And they talked about the major chal­lenge: To move the quan­ti­ty of nat­ur­al gas envi­sioned, the pipeline from Poland to Ukraine would have to be expand­ed.

Par­nas and Fru­man, the peo­ple said, claimed to have con­nec­tions who could take care of the bot­tle­neck.

Hicks declined to com­ment. A per­son with direct knowl­edge of Miller’s account says he came to the meet­ing only because Par­nas said he would be intro­duced to poten­tial clients and left after a short time because he doesn’t rep­re­sent for­eign com­pa­nies.

Three months lat­er a U.S. del­e­ga­tion went to Poland, where Per­ry signed a mem­o­ran­dum of coop­er­a­tion with the Pol­ish and Ukrain­ian coun­ter­parts, pledg­ing to build the infra­struc­ture nec­es­sary to accom­mo­date huge ship­ments of nat­ur­al gas.

The dream of their gas deal died when Par­nas and Fru­man were arrest­ed in Octo­ber on cam­paign finance charges.

Favorov is left won­der­ing what kind of influ­ence they real­ly had.

“I’m think­ing, did Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man real­ly play a role in advanc­ing and shap­ing U.S. pol­i­cy?” he asked.

———–

“Giu­liani pals lever­aged GOP access to seek Ukraine gas deal” by DESMOND BUTLER and MICHAEL BIESECKER; Asso­ci­at­ed Press; 12/24/2019

““With West­ern help, Ukraine has been work­ing to wean itself from depen­dence on Rus­sia. Anti-cor­rup­tion reforms at Naftogaz were a key to that effort. The com­pa­ny built enor­mous capac­i­ty to store nat­ur­al gas, just as the gas boom in the Unit­ed States has left Texas pro­duc­ers with so lit­tle stor­age capac­i­ty that they’re burn­ing off their excess.

Naftogaz had built up a large nat­ur­al gas stor­age capac­i­ty at the same time Texas nat­ur­al gas pro­duc­ers were swim­ming in so much nat­ur­al gas they were burn­ing off their excess. The sit­u­a­tion was ripe for some sort of US-Ukrain­ian nat­ur­al gas deal. Whether or not it was a cor­rupt deal pri­mar­i­ly designed to ben­e­fit Trump’s co-schemers was up to Trump. And he chose the cor­rupt option. Or rather, he was talked into the cor­rupt option by his many co-schemers. Like Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man. And as was clear by the now noto­ri­ous April 2018 con­ver­sa­tion Igor Fru­man taped where Trump called for Ambas­sador Yovanovitch to be ‘tak­en out’ because she was a key fig­ure in oppos­ing their scheme. But they need­ed a new CEO of Naftogaz too for the scheme too. That appar­ent­ly did­n’t hap­pen until March of 2019 when Par­nas and Fru­man felt out Favorov at an ener­gy con­fer­ence in Hous­ton to get a sense of whether or not he would be will­ing to be ‘our man’ (approv­ing of the scheme) as the new CEO if they suc­ceed­ed on a deal that involved up to 100 shiploads of LNG exports from the US a year:

...
Favorov says Par­nas and Fruman’s cam­paign start­ed in March, on the fringes of an ener­gy con­fer­ence in Hous­ton dur­ing a din­ner with Har­ry Sargeant III, a bil­lion­aire from Flori­da who made his for­tune in ship­ping and ener­gy.

Favorov recalls the group dis­cussed the poten­tial to export as much as 100 shiploads of liqui­fied nat­ur­al gas from the U.S. to Ukraine.

...

Lat­er that evening, in a smoky Hous­ton bar, Favorov says Par­nas and Fru­man pro­posed he replace his boss as CEO of Naftogaz.

“You’re a Repub­li­can, right?” Par­nas asked. Favorov says he nod­ded.

“Then you’re our man,” Par­nas replied.

They also casu­al­ly informed him that Trump would soon be remov­ing Yovanovitch, who was a key backer of the anti-cor­rup­tion efforts at Naftogaz.
...

And then we learn that the Poroshenko gov­ern­ment actu­al­ly took steps to remove the author­i­ty of Naftogaz’s inde­pen­dent super­vi­so­ry board to appoint key exec­u­tives, which would have pre­sum­ably pre­vent­ed Ambas­sador Yovanovitch or oth­er inter­na­tion­al insti­tu­tions from block­ing a CEO who was will­ing to go along with this scheme. It sug­gests fig­ures con­nect­ed to the Poroshenko gov­ern­ment were some of the Ukraini­ans hop­ing to prof­it from Par­nas and Fru­man’s deal. Which makes sense since peo­ple con­nect­ed to the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment would be the peo­ple in the posi­tion to most eas­i­ly arrange for such a scheme. The only thing stand­ing in the way of a cor­rupt US-Ukraine nat­ur­al gas scheme was the fact that fig­ures like Yovanovitch effec­tive­ly had to give their bless­ing to a change in Naftogaz lead­er­ship. That’s why the efforts to get rid of Yovanovitch had to pre­cede the efforts to feel out a poten­tial replace­ment CEO:

...
Favorov says he wasn’t inclined to take the men seri­ous­ly. But then pieces of their puz­zle began to fall into place.

Kobolyev’s lead­er­ship of Naftogaz was indeed in a pre­car­i­ous posi­tion. Ukraine’s lead­ers under then Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko took steps to remove the author­i­ty of Naftogaz’s inde­pen­dent super­vi­so­ry board to appoint key exec­u­tives, includ­ing the CEO. They also pressed Kobolyev to for­give mil­lions in loans to a Ukrain­ian oli­garch, Dmit­ry Fir­tash, who is close­ly aligned with Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the effort.

Yovanovitch was recalled to Wash­ing­ton in May, months before her tour was sched­uled to end. The move put Favorov on alert.
...

And then short­ly after Poroshenko is replaced by Volodymer Zelen­sky with the elec­tions of April 2019, both Favorov and Kobolyev make a trip to DC. They meet Par­nas and Fru­man again, along with an employ­ee of Har­ry Sargean­t’s com­pa­ny. The next day, they meet with Jeff Miller, a for­mer advis­er to then-Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry. It rais­es the ques­tion of whether or not Rick Per­ry was using close asso­ciates as mid­dle-men to engage in this for-prof­it shad­ow for­eign pol­i­cy. But it was a for-prof­it shad­ow for­eign pol­i­cy that often merged with offi­cial US pol­i­cy, like when this group con­clud­ed they were going to require an expand­ed pipeline from Poland to Ukraine to import to Ukraine the quan­ti­ty of nat­ur­al gas they were envi­sion­ing and three months lat­er Rick Per­ry makes a trip to Poland were he signs a mem­o­ran­dum of coop­er­a­tion with Pol­ish and Ukrain­ian coun­ter­parts and pledges to build the infra­struc­ture nec­es­sary to trans­port huge ship­ments of nat­ur­al gas from Poland to Ukraine. In oth­er words, Per­ry was try­ing to nego­ti­ate a deal where the US would pay for an expand­ed pipeline to make this pri­vate for-prof­it scheme fea­si­ble. That seems poten­tial­ly scan­dalous:

...
Favorov and Kobolyev returned to Wash­ing­ton in late April, short­ly after Volodymir Zelen­skiy, a come­di­an who ran for pres­i­dent of Ukraine on an anti-cor­rup­tion plat­form, defeat­ed Poroshenko.

Once again Par­nas and Fru­man came call­ing. The pair arranged a lunch at the Penn­syl­va­nia Avenue steak­house The Cap­i­tal Grille, where Favorov pitched gas imports to the group which includ­ed an employ­ee of Sargeant’s com­pa­ny. Kise, Sargeant’s lawyer, described it as a “social lunch.”

The fol­low­ing day, Favorov and Kobolyev went to the Trump Inter­na­tion­al Hotel where Par­nas and Fru­man intro­duced them to Jeff Miller, a for­mer polit­i­cal advis­er to for­mer Texas gov­er­nor and U.S. Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry, and now vice finance chair for the 2020 Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion, and Tom­my Hicks Jr., a pri­vate equi­ty investor who is co-chair­man of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee and a friend of Don­ald Trump Jr. Three peo­ple with direct knowl­edge of the meet­ing described it to AP on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty.

The group dis­cussed how much gas could be shipped to Ukraine and at what price, accord­ing to the peo­ple. And they talked about the major chal­lenge: To move the quan­ti­ty of nat­ur­al gas envi­sioned, the pipeline from Poland to Ukraine would have to be expand­ed.

...

Three months lat­er a U.S. del­e­ga­tion went to Poland, where Per­ry signed a mem­o­ran­dum of coop­er­a­tion with the Pol­ish and Ukrain­ian coun­ter­parts, pledg­ing to build the infra­struc­ture nec­es­sary to accom­mo­date huge ship­ments of nat­ur­al gas.

The dream of their gas deal died when Par­nas and Fru­man were arrest­ed in Octo­ber on cam­paign finance charges.

Favorov is left won­der­ing what kind of influ­ence they real­ly had.

“I’m think­ing, did Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man real­ly play a role in advanc­ing and shap­ing U.S. pol­i­cy?” he asked.
...

“I’m think­ing, did Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man real­ly play a role in advanc­ing and shap­ing U.S. pol­i­cy?” It’s the ques­tion Favorov was ask­ing him­self that real­ly should be asked by the broad­er US elec­torate in the con­text of the impeach­ment tri­al. Is it ok that Trump was will­ing to just go along with a scheme like this and give Par­nas and Fru­man this kind of incred­i­ble influ­ence over US pol­i­cy?

The Schemers Did­n’t Just Want a Deal with Naftogaz. They Want­ed Par­nas and Fru­man to Have Author­i­ty to Make That Deal On Behalf of Naftogaz.

Now, since it’s been the US pol­i­cy going back to the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion to pro­mote US LNG exports to UIkraine, the defend­ers of this scheme would pos­si­ble that this was all sim­ply try­ing to pro­mote that US agen­da. But as the fol­low­ing Wall Street Jour­nal arti­cle from Decem­ber of 2019 describes, this scheme was­n’t sim­ply about ensur­ing Trump-con­nect­ed fig­ures got to ben­e­fit from those US LNG exports. It was a scheme to rig the whole process by putting Par­nas and Fru­man in charge of nego­ti­at­ing these export deals on behalf of Naftogaz:

The Wall Street Jour­nal

Two Giu­liani Asso­ciates Used Wash­ing­ton Con­nec­tions to Chase Ukraine Gas Deal
Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man lever­aged ties to seek a nat­ur­al gas deal with Naftogaz

By Rebec­ca Davis O’Brien, Christo­pher M. Matthews and Geor­gi Kantchev
Updat­ed Dec. 23, 2019 12:56 pm ET

Last fall, as Igor Fru­man and Lev Par­nas barn­stormed Ukraine on behalf of Pres­i­dent Trump’s per­son­al lawyer, cajol­ing offi­cials to inves­ti­gate Joe Biden and his son, the two Flori­da busi­ness­men were also pur­su­ing a side effort to cash in on the country’s dire need for nat­ur­al gas.

The men had no expe­ri­ence in the ener­gy sec­tor—Mr. Fru­man had run a beach bar in Odessa and an import-export oper­a­tion, while Mr. Par­nas had left a trail of founder­ing busi­ness­es. But with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion push­ing to export U.S. nat­ur­al gas, Messrs. Par­nas and Fru­man sensed an oppor­tu­ni­ty to lever­age their con­nec­tions to the president’s attor­ney, Rudy Giu­liani, and oth­er pow­er bro­kers in the U.S. and Ukraine.

So, toward the end of 2018, Mr. Fru­man reached out to Andrew Favorov, an old social acquain­tance who had recent­ly been named to a top job at Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state oil-and-gas com­pa­ny.

In sub­se­quent months, Messrs. Fru­man and Par­nas repeat­ed­ly told Mr. Favorov they had access to Mr. Trump, and pressed him to cut them in on a gas deal. In one encounter, at the Trump Inter­na­tion­al Hotel in Wash­ing­ton this May, Mr. Fru­man asked Mr. Favorov to sign an agree­ment autho­riz­ing the two Flori­da busi­ness­men to bro­ker sales of U.S. liq­ue­fied nat­ur­al gas, or LNG, on the company’s behalf.

...

Peo­ple famil­iar with Messrs. Par­nas and Fru­man described a slap­dash but per­sis­tent pitch on the coat­tails of U.S. ener­gy diplo­ma­cy. When Mr. Fru­man first got in touch, Mr. Favorov said he blew him off. He knew Mr. Fru­man from nights out in Odessa—“a good guy to do shots with”—not as an ener­gy busi­ness­man, Mr. Favorov said.

Still, Mr. Favorov said he had heard Mr. Fru­man was mak­ing a name for him­self in Flori­da Repub­li­can pol­i­tics, and agreed to meet him in March, in a hotel lob­by on the side­lines of an ener­gy con­fer­ence in Hous­ton.

At the time, the sit­u­a­tion at Naftogaz, which rep­re­sents about 10% of Ukraine’s eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty, was “pret­ty dire,” Mr. Favorov said. Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment had drained Naftogaz’s cash reserves and Mr. Kobolyev was fac­ing crit­i­cism over his efforts to over­haul the com­pa­ny, which had long been plagued by cor­rup­tion.

On the hori­zon were two major threats. A gas-tran­sit agree­ment with Rus­sia was due to expire by the end of 2019, poten­tial­ly leav­ing parts of Ukraine with­out heat, and Moscow was advanc­ing plans for a Euro­pean pipeline that would cir­cum­vent Ukraine, depriv­ing Kyiv of bil­lions of dol­lars in trans­fer fees. (The gas-tran­sit deal has since been renewed.)

Mr. Favorov arrived in Hous­ton eager to bring U.S. LNG to Ukraine. His goal was aligned with the goals of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

U.S. nat­ur­al gas has been held up in East­ern Europe as an alter­na­tive to Russ­ian gas, which Moscow often wields as a polit­i­cal cud­gel. Dri­ven by the shale boom, the U.S. has become the world’s largest nat­ur­al-gas pro­duc­er and third-largest exporter of LNG, which is super-chilled to a liq­uid state and loaded onto ships.

Under for­mer Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry, the Ener­gy Depart­ment encour­aged over­seas sales of LNG, which it dubbed “free­dom gas.” Poland, Lithua­nia, Bul­gar­ia and Ukraine have pur­chased car­goes.

In the hotel lob­by in Hous­ton, Mr. Fru­man was accom­pa­nied by Mr. Par­nas and Har­ry Sargeant, a Flori­da ener­gy tycoon who Mr. Favorov said gave the men cred­i­bil­i­ty.

Mr. Sargeant and Mr. Favorov dis­cussed nat­ur­al gas mar­kets and logis­ti­cal hur­dles to Ukraine import­ing U.S. LNG, includ­ing a pipeline from Poland that need­ed to be expand­ed.

The con­ver­sa­tion took an unex­pect­ed turn, Mr. Favorov said, after Mr. Sargeant stepped away.

Messrs. Fru­man and Par­nas tout­ed their U.S. polit­i­cal con­nec­tions, show­ing off pho­tographs with Messrs. Trump and Giu­liani. Mr. Favorov says Mr. Par­nas told him: “We meet with [Mr. Trump] in his prop­er­ty in Flori­da. We meet with him in the White House. And you know my bud­dy, my close friend Rudy, he talks to him every day.”

In that March con­ver­sa­tion, Messrs. Fru­man and Par­nas described their inter­est in bro­ker­ing an LNG deal with Ukraine. They told him that then‑U.S. Ambas­sador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch would soon be removed, as would Mr. Kobolyev. They asked if Mr. Favorov want­ed to be “our guy” at Naftogaz.

Mr. Favorov says he was shocked. Mr. Kobolyev was his friend, under whose lead­er­ship Naftogaz had launched cor­rup­tion and com­pli­ance efforts with the sup­port of Ms. Yovanovitch.

Back in his hotel room, Mr. Favorov called Mr. Kobolyev. He lat­er declined their offer, and dis­missed the pitch as hap­less oppor­tunism.

On April 21, Volodymyr Zelen­sky won a land­slide vic­to­ry in Ukraine’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. His elec­tion upend­ed the sta­tus quo in Kyiv—among oth­er mat­ters, Mr. Zelen­sky sought an over­haul of the ener­gy sec­tor. His gov­ern­ment says it wants to speed up the process of split­ting Naftogaz into mul­ti­ple com­pa­nies, some­thing demand­ed by West­ern part­ners to cre­ate a more com­pet­i­tive mar­ket.

In ear­ly May, Naftogaz exec­u­tives and Ukrain­ian offi­cials, includ­ing Mr. Favorov, trav­eled to Wash­ing­ton, seek­ing mon­ey and polit­i­cal sup­port. They were met with skep­ti­cism by Ener­gy Depart­ment offi­cials and oth­ers, and didn’t land $2 bil­lion in fund­ing they sought.

While Mr. Favorov was in Wash­ing­ton, Messrs. Fru­man and Par­nas pro­posed meet­ing for drinks at the Trump Inter­na­tion­al Hotel. Mr. Favorov brought his girl­friend and Mr. Kobolyev; Messrs. Fru­man and Par­nas were joined by Tom­my Hicks Jr. , a Texas investor and co-chair of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee, and Jeff Miller, a GOP strate­gist who ran Mr. Perry’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

The men smoked cig­ars in a small out­door area, where Messrs. Fru­man and Par­nas again brought up their close ties to Mr. Giu­liani and tout­ed Mr. Hicks’s close­ness to Mr. Trump. Again, they pushed for part of a Naftogaz deal. Mr. Fru­man told Mr. Favorov he want­ed a mem­o­ran­dum of under­stand­ing from Naftogaz that would autho­rize him and Mr. Par­nas to cut LNG deals on the company’s behalf. Mr. Favorov said no, accord­ing to a per­son famil­iar with the encounter.

Mr. Miller had met Messrs. Par­nas and Fru­man pre­vi­ous­ly, but didn’t know the pair well and didn’t linger at the gath­er­ing, said a per­son famil­iar with the mat­ter. Mr. Hicks didn’t respond to requests for com­ment.

After Wash­ing­ton, Mr. Favorov and his girl­friend went on vaca­tion to California’s Pacif­ic Coast High­way. On May 6, some­where on the edge of Big Sur, a mes­sage came in from Mr. Fru­man: Ms. Yovanovitch had been fired.

The pre­dic­tion had come true. Mr. Favorov thought to him­self, “I’m in the s— now.”

Messrs. Fru­man and Par­nas spent the spring and sum­mer meet­ing Ukrain­ian offi­cials and ener­gy exec­u­tives, say­ing they could guar­an­tee a large ship­ment of U.S. LNG through an expand­ed Poland pipeline, accord­ing to a per­son briefed on some of their meet­ings.

In 2018, the two men had start­ed an ener­gy company—Global Ener­gy Part­ners, some­times referred to as Glob­al Ener­gy Pro­duc­ers, or GEP. Fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors sub­se­quent­ly alleged Messrs. Fru­man and Par­nas improp­er­ly list­ed the com­pa­ny as the source of a $325,000 con­tri­bu­tion in May 2018 to a Trump-con­nect­ed polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion, even though GEP hadn’t made any ener­gy deals.

In a one-page pitch cir­cu­lat­ed ear­li­er this year, titled “GEP Strat­e­gy for East­ern-Europe,” Mr. Par­nas said the com­pa­ny aimed to become the largest LNG exporter in the U.S.

One draft of a pro­posed GEP agree­ment, which was described to the Jour­nal by a per­son famil­iar with the pro­pos­al, men­tioned work­ing with Mr. Sargeant. A spokesman for Mr. Sargeant said he was unaware of such a pro­pos­al.

Naftogaz didn’t sign an agree­ment with Messrs. Par­nas and Fru­man. It has gas mar­ket­ing con­tracts with Mr. Favorov’s for­mer com­pa­ny, which has drawn accu­sa­tions of con­flicts of inter­est. An April 2019 audit by KPMG Advi­so­ry GmbH cleared Mr. Favorov of any wrong­do­ing and said that his for­mer com­pa­ny received no pref­er­en­tial treat­ment. Mr. Favorov said he has sold his stake.

———–

“Two Giu­liani Asso­ciates Used Wash­ing­ton Con­nec­tions to Chase Ukraine Gas Deal” by Rebec­ca Davis O’Brien, Christo­pher M. Matthews and Geor­gi Kantchev; The Wall Street Jour­nal; 12/23/2019

“In sub­se­quent months, Messrs. Fru­man and Par­nas repeat­ed­ly told Mr. Favorov they had access to Mr. Trump, and pressed him to cut them in on a gas deal. In one encounter, at the Trump Inter­na­tion­al Hotel in Wash­ing­ton this May, Mr. Fru­man asked Mr. Favorov to sign an agree­ment autho­riz­ing the two Flori­da busi­ness­men to bro­ker sales of U.S. liq­ue­fied nat­ur­al gas, or LNG, on the company’s behalf.

Signed autho­riza­tion that Par­nas and Fru­man could bro­ker the sales of US LNG on behalf of Naftogaz. That was appar­ent­ly part of the price of Favorov becom­ing ‘their guy’ and get­ting ele­vat­ed to the head of Naftogaz. And note that Par­nas appar­ent­ly first reached out to Favorov in Decem­ber of 2018, short­ly after Favorov was appoint­ed to a senior posi­tion on the Naftogaz board. It rais­es the inter­est­ing ques­tion of whether or not his appoint­ment to that posi­tion in late Decem­ber was part of this scheme that was already under­way by that point:

...
The men had no expe­ri­ence in the ener­gy sec­tor—Mr. Fru­man had run a beach bar in Odessa and an import-export oper­a­tion, while Mr. Par­nas had left a trail of founder­ing busi­ness­es. But with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion push­ing to export U.S. nat­ur­al gas, Messrs. Par­nas and Fru­man sensed an oppor­tu­ni­ty to lever­age their con­nec­tions to the president’s attor­ney, Rudy Giu­liani, and oth­er pow­er bro­kers in the U.S. and Ukraine.

So, toward the end of 2018, Mr. Fru­man reached out to Andrew Favorov, an old social acquain­tance who had recent­ly been named to a top job at Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state oil-and-gas com­pa­ny.

...

At the time, the sit­u­a­tion at Naftogaz, which rep­re­sents about 10% of Ukraine’s eco­nom­ic activ­i­ty, was “pret­ty dire,” Mr. Favorov said. Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment had drained Naftogaz’s cash reserves and Mr. Kobolyev was fac­ing crit­i­cism over his efforts to over­haul the com­pa­ny, which had long been plagued by cor­rup­tion.

On the hori­zon were two major threats. A gas-tran­sit agree­ment with Rus­sia was due to expire by the end of 2019, poten­tial­ly leav­ing parts of Ukraine with­out heat, and Moscow was advanc­ing plans for a Euro­pean pipeline that would cir­cum­vent Ukraine, depriv­ing Kyiv of bil­lions of dol­lars in trans­fer fees. (The gas-tran­sit deal has since been renewed.)

Mr. Favorov arrived in Hous­ton eager to bring U.S. LNG to Ukraine. His goal was aligned with the goals of the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

...

In ear­ly May, Naftogaz exec­u­tives and Ukrain­ian offi­cials, includ­ing Mr. Favorov, trav­eled to Wash­ing­ton, seek­ing mon­ey and polit­i­cal sup­port. They were met with skep­ti­cism by Ener­gy Depart­ment offi­cials and oth­ers, and didn’t land $2 bil­lion in fund­ing they sought.

While Mr. Favorov was in Wash­ing­ton, Messrs. Fru­man and Par­nas pro­posed meet­ing for drinks at the Trump Inter­na­tion­al Hotel. Mr. Favorov brought his girl­friend and Mr. Kobolyev; Messrs. Fru­man and Par­nas were joined by Tom­my Hicks Jr. , a Texas investor and co-chair of the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee, and Jeff Miller, a GOP strate­gist who ran Mr. Perry’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

The men smoked cig­ars in a small out­door area, where Messrs. Fru­man and Par­nas again brought up their close ties to Mr. Giu­liani and tout­ed Mr. Hicks’s close­ness to Mr. Trump. Again, they pushed for part of a Naftogaz deal. Mr. Fru­man told Mr. Favorov he want­ed a mem­o­ran­dum of under­stand­ing from Naftogaz that would autho­rize him and Mr. Par­nas to cut LNG deals on the company’s behalf. Mr. Favorov said no, accord­ing to a per­son famil­iar with the encounter.
...

Also note how, as part of Par­nas’s and Fru­man’s pitch to Favorov, Par­nas claimed “we meet with him in the White House,” which rais­es the ques­tion of how many of these White House meet­ings took place:

...
In the hotel lob­by in Hous­ton, Mr. Fru­man was accom­pa­nied by Mr. Par­nas and Har­ry Sargeant, a Flori­da ener­gy tycoon who Mr. Favorov said gave the men cred­i­bil­i­ty.

Mr. Sargeant and Mr. Favorov dis­cussed nat­ur­al gas mar­kets and logis­ti­cal hur­dles to Ukraine import­ing U.S. LNG, includ­ing a pipeline from Poland that need­ed to be expand­ed.

The con­ver­sa­tion took an unex­pect­ed turn, Mr. Favorov said, after Mr. Sargeant stepped away.

Messrs. Fru­man and Par­nas tout­ed their U.S. polit­i­cal con­nec­tions, show­ing off pho­tographs with Messrs. Trump and Giu­liani. Mr. Favorov says Mr. Par­nas told him: “We meet with [Mr. Trump] in his prop­er­ty in Flori­da. We meet with him in the White House. And you know my bud­dy, my close friend Rudy, he talks to him every day.”
...

Also note how the elec­tion of Zelen­sky did­n’t just com­pli­cate what­ev­er scheme they may have already worked out with the Poroshenko gov­ern­ment. It also made the issue of nat­ur­al gas deals all the more urgent because Zelen­sky made the split­ting up of Naftogaz a pri­or­i­ty. So some sort of major ‘reform’ in the nat­ur­al gas sec­tor was like­ly to hap­pen soon­er rather than lat­er and the heart of this scheme was to ensure that the schemers were the ones who worked out this big export deal:

...
In that March con­ver­sa­tion, Messrs. Fru­man and Par­nas described their inter­est in bro­ker­ing an LNG deal with Ukraine. They told him that then‑U.S. Ambas­sador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch would soon be removed, as would Mr. Kobolyev. They asked if Mr. Favorov want­ed to be “our guy” at Naftogaz.

Mr. Favorov says he was shocked. Mr. Kobolyev was his friend, under whose lead­er­ship Naftogaz had launched cor­rup­tion and com­pli­ance efforts with the sup­port of Ms. Yovanovitch.

Back in his hotel room, Mr. Favorov called Mr. Kobolyev. He lat­er declined their offer, and dis­missed the pitch as hap­less oppor­tunism.

On April 21, Volodymyr Zelen­sky won a land­slide vic­to­ry in Ukraine’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. His elec­tion upend­ed the sta­tus quo in Kyiv—among oth­er mat­ters, Mr. Zelen­sky sought an over­haul of the ener­gy sec­tor. His gov­ern­ment says it wants to speed up the process of split­ting Naftogaz into mul­ti­ple com­pa­nies, some­thing demand­ed by West­ern part­ners to cre­ate a more com­pet­i­tive mar­ket.
...

Final­ly, note how Fru­man and Par­nas spent the spring and sum­mer of 2019 telling Ukrain­ian offi­cials and ener­gy exec­u­tives that they could guar­an­tee the pro­posed LNG exports would be viable via an expand­ed Pol­ish pipeline, the same pledge Rick Per­ry made in the sum­mer of 2019 in Poland:

...
After Wash­ing­ton, Mr. Favorov and his girl­friend went on vaca­tion to California’s Pacif­ic Coast High­way. On May 6, some­where on the edge of Big Sur, a mes­sage came in from Mr. Fru­man: Ms. Yovanovitch had been fired.

The pre­dic­tion had come true. Mr. Favorov thought to him­self, “I’m in the s— now.”

Messrs. Fru­man and Par­nas spent the spring and sum­mer meet­ing Ukrain­ian offi­cials and ener­gy exec­u­tives, say­ing they could guar­an­tee a large ship­ment of U.S. LNG through an expand­ed Poland pipeline, accord­ing to a per­son briefed on some of their meet­ings.
...

It high­lights how Par­nas and Fru­man weren’t just try­ing to get the author­i­ty to make deals on behalf of Naftogaz. The two appeared to already be nego­ti­at­ing with the author­i­ty of the US gov­ern­ment.

So that’s our quick look at just some of what is known about the large­ly ignored Naftogaz chap­ter in the broad­er #UkraineGate scan­dal that’s mor­phed into a #UkraineGate impeach­ment tri­al. As we saw, the “Take her out!” audio record­ing from April 2018 appears to hint as Par­nas and Fru­man hav­ing already elist­ed Giu­liani and Trump into their Naftogaz scheme by the time of that April meet­ing. When Par­nas tells Trump in the record­ing that, “The biggest prob­lem there, I think where we need to start is we got­ta get rid of the ambas­sador,” it’s nev­er clear what that thing is that they need to “start”. Is it the Naftogaz scheme or part of the Biden/Burisma smear scheme? That’s one of the many rev­e­la­tions yet to be revealed.

And how about the terms of the actu­al export con­tracts that they were pitch­ing to Favorov? What were those terms and who would be the pri­ma­ry ben­e­fi­cia­ries? Giv­en that Par­nas and Fru­man want­ed Favorov to give them signed autho­riza­tion that they would be able to nego­ti­ate the terms on behalf of Naftogaz it’s hard to imag­ine the terms would­n’t have been very favor­able to Naftogaz and there­fore not very favor­able to the Ukraine peo­ple. It’s also easy to imag­ine that the details of the terms were nev­er actu­al­ly worked out in advance because they were going to be so awful for Ukraine and that’s why Par­nas and Fru­man want­ed autho­riza­tion to work out the deals in the first place.

How about how this all ties in to work­ing out the ‘quid pro quo’ nature of the Biden/Burisma smear scheme? Were pay­offs from the Naftogaz scheme to Ukraini­ans part of the ‘quid’ part of that Biden/Burisma ‘quid pro quo’? In oth­er words, was the Biden/Burisma smear ‘quid pro quo’ and this Naftogaz scheme part of a much larg­er and more con­vo­lut­ed ‘quid pro quo’? It’s anoth­er rev­e­la­tion yet to be revealed. What is pret­ty clear at this point is that pair­ing this Naftogaz scheme with a scheme to smear the Bidens over Buris­ma cor­rup­tion alle­ga­tions makes a cer­tain kind of sense, at least from a ‘pro­jec­tion is the best defense’ stand­point.

Discussion

14 comments for “Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman and the Great Naftogaz ‘Quid Pro Quo’”

  1. One of the major ques­tions still sur­round­ing the Naftogaz chap­ter of the larg­er #UkraineGate scan­dal is the ques­tion of who exact­ly Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man were work­ing with on the Ukrain­ian side of the Naftogaz nego­ti­a­tions. Par­nas and Fru­man were act­ing as mid­dle-men, and we have a decent idea of who they were work­ing with on the US side of the nego­ti­a­tion. All of those fig­ures in Trump’s orbit and ties to Rick Per­ry. But what about the Ukrain­ian side? Who exact­ly was it that Par­nas and Fru­man were work­ing for in Ukraine? And were the Ukrain­ian fig­ures inter­est­ed in the Naftogaz deals also part of the Biden/Burisma side of this sto­ry?

    So here’s an arti­cle from back in Octo­ber that helps answer that ques­tion. It’s large­ly the answer we should expect at this point: Accord­ing to a US ener­gy exec­u­tive who was present at one of the meet­ings were Par­nas and Fru­man were mak­ing their pitch to Andrew Favorov — the Naftogaz senior exec­u­tive who this cabal want­ed to install as the head of Naftogaz so he could approve of their pro­posed deals — Par­nas and Fru­man were advo­cat­ing on behalf of Ukrain­ian nat­ur­al gas oli­garch Dmitro (Dmit­ry) Fir­tash. At least in part. That’s accord­ing to Dale Per­ry, who was at the meet­ing in Hous­ton in March of 2019 when Par­nas and Fru­man met with Favorov. Accord­ing to Per­ry (who is report­ed­ly not relat­ed to Rick Per­ry), one of the demands Par­nas and Fru­man had if their co-schemers were going to back Favorov as the new head of Naftogaz was that Naftogaz pay back $200 mil­lion dol­lars to Fir­tash that he believes is owed to him. Per­ry’s account does­n’t tell us whether or not Fir­tash was also going to be a direct par­tic­i­pant in the pro­posed export of US liq­uid nat­ur­al gas (LNG) to Ukraine that this scheme was focused on but it cer­tain­ly sug­gests Fir­tash had great deal of sway with Par­nas and Fru­man.

    Recall how Dale Per­ry is the same fig­ure who pre­vi­ous­ly recount­ed to the AP that Favorov described that March 2019 meet­ing as feel­ing like a “shake­down”. Demand­ing that Fir­tash get paid $200 mil­lion from Naftogaz as one of the require­ments for get­ting their back­ing for mak­ing Favorov the next Naftogaz CEO would def­i­nite­ly help explain Favorov’s ‘shake­down’ sen­ti­ments:

    NBC News

    Ukrain­ian oli­garch Fir­tash linked to Giu­liani pals’ gas deals and Biden dirt dig­ging
    A Ukrain­ian oli­garch who is fight­ing extra­di­tion to the U.S. may fig­ure in both the dirt dig­ging and the gas deals pur­sued by Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man.

    By Ken Dilan­ian, Dan De Luce and Tom Win­ter
    Oct. 16, 2019, 4:18 PM CDT

    WASHINGTON — When two Rudy Giu­liani asso­ciates were arrest­ed last week and charged with fun­nel­ing for­eign mon­ey into polit­i­cal cam­paigns, two big ques­tions lin­gered: Which for­eign­ers were they work­ing for, and what was their ulti­mate goal?

    There are grow­ing indi­ca­tions that a Ukrain­ian-backed oli­garch who is fight­ing extra­di­tion to the Unit­ed States fig­ures in the answers.

    The evi­dence is emerg­ing from the mists of a com­pli­cat­ed sto­ry.

    The indict­ed pair, Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man, were help­ing Rudy Giu­liani hunt for dirt on Don­ald Trump’s polit­i­cal oppo­nents in Ukraine, even as they were also pitch­ing poten­tial part­ners on a busi­ness deal with Ukraine’s gas com­pa­ny.

    Oli­garch Dmytro Fir­tash appears to be linked to both efforts.

    Par­nas and Fru­man were advo­cat­ing on his behalf as they pitched a nat­ur­al gas deal, accord­ing to an Amer­i­can exec­u­tive briefed on the meet­ing. And Fir­tash pro­duced a doc­u­ment that Giu­liani has used to attack for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden.

    The oli­garch has been engaged in a long-run­ning legal bat­tle with the U.S. gov­ern­ment, fight­ing extra­di­tion to the U.S. on fed­er­al bribery charges. He bad­ly wants the case dis­missed, and there­fore has an inter­est in cur­ry­ing favor with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

    On Mon­day, NBC News report­ed that the Jus­tice Depart­ment has yet to answer a ques­tion posed by a Repub­li­can sen­a­tor, Roger Wick­er of Mis­sis­sip­pi, about why Fir­tash has not been extra­dit­ed from Aus­tria to face the U.S. charges.

    In an inter­view with NBC News on Mon­day, Giu­liani said he has “noth­ing to do with Fir­tash,” and he said he nev­er spoke to Trump about the Fir­tash case.

    “I’m not even sure the pres­i­dent is aware of him,” Giu­liani said. “I think if you asked the pres­i­dent, ‘Who is Dmytro Fir­tash?’ He would say ‘I don’t know.’ As far as I know, we’ve nev­er dis­cussed him.”

    The same may not be true for Giu­lian­i’s asso­ciates, how­ev­er. In March, at a meet­ing in Hous­ton, Par­nas and Fru­man men­tioned Fir­tash as they made a pro­pos­al to an offi­cial of Ukraine’s nat­ur­al gas com­pa­ny, accord­ing to Dale Per­ry, an Amer­i­can gas exec­u­tive who does busi­ness in Ukraine and was briefed on the meet­ing. Per­ry told NBC News the pair was urg­ing that the gas com­pa­ny pay Fir­tash a debt of more than $200 mil­lion that Fir­tash believes he is owed by the com­pa­ny.

    Though the meet­ing has been described in news accounts, that ele­ment has not pre­vi­ous­ly been report­ed, and it rais­es the ques­tion of whether Fir­tash had a busi­ness arrange­ment with Par­nas and Fru­man. His lawyer says he did not.

    Yet Fir­tash, still a major play­er in Ukraine’s gas sec­tor, stood to ben­e­fit hand­some­ly from the plan Par­nas and Fur­man were propos­ing.

    At the same time, the oli­garch was play­ing a key role in the effort by Par­nas, Fru­man and Giu­liani to hunt for dirt on Don­ald Trump’s polit­i­cal oppo­nents in Ukraine.

    Fir­tash’s lawyers in Vien­na were the ones who obtained an affi­davit from a fired Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tor, Vik­tor Shokin, that Giu­liani and oth­er Trump allies have used as a basis to accuse Biden of cor­rup­tion. Shokin is the pros­e­cu­tor whom then Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden urged be removed, in keep­ing with U.S. pol­i­cy at the time that viewed him as a bad actor.

    ...

    ‘That’s a crock’

    A lawyer for Fir­tash, Vic­to­ria Toens­ing, told NBC News the oli­garch was not in busi­ness with Par­nas and Fru­man. “That’s a crock,” she said.

    Toens­ing did acknowl­edge a finan­cial tie between Fir­tash and Par­nas, through her. She says she brought Par­nas to the Fir­tash legal team as a paid trans­la­tor.

    Reuters was first to report Parnas’s link to Fir­tash.

    A source famil­iar with Fir­tash’s oper­a­tion said Fir­tash, who lives in Vien­na, ques­tioned that account, not­ing that Fir­tash has a large staff that includes excel­lent pro­fes­sion­al trans­la­tors. “Nev­er was there a need for a trans­la­tor,” the source said. Toens­ing respond­ed that Par­nas was her per­son­al trans­la­tor in legal mat­ters because she need­ed her own.

    Toens­ing and her hus­band, Joe diGen­o­va, were talk­ing about Ukraine and Trump long before they began rep­re­sent­ing Fir­tash in July. Once briefly con­sid­ered for a role as Trump’s per­son­al lawyers in the Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion, they say they sought to rep­re­sent “Ukrain­ian whistle­blow­ers” who had infor­ma­tion about mis­deeds by Democ­rats, includ­ing Vice Pres­i­dent Biden. They said they were blocked from going to Ukraine by the then‑U.S. ambas­sador, Marie Yovanovitch, whom Toens­ing said “we all want­ed to get rid of.”

    But Fir­tash was able to help Trump try to dis­cred­it the Bidens, through the Shokin affi­davit, which the for­mer pros­e­cu­tor said he made “at the request of lawyers act­ing for Dmytro Fir­tash.”

    The pres­i­den­t’s allies have used it as a weapon.

    I have an affi­davit here…that nobody both­ered to read from the gen­tle­man who was fired, Vik­tor Shokin, the so-called cor­rupt pros­e­cu­tor,” Giu­liani said on ABC’s This Week Sept. 29. “The Biden peo­ple say that he was­n’t inves­ti­gat­ing Hunter Biden at the time. He says under oath that he was.”

    In fact, the Sep­tem­ber affi­davit did­n’t say that Hunter Biden was under inves­ti­ga­tion. It says, with­out evi­dence, that Biden forced Shok­in’s removal because he refused to stop his inves­ti­ga­tion into Buris­ma, the firm that put Hunter Biden on its board. Ukrain­ian offi­cials have since said that inves­ti­ga­tion already had been closed. U.S. offi­cials say Biden was artic­u­lat­ing long­stand­ing U.S. pol­i­cy, which advo­cat­ed Shok­in’s removal for alleged cor­rup­tion.

    The affi­davit is not the only exam­ple of Fir­tash’s involve­ment in efforts sym­pa­thet­ic to Trump.

    Fir­tash’s legal team also has alleged that a pros­e­cu­tor for Robert Mueller’s office, Andrew Weiss­mann, offered to drop the cor­rup­tion case against Fir­tash if the oli­garch helped in the inves­ti­ga­tion of Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the 2016 cam­paign.

    Weiss­mann did not respond to a request for com­ment. A source direct­ly famil­iar with the mat­ter says there was noth­ing inap­pro­pri­ate about the nego­ti­a­tions, which amount­ed to a pros­e­cu­tor seek­ing help from a poten­tial wit­ness in a legal jam — some­thing that hap­pens every day in the Amer­i­can legal sys­tem. In the end, there was no Mueller deal with Fir­tash, the source said.

    On Sept. 29, Chris Wal­lace of Fox News report­ed that “accord­ing to a top U.S. offi­cial,” diGen­o­va and Toens­ing worked with Giu­liani “off the books…to get oppo research on Biden,” and that only Trump knew what they were doing.

    Toens­ing and DiGen­o­va dis­put­ed that they shared the infor­ma­tion with Trump.

    The bribery case

    Fir­tash was indict­ed in 2014 for what fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors in the North­ern Dis­trict of Illi­nois allege was his role in brib­ing Indi­an offi­cials in order to get a lucra­tive min­ing deal to sell tita­ni­um to the Boe­ing Com­pa­ny. He was arrest­ed in Vien­na in March 2014, released on $174 mil­lion bail, and has been con­test­ing his extra­di­tion to the U.S. ever since.

    Fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors said in a 2017 fil­ing that Fir­tash and his co-defen­dant in the alleged scheme, Andras Knopp, “have been iden­ti­fied by Unit­ed States law enforce­ment as two upper-ech­e­lon asso­ciates of Russ­ian orga­nized crime.”

    In August 2016, NBC News report­ed that in 2008, accord­ing to court records, then Trump aide Paul Man­afort’s firm was involved with Fir­tash in a plan to rede­vel­op a famous New York hotel, the Drake. Fir­tash’s com­pa­ny planned to invest over $100 mil­lion, the records say.

    That same year, Fir­tash acknowl­edged to the U.S. ambas­sador in Ukraine that he got his start in busi­ness with the per­mis­sion of a noto­ri­ous Russ­ian crime lord, accord­ing to a clas­si­fied State Depart­ment cable. Oth­er U.S. cables say Fir­tash made part of his for­tune through sweet­heart nat­ur­al gas deals between Rus­sia and the Ukraine. Mark Coral­lo, a spokesman for Toens­ing and diGen­o­va, told NBC News the alle­ga­tions in the Wick­er let­ter are “false, dis­parag­ing and defam­a­to­ry.”

    It is the gas busi­ness that links Fir­tash to what the two Giu­liani asso­ciates were try­ing to do for per­son­al prof­it, even as they were work­ing with Giu­liani to dig up dirt on Biden in Ukraine, accord­ing to Per­ry. Fir­tash for years has owned upwards of 70 per­cent of Ukraine’s gas dis­tri­b­u­tion net­work, and he still runs it from Vien­na.

    “Fir­tash still con­trols inter­me­di­aries in the Ukrain­ian gas indus­try,” Wick­er wrote in his let­ter to the U.S. attor­ney gen­er­al in 2018. “Fir­tash accepts the gas and sells to end-users, but he refus­es to pay Naftogaz and pock­ets the rev­enue. This scheme is esti­mat­ed to have cost Ukraine $2 bil­lion thus far.”

    Per­ry and anoth­er source told NBC News that Par­nas and Fru­man were try­ing to make mon­ey by drum­ming up a deal to sell liq­ue­fied nat­ur­al gas to Ukraine’s big state ener­gy com­pa­ny, and to oust the man­age­ment at the com­pa­ny with help from their friends in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

    Dur­ing that time, fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors said in last week’s indict­ment, the pair was also engaged in an ille­gal scheme to fun­nel mon­ey into polit­i­cal cam­paigns, includ­ing a Super PAC that sup­ports Trump, in order to “buy poten­tial influ­ence” and advance their busi­ness inter­ests.

    The indict­ment says that that Par­nas and Fru­man, along with their co-con­spir­a­tors, hid the scheme from the can­di­dates and cam­paigns to which they donat­ed.

    But there are ques­tions about where the mon­ey came from. Court records show Par­nas left a trail of debts, includ­ing a $500,000 judg­ment against him involv­ing a failed movie ven­ture. In 2014, Par­nas and his wife were evict­ed from a $15,000-per-month, six-bed­room house in Boca Raton, the Mia­mi Her­ald report­ed, cit­ing court records. Sep­a­rate­ly, his busi­ness, Fraud Guar­an­tee, was ordered to pay more than $26,000 to its land­lord.

    That same busi­ness paid Giu­liani $500,000 in recent years for secu­ri­ty advice, Giu­liani now says, adding that he can prove the mon­ey came from the Unit­ed States.

    Par­nas and Fru­man, both born in the for­mer Sovi­et Union, boast­ed of their con­nec­tions to Giu­liani and the White House when they invit­ed an exec­u­tive at Ukraine’s Naftogaz gas com­pa­ny, Andrew Fovorov, for a meet­ing in Hous­ton in March, where they made their pitch, the sources said.

    As NBC News report­ed Octo­ber 17, they told Fovorov that they want­ed Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolev removed and Fovorov to take his place, the sources said. Kobolev had won high praise from U.S. and Euro­pean offi­cials for his anti-cor­rup­tion efforts.

    The two told Fovorov that “they would pro­mote him to replace the cur­rent CEO,” said a source famil­iar with the dis­cus­sions. They would do that, they said, if he sup­port­ed their plan to sell Amer­i­can nat­ur­al gas to Ukraine — a plan that has sig­nif­i­cant logis­ti­cal hur­dles, the sources said.

    As part of the arrange­ment, Par­nas and Fru­man told Fovorov he would need to make sure Naftogaz paid Fir­tash hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars he says he is owed by the com­pa­ny, said Per­ry, who said he spoke to Fovorov in detail about the mat­ter. Fovorov has not respond­ed to inquiries.

    Fir­tash and Kobolev have been at odds for years over Fir­tash’s posi­tion in the Ukrain­ian nat­ur­al gas mar­ket.

    Kobolev has been cred­it­ed with clean­ing up cor­rup­tion at the state ener­gy com­pa­ny and has repeat­ed­ly demand­ed that the Ukraine gov­ern­ment scrap a decree that allows for huge pay­ments to Fir­tash’s net­work, but to no avail.

    For Fir­tash, Kobolev is a major obsta­cle to extend­ing his empire, and his removal as CEO at Naftogaz would have reaped big rewards, accord­ing to U.S. diplo­mats and oth­er sources famil­iar with the ener­gy indus­try.

    At the same time Par­nas and Fru­man were work­ing with Giu­liani in Ukaine, Kobolev expressed fears that the inde­pen­dence of Naftogaz was again under threat and anti-cor­rup­tion efforts could be in jeop­ardy.

    In a Feb. 8 inter­view with the Kyiv Post, Kobolev cit­ed plans by the then gov­ern­ment to weak­en the author­i­ty of the board over­see­ing Naftogaz and hand back pow­er to politi­cians to choose the fir­m’s man­age­ment.

    If polit­i­cal med­dling resumes, “every­thing that has been achieved so far can be destroyed,” he told the paper.

    ...

    In talk­ing points includ­ed in fed­er­al lob­by­ing fil­ings in March, Naftogaz man­age­ment argued that the cam­paign to replace them “would quick­ly result in the reestab­lish­ment of cor­rupt schemes in the nat­ur­al gas sec­tor, redi­rect­ing funds out of the com­pa­ny, away from the state bud­get, and into the pock­ets of indi­vid­u­als like Dmytro Fir­tash.”

    Ukrain­ian courts even­tu­al­ly blocked the gov­ern­men­t’s bid to strip author­i­ty from the board.

    In the Hous­ton meet­ing, Par­nas and Fru­man also pre­dict­ed that the U.S. ambas­sador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, would soon be forced out of her job by the White House, and that would help open the way to their pro­posed deal, accord­ing to Per­ry and the oth­er indi­vid­ual famil­iar with the meet­ing.

    In May she was recalled, and now she is a key wit­ness in the House impeach­ment inquiry of Trump over efforts to pres­sure Ukraine to inves­ti­gate the Bidens.

    ———-

    “Ukrain­ian oli­garch Fir­tash linked to Giu­liani pals’ gas deals and Biden dirt dig­ging” by Ken Dilan­ian, Dan De Luce and Tom Win­ter; NBC News; 10/16/2019

    “It is the gas busi­ness that links Fir­tash to what the two Giu­liani asso­ciates were try­ing to do for per­son­al prof­it, even as they were work­ing with Giu­liani to dig up dirt on Biden in Ukraine, accord­ing to Per­ry. Fir­tash for years has owned upwards of 70 per­cent of Ukraine’s gas dis­tri­b­u­tion net­work, and he still runs it from Vien­na.

    Upwards of 70 per­cent of Ukraine’s gas dis­tri­b­u­tion net­work. That’s how cen­tral Dmytro Fir­tash is to Ukraine’s nat­ur­al gas mar­kets. And with the US play­ing a key role in the Naftogaz ‘reform’ efforts since 2014 at the same time it was seek­ing Fir­tash’s extra­di­tion it should come as no sur­prise that Par­nas and Fir­tash were work­ing on behalf of Fir­tash in their Naftogaz nego­ti­a­tions. We don’t know how Fir­tash’s nat­ur­al gas dis­tri­b­u­tion net­work may have been includ­ed in the rest of the deals that they were plan­ning to set up with the US-to-Ukraine LNG export scheme, but if pay­ing Fir­tash back $200 mil­lion was one of their demands of Favorov it seems like a good bet that Fir­tash’s nat­ur­al gas dis­tri­b­u­tion net­work would have been one of the key play­ers on the Ukrain­ian side of that import­ed US gas:

    ...
    In an inter­view with NBC News on Mon­day, Giu­liani said he has “noth­ing to do with Fir­tash,” and he said he nev­er spoke to Trump about the Fir­tash case.

    “I’m not even sure the pres­i­dent is aware of him,” Giu­liani said. “I think if you asked the pres­i­dent, ‘Who is Dmytro Fir­tash?’ He would say ‘I don’t know.’ As far as I know, we’ve nev­er dis­cussed him.”

    The same may not be true for Giu­lian­i’s asso­ciates, how­ev­er. In March, at a meet­ing in Hous­ton, Par­nas and Fru­man men­tioned Fir­tash as they made a pro­pos­al to an offi­cial of Ukraine’s nat­ur­al gas com­pa­ny, accord­ing to Dale Per­ry, an Amer­i­can gas exec­u­tive who does busi­ness in Ukraine and was briefed on the meet­ing. Per­ry told NBC News the pair was urg­ing that the gas com­pa­ny pay Fir­tash a debt of more than $200 mil­lion that Fir­tash believes he is owed by the com­pa­ny.

    ...

    “Fir­tash still con­trols inter­me­di­aries in the Ukrain­ian gas indus­try,” Wick­er wrote in his let­ter to the U.S. attor­ney gen­er­al in 2018. “Fir­tash accepts the gas and sells to end-users, but he refus­es to pay Naftogaz and pock­ets the rev­enue. This scheme is esti­mat­ed to have cost Ukraine $2 bil­lion thus far.”

    Per­ry and anoth­er source told NBC News that Par­nas and Fru­man were try­ing to make mon­ey by drum­ming up a deal to sell liq­ue­fied nat­ur­al gas to Ukraine’s big state ener­gy com­pa­ny, and to oust the man­age­ment at the com­pa­ny with help from their friends in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

    ...

    The two told Fovorov that “they would pro­mote him to replace the cur­rent CEO,” said a source famil­iar with the dis­cus­sions. They would do that, they said, if he sup­port­ed their plan to sell Amer­i­can nat­ur­al gas to Ukraine — a plan that has sig­nif­i­cant logis­ti­cal hur­dles, the sources said.

    As part of the arrange­ment, Par­nas and Fru­man told Fovorov he would need to make sure Naftogaz paid Fir­tash hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars he says he is owed by the com­pa­ny, said Per­ry, who said he spoke to Fovorov in detail about the mat­ter. Fovorov has not respond­ed to inquiries.
    ...

    It’s also impor­tant to note that this rela­tion­ship with Fir­tash poten­tial­ly fac­tors into the crim­i­nal charges against Par­nas and Fru­man over the cam­paign finance vio­la­tions. Recall that it was the $325,000 dona­tion to a pro-Trump super PAC in ear­ly 2018 that led to the April 2018 pri­vate din­ner with Trump. And it was that same pri­vate din­ner where Par­nas and Fru­man record­ed Trump call­ing for Yovanovitch to be fired after Par­nas told Trump, “The biggest prob­lem there, I think where we need to start is we got­ta get rid of the ambas­sador. She’s still left over from the Clin­ton administration...She’s basi­cal­ly walk­ing around telling every­body ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached, just wait.” That large dona­tion, along with their pre­vi­ous dona­tions to Repub­li­cans raised the ques­tion of whether or not they were pay­ing for these dona­tions them­selves or if some­one else was pay­ing for them. It would­n’t be supris­ing if Fir­tash was a finan­cial source, although there are plen­ty of oth­er pos­si­ble par­ties in Ukraine with the means and motive to use two fig­ures like Par­nas and Fru­man as a lob­by­ing front to buy influ­ence with the Repub­li­cans.

    But also recall the NY Times sto­ry about how Giu­liani, Par­nas and Fru­man alleged­ly iden­ti­fied two Ukrain­ian oli­garchs with legal expo­sure in the US as indi­vid­u­als who would be vul­ner­a­ble to their over­tures and help­ful in pro­vid­ing dirt on Joe Biden. Fir­tash was one of those oli­garchs, along with with Ihor Kolo­moisky, the oli­garch seen as the key oli­garch back­ing pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky. Kolo­moisky claimed that Par­nas and Fru­man asked for $250,000 in exchange for hav­ing Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence show up at Zelen­sky’s inau­gu­ra­tion. He did­n’t pay and only Rick Per­ry showed up instead of of Pence (That was the trip to Ukraine where Per­ry first told the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion want­ed a big over­haul in the Naftogaz board). Fir­tash claimed he was vis­it­ed by Par­nas and Fru­man in June of 2019. It was dur­ing that meet­ing that Par­nas and Fru­man offered Fir­tash legal assis­tance in his fight over the US extra­di­tion. That led to Fir­tash hir­ing the hus­band and wife legal team of Vic­to­ria Toens­ing and Joseph diGen­o­va for $1.2 mil­lion in legal ser­vices. Toens­ing and diGen­o­va had already been work­ing with Giu­liani on find­ing dirt on Biden in Ukraine for months. Fir­tash claims he paid Par­nas a $200,000 refer­ral fee. Short­ly after Fir­tash hired Toens­ing and diGen­o­va to work on his extra­dic­tion case, he end­ed up pro­vid­ing doc­u­ments from that case to Vik­tor Shokin for Shok­in’s legal chal­lenge that he was improp­er­ly. Shokin is the for­mer Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al who was fired in ear­ly 2016 under pres­sure from Joe Biden. This fir­ing is at the core of the Trump team’s smear charges against Biden that Biden was try­ing to pro­tect his son Hunter by demand­ing Shok­in’s fir­ing to pre­vent Shokin from inves­ti­gat­ing Buris­ma. So that June 2019 meet­ing where Par­nas and Fru­man offered the legal ser­vices of Toens­ing and diGen­o­va that result­ed in Fir­tash pay­ing them $1.2 mil­lion in legal ser­vices and $200,000 to Par­nas as a find­ers fee took place a few months after the March 2019 meet­ing in Hous­ton where Par­nas and Fru­man made clear to Favorov that Naftogaz was going to have to pay Fir­tash back the $200,000 he felt the com­pa­ny owed him if Favorov was going to be their cho­sen suc­ces­sor CEO.

    So was Fir­tash’s includ­ing in the Giuliani/Parnas/Fruman shake­down scheme as far back as ear­ly 2018 when Par­nas and Fru­man made that $325,000 dona­tion? Or was he only includ­ed lat­er once his use­ful­ly in dig­ging up dirt on the Bidens was rec­og­nized by Giu­liani? That’s not clear at this point. But when it comes to the ques­tion of whether or not Par­nas and Fru­man had a Ukrain­ian source for their dona­tions to Repub­li­cans, Fir­tash is an obvi­ous sus­pect for a lot of rea­sons:

    ...
    Dur­ing that time, fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors said in last week’s indict­ment, the pair was also engaged in an ille­gal scheme to fun­nel mon­ey into polit­i­cal cam­paigns, includ­ing a Super PAC that sup­ports Trump, in order to “buy poten­tial influ­ence” and advance their busi­ness inter­ests.

    The indict­ment says that that Par­nas and Fru­man, along with their co-con­spir­a­tors, hid the scheme from the can­di­dates and cam­paigns to which they donat­ed.

    But there are ques­tions about where the mon­ey came from. Court records show Par­nas left a trail of debts, includ­ing a $500,000 judg­ment against him involv­ing a failed movie ven­ture. In 2014, Par­nas and his wife were evict­ed from a $15,000-per-month, six-bed­room house in Boca Raton, the Mia­mi Her­ald report­ed, cit­ing court records. Sep­a­rate­ly, his busi­ness, Fraud Guar­an­tee, was ordered to pay more than $26,000 to its land­lord.

    That same busi­ness paid Giu­liani $500,000 in recent years for secu­ri­ty advice, Giu­liani now says, adding that he can prove the mon­ey came from the Unit­ed States.
    ...

    And note how Kobolev, the Naftogaz CEO they want­ed to oust and replace with Favorov, had won high praise for US and EU offi­cials for his ‘anti-cor­rup­tion’ efforts. That strong­ly sug­gests that what what­ev­er Par­nas and Fru­man and their fel­low schemers had in mind for new Naftogaz deals involved rolling back those anti-cor­rup­tion reforms. And as we saw, the the Poroshenko was appar­ent­ly on board with rolling back the Naftogaz reforms and moved to weak­en the super­vi­so­ry board­’s inde­pen­dence. It’s some­thing Kobolev warned about in Feb­ru­ary of 2019, two months before Poroshenko lost his reelec­tion. Ukrain­ian courts blocked the Poroshenko gov­ern­men­t’s moves. The fact that the Poroshenko gov­ern­ment seemed to share the goals of weak­en­ing the Naftogaz super­vi­so­ry board­’s inde­pen­dence is a reminder that there are a lot of pos­si­ble Ukrain­ian inter­ests that may have been inter­est­ed in Par­nas and Fru­man’s influ­ence with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion which is part of what makes it unclear if Fir­tash was work­ing with Par­nas and Fir­tash as far back as ear­ly 2018 or not. There are a lot of oth­er viable sus­pects. But Fir­tash cer­tain­ly fits the sus­pect pro­file:

    ...
    As NBC News report­ed Octo­ber 17, they told Fovorov that they want­ed Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolev removed and Fovorov to take his place, the sources said. Kobolev had won high praise from U.S. and Euro­pean offi­cials for his anti-cor­rup­tion efforts.

    ...

    Fir­tash and Kobolev have been at odds for years over Fir­tash’s posi­tion in the Ukrain­ian nat­ur­al gas mar­ket.

    Kobolev has been cred­it­ed with clean­ing up cor­rup­tion at the state ener­gy com­pa­ny and has repeat­ed­ly demand­ed that the Ukraine gov­ern­ment scrap a decree that allows for huge pay­ments to Fir­tash’s net­work, but to no avail.

    For Fir­tash, Kobolev is a major obsta­cle to extend­ing his empire, and his removal as CEO at Naftogaz would have reaped big rewards, accord­ing to U.S. diplo­mats and oth­er sources famil­iar with the ener­gy indus­try.

    At the same time Par­nas and Fru­man were work­ing with Giu­liani in Ukaine, Kobolev expressed fears that the inde­pen­dence of Naftogaz was again under threat and anti-cor­rup­tion efforts could be in jeop­ardy.

    In a Feb. 8 inter­view with the Kyiv Post, Kobolev cit­ed plans by the then gov­ern­ment to weak­en the author­i­ty of the board over­see­ing Naftogaz and hand back pow­er to politi­cians to choose the fir­m’s man­age­ment.

    If polit­i­cal med­dling resumes, “every­thing that has been achieved so far can be destroyed,” he told the paper.

    ...

    In talk­ing points includ­ed in fed­er­al lob­by­ing fil­ings in March, Naftogaz man­age­ment argued that the cam­paign to replace them “would quick­ly result in the reestab­lish­ment of cor­rupt schemes in the nat­ur­al gas sec­tor, redi­rect­ing funds out of the com­pa­ny, away from the state bud­get, and into the pock­ets of indi­vid­u­als like Dmytro Fir­tash.”

    Ukrain­ian courts even­tu­al­ly blocked the gov­ern­men­t’s bid to strip author­i­ty from the board.
    ...

    So we can say with cer­tain­ty that Fir­tash was involved with the Naftogaz scheme. Demand­ing of Favorov that Fir­tash receive the $200 mil­lion he thinks he’s deserved from Naftogaz as part of the price of Favorov becom­ing the favored suc­ces­sor CEO makes it clear that Fir­tash was at least one of the par­ties involved get­ting paid off in this scheme. And his dom­i­nant posi­tion in the Ukrain­ian nat­ur­al gas dis­tri­b­u­tion mar­ket cou­pled with his US legal trou­bles makes him a log­i­cal part of this scheme. But we still don’t know if he was one of the fig­ures dri­ving this scheme from the begin­ning or if he was mere­ly some­one invit­ed into it lat­er? It’s pos­si­ble he was invit­ed into the nat­ur­al gas deal lat­er as part of the incen­tive to get him to work with Giu­liani on dig­ging up dirt on Joe Biden. Recall how Par­nas described the scheme unfold­ed, where he and Fru­man were hop­ing to exploit their ties to Giu­liani and Flori­da Repub­li­cans to make mon­ey as mid­dle-men on US-to-Ukraine nat­ur­al gas export deals and it was when Giu­liani learned of their con­tacts with Ukrain­ian who would be use­ful in his quest to dig up dirt in Ukraine to help Trump that Giu­liani brought Par­nas and Fru­man into his inner-cir­cle. That was where the Naftogaz scheme and the Biden/Burisma scheme merged. Through Giu­liani, who plays the role of some sort of Deep-Swamp Mid­dle-Man in this sto­ry. So it would­n’t be sur­prised if Fir­tash was invit­ed into the scheme lat­er when they real­ized Fir­tash’s legal trou­bles might make him use­ful in the Biden/Burisma stuff. But it also would­n’t be sur­pris­ing if Fir­tash real­ly was involved with Par­nas and Fru­man’s Naftogaz schemes from the begin­ning.

    It’s also pos­si­ble Fir­tash was already in con­tact with Giu­liani before Par­nas and Fru­man approached him and Fir­tash. Recall that Fir­tash is the senior busi­ness parter of Sergei Lovochkin (Lyovochkin), the VP under Vik­tor Yanukovych who worked close­ly with Paul Man­afort on the Hab­s­burg Group ini­tia­tive and may have been involved with foment­ing the Maid­an protests after Yanukovych pulled Ukraine out of the EU trade asso­ci­a­tion agree­ment talks. Fir­tash and Man­afort must have been at least asso­ci­at­ed so it should be at all sur­pris­ing if the Trump team already had mul­ti­ple chan­nels of com­mu­ni­ca­tion to Fir­tash going back to 2016.

    Also don’t for­get that the ‘dirt’ Fir­tash pro­vid­ed to Giu­liani on Joe Biden may not be lim­it­ed to what he allowed Toens­ing and diGen­o­va to pro­vide Vik­tor Shok­in’s legal team. It’s entire­ly pos­si­ble Fir­tash has giv­en much more polit­i­cal­ly use­ful ‘dirt’, whether real or man­u­fac­tured, on Biden that the Trump team is plan­ning on leak­ing out at strate­gic moments in the 2020 cam­paign, just like was done with Hillary Clin­ton’s emails in 2016. He might pro­vide more.

    It’s all an exam­ple of why the #UkraineGate scan­dal is so com­pli­cat­ed. It’s real­ly a series of over­lap­ping scan­dals. All made woven togeth­er by the efforts of a few good mid­dle-men. One of whom hap­pens to be the pres­i­den­t’s lawyer.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 26, 2020, 11:22 pm
  2. @The Gary Webb Expe­ri­ence: It’s hard to dis­pute that the US pol­i­cy towards Ukraine dur­ing the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion was hor­ri­ble and did indeed involve the deci­sion to basi­cal­ly weaponize Ukrain­ian fas­cists for the pur­pose of accom­plish­ing the long-stand­ing US for­eign pol­i­cy objec­tive of Ukraine into the West­’s orbit. If for­eign poli­cies that involved empow­er­ing awful groups and doing long-term dam­age to oth­er coun­tries was an impeach­able offense it’s unclear how far back we’d have to go to find a pres­i­dent who was­n’t impeach­able. But that should­n’t some­how let Trump off the hook. The guy has been com­mit­ting arguably impeach­able offens­es since before he was elect­ed and is clear­ly beyond cor­rupt, but there’s no way he’s going to be impeached for all of the rea­sons he tru­ly deserves to be impeached. The impeach of Trump is more anal­o­gous to tak­ing down Al Capone for tax eva­sion. The crime is rel­a­tive­ly small pota­toes com­pared to the total­i­ty of his crimes. His open and ongo­ing embrace of for­eign emol­u­ments alone was arguably impeach­able right out of the gate. And then there’s the exten­sive obstruc­tion of jus­tice. But per­haps his great­est impeach­able offense is sim­ply the fact that the guy appears to be some sort of patho­log­i­cal fab­u­list who can’t stop lying. It’s like he has a lie tick. He makes most oth­er Repub­li­cans look rel­a­tive­ly hon­est in com­par­i­son. If mak­ing elect­ed Repub­li­cans look rel­a­tive­ly hon­est isn’t impeach­able under the 25th Amend­ment, what is?

    In a way, the fact that Trump has com­mit­ted so many oth­er more impeach­able offens­es dur­ing his short time in office is a kind of iron­ic defense of Trump: That the grounds for impeach­ment is so vague it’s some­what arbi­trary. Which is a valid point. But it’s not real­ly a valid defense for a pres­i­dent that just keeps com­mit­ting one impeach­able offense after anoth­er after anoth­er. Trump kind of made this inevitable. At some point he was going to com­mit an impeach­able offense that was so crisply and clear­ly impeach­able that he would get nailed.

    All that said, yes, there’s no real deny­ing that the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion and Euro­pean Union’s accep­tance of Ukraine embrace of Ukrain­ian fas­cists in the post-Maid­an peri­od has done mas­sive harm to the future Ukraine. There’s also no real deny­ing that the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion’s pol­i­cy towards Ukraine was broad­ly shared and encour­aged by Repub­li­cans in Con­gress and the nation­al secu­ri­ty state. It’s often cyn­i­cal­ly claimed that both the Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans are real­ly just one big par­ty which is the kind of analy­sis that ignores sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences in domes­tic poli­cies. But there is a lot more truth to that cyn­i­cal sen­ti­ment when it comes to US for­eign pol­i­cy. And it’s that bipar­ti­san nature of that post-WWII US for­eign pol­i­cy that points towards what could be con­sid­ered a per­ma­nent emer­gency of US democ­ra­cy: if a pres­i­dent tru­ly stood up to the ‘mil­i­tary indus­tri­al com­plex’ of pow­er­ful defense con­trac­tors and hawk­ish think-tanks that’s been behind these long-stand poli­cies, that pres­i­dent would prob­a­bly get ‘JFKed’ with­in their first term. The bipar­ti­san nature of US for­eign pol­i­cy has a ‘hostage cri­sis’ dynam­ic. It’s one of the long-term con­se­quences of the JFK assas­si­na­tion and its suc­cess­ful coverup.

    As Dave and Jim DiEu­ge­nio cov­ered in their 25-episode series on the con­text of the JFK assas­si­na­tion, the Cold War embrace of fas­cists — includ­ing Ukrain­ian fas­cists — was in part of reflec­tion of the qui­et under­ground glob­al alliance of fas­cists put in place by the US fas­cist sym­pa­thiz­ers (like Allen Dulles) in the post-WWII envi­ron­ment and encom­passed the kind of real ‘deep state’ that Trump’s defend­ers con­stant­ly harp on. In oth­er words, while Trump is intent on fram­ing ‘the CIA’ and ran­dom bureau­crats as the ‘deep state’, it’s the the clos­et fas­cist net­works in the US pow­er struc­ture — whether it’s the CIA or some oth­er posi­tion in the nation­al secu­ri­ty state or a pow­er­ful pri­vate inter­est — that can be mean­ing­ful­ly described as a ‘deep state’ and that’s who real­ly runs US for­eign pol­i­cy. US for­eign pol­i­cy has the appear­ance of being designed by and for pow­er­ful cor­po­rate inter­ests (for­eign and domes­tic) because it is designed by and for pow­er­ful inter­ests. The kind of pow­er­ful inter­ests that can assas­si­nate a pres­i­dent and get away with it. And the last time a Demo­c­rat or any­one was in a posi­tion to mean­ing­ful­ly oppose those inter­ests was FDR. As Dave often says, the US Democ­ra­cy effec­tive­ly blew its brains out on Novem­ber 22, 1963. We’re liv­ing in the splat­ter.

    Regard­ing US pol­i­cy toward Ukraine, as Dave has point­ed out in a num­ber of shows, while the cod­dling of Ukrain­ian fas­cists is a long-stand­ing bipar­ti­san affair, it was pol­i­cy that was ini­tial put in place by the Amer­i­can fas­cist pri­mar­i­ly con­nect­ed to the Repub­li­can Par­ty. And it was the Repub­li­can Par­ty that actu­al­ly for­mal­ly incor­po­rat­ed Ukrain­ian fas­cists into the par­ty infra­struc­ture (the GOP’s eth­nic out­reach com­mit­tees) for use in domes­tic elec­tions. So when the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion or oth­er past Demo­c­ra­t­ic admin­is­tra­tions have adopt­ed for­eign poli­cies that uti­lize Ukrain­ian fas­cist net­works, they’re col­lab­o­rat­ing with long-time US assets that are kind of an arm of the Repub­li­can Par­ty. In oth­er words, the ‘orig­i­nal sin’ of Demo­c­ra­t­ic for­eign pol­i­cy is suc­cumb­ing to the very real ‘deep state’ threats of not adher­ing to a for­eign pol­i­cy that is fun­da­men­tal­ly craft­ed by the forces that ani­mate the Repub­li­can Par­ty. The ‘orig­i­nal sin’ of the Repub­li­can for­eign pol­i­cy is being the kind of for­eign pol­i­cy craft­ed by fas­cist author­i­tar­i­ans ded­i­cat­ed to prof­its for the few at all costs and wag­ing war on real democ­ra­cy and equal­i­ty. The for­mer is pret­ty dis­tress­ing but not near­ly as hope­less as the lat­ter.

    It’s also impor­tant to point out that there real­ly isn’t much of a domes­tic con­stituen­cy in the US for a tru­ly human­i­tar­i­an for­eign pol­i­cy even among Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers sim­ply because there’s so lit­tle mean­ing­ful aware­ness of for­eign pol­i­cy by Amer­i­cans in gen­er­al. Peo­ple can’t care about that which they don’t know about. It’s when peo­ple come home in body bags that peo­ple start to real­ly care. Amer­i­cans haven’t yet real­ly fig­ured out that they have to tru­ly care about peo­ple liv­ing out­side the US to avoid hav­ing the world go to hell in a hand­bas­ket, and when they do start car­ing it’s like lambs to the slaugh­ter when it comes to resist­ing the inevitable pro­pa­gan­da telling them to back an awful pol­i­cy.

    So can we say that Trump is being pun­ished by this same ‘deep state’ that’s large­ly dic­tat­ed the for­eign poli­cies of both par­ties for decades? Well, it’s prob­a­bly not a coin­ci­dence that, of all the impeach­able crimes com­mit­ted by Trump, it was a crime that involved with­hold­ing of mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine that arose from a CIA whistle­blow­er that actu­al­ly trig­gered the impeach­ment. But it’s hard to see that as an exam­ple of Trump some­how being mean­ing­ful­ly opposed to the ‘deep state’. After all, it was Trump who approved of the sale of Javelin mis­siles to Ukraine that Oba­ma long resist­ed. And beyond Ukraine, Trump has been a pret­ty typ­i­cal war­mon­ger­ing Repub­li­can. He did make John Bolton his nation­al secu­ri­ty advi­sor, after all. Trump’s biggest vio­la­tion from the ‘deep state’s per­spec­tive is sim­ply being so unin­formed and impul­sive that he’s not real­ly capa­ble of just get­ting out of the way and allow­ing the ‘deep state’ oper­a­tives he’s sur­round­ed by, like Mike Pom­peo, to man­age things. Trump is too intel­lec­tu­al­ly uncu­ri­ous to real­ly be a mem­ber of the ‘deep state’ but that does­n’t mean he isn’t ide­o­log­i­cal­ly aligned with it and not a will­ing accom­plice.

    Also note that if Trump was tru­ly being impeached by the ‘deep state’, he prob­a­bly would­n’t have 100% Repub­li­can sup­port in Con­gress. The oli­garchs that own and oper­a­tive Repub­li­can politi­cians would make it clear to them that Trump has to go. That clear­ly has­n’t hap­pened. Instead, this whole impeach­ment fias­co looks like it was heav­i­ly dri­ven by the fact that the US for­eign pol­i­cy bureau­cra­cy has a lot of peo­ple who are VERY inter­est­ed in what’s hap­pen­ing in Ukraine and Trump hap­pened to be run­ning an absolute­ly egre­gious shad­ow for­eign pol­i­cy in Ukraine that real­ly was high­ly impeach­able. Of all of Trump’s impeach­able offens­es, the extortive shake­down of the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment via a shady for­eign pol­i­cy — one which was tied into a scheme to stack the board of Naftogaz with cronies for per­son­al prof­it — was the kind of scan­dal that was just beg­ging for a whistle­blow­er. And that’s what Trump final­ly got. And once some­one blew the whis­tle — CIA oper­a­tive or not — it was kind of guar­an­teed that there was going to be a call for impeach­ment giv­en that it was lit­er­al­ly extor­tion of Ukraine in order to force it to basi­cal­ly inject itself into the US elec­tion dynam­ics in the wake of the #Rus­si­a­Gate fias­co. It was like a per­fect storm of cor­rup­tion that made the seem­ing­ly impos­si­ble sud­den­ly inevitable. When the US’s dam­ag­ing for­eign pol­i­cy actu­al­ly blows back on the US Amer­i­cans start car­ing and Trump’s extortive demands for for­eign med­dling cre­at­ed that blow back.

    So, while it’s cer­tain­ly valid and impor­tant to point out that the US admin­is­tra­tion of cod­dling and sup­port Ukraine’s fas­cists was and is a doing mas­sive long-term dam­age to Ukraine’s future, that’s not a valid defense of Trump in the impeach­ment. He just took a real­ly bad sit­u­a­tion and made it worse by being way more cor­rupt than nor­mal and bare­ly try­ing to hide it.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 29, 2020, 11:38 pm
  3. I have been lis­ten­ing to Mr. Emory for 3 decades. I am famil­iar with his past work and the Repub­li­can Nation­al Her­itage Groups Coun­cil.

    I don’t believe that the “Deep State” (which is the con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion of P.D. Scott not these Trump fans as lis­ten­ers will recall) is at all opposed to Trump. I believe that it would be fair to argue that the “Impeach­ment” is a mas­sive exam­ple of polit­i­cal kabu­ki or “kay­fabe” in the par­lance of pro­fes­sion­al wrasslin’, of which Trump is a vet­er­an per­former.

    I would argue that Trump was as much ‘select­ed’ by the Deep State as was Oba­ma — both for sim­i­lar rea­sons: Oba­ma, to put a “new and friend­ly face” on a US impe­ri­al­ism that had grown odi­ous to even its allies, and Trump as a reac­tion to the Impe­r­i­al Project going com­plete­ly awry despite the attempt­ed Makeover.

    Let us not for­get that it was Oba­ma and not Bush or Trump, who estab­lished the pol­i­cy and pre­ci­dent of an impe­r­i­al pres­i­den­cy which claimed the “exec­u­tive priv­i­lege” to....execute Amer­i­can cit­i­zens with­out even a sem­blance of due process! (1) This itself is the very defin­tion of ‘fas­cism’ in its clas­sic, overt “Ger­man-Style” sense. And to ignore or jus­ti­fy this is to ignore the actu­al descent to fas­cism as rep­re­sent­ed by the claims of the State Appa­ra­tus to revise or ignore the Bill of Rights.

    I would argue that Trump rep­re­sents the “bad cop” to Oba­ma’s “good cop” and both are and were full part­ners with the ‘deep state’ and that this ‘deep state’ (as you have not­ed) is indeed inter­twined with the fas­cist inter­na­tion­al.

    I would fur­ther argue that the “Impeach­ment” is polit­i­cal the­ater and Spec­ta­cle (in the Guy DeBord sense) intend­ed to serve both the pur­pos­es of “fake pol­i­tics” in the US (see above — the “resis­tance” being noth­ing but a farce to dis­tract and focus Lib­er­als on “Trump” rather than oppos­ing US Impe­ri­al­ism and the For­ev­er War for Oth­er Peo­ples’ Resources) as well as the­ater intend­ed to dupe for­eign observers into con­tin­u­ing to believe that there are “Two” par­ties when all there real­ly is are two fac­tions of the Rul­ing Class in more or less “friend­ly” com­pe­ti­tion with one anoth­er for the spoils of empire and will­ing to even use overt nazis to achieve what­ev­er goals and objec­tives are deemed mutu­al­ly agree­able.

    Let us not for­get the many bipar­ti­san con­nec­tions with these Col­or Rev­o­lu­tion­ists in the US who have col­lud­ed to bring these nazis to pow­er in Ukraine, includ­ing not just McCain and Biden but also impor­tant­ly John Ker­ry, the face of the “mod­er­ate” lib­er­al estab­lish­ment and a cen­tral play­er in US sup­port for Ukraine’s putschists.

    (1) https://www.aclu.org/cases/al-aulaqi-v-obama-constitutional-challenge-proposed-killing-us-citizen

    (2) https://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/11/world/europe/kerrys-statement-on-ukraine.html

    (3) https://www.wsj.com/articles/bidens-son-kerry-family-friend-join-ukrainian-gas-producers-board-1400031749

    (4) it was Porky who “nor­mal­ized” Ukrain­ian fas­cism for the US audi­ences and it was his asso­ci­a­tion with Ker­ry in the ear­ly days of the putsch that allowed this to hap­pen, as Ker­ry gave cred­i­bil­i­ty at a crit­i­cal time, on the world stage, to this char­ac­ter: https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/04/05/petro-poroshenkos-last-minute-nationalist-makeover/

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-28033610

    https://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2014/03/why-is-the-u-s-sending-1-billion-to-ukraine

    https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/06/obama-meets-with-ukraines-president-elect/372122/

    Posted by The G.W.E | January 31, 2020, 12:37 pm
  4. @G.W.E.: I can’t dis­pute the bipar­ti­san nature of the US’s long-stand­ing for­eign pol­i­cy agen­da that involved the open embrace of fas­cist net­works. That bipar­ti­san nature is self-evi­dent, as you point out. A for­eign pol­i­cy that ensures the glob­al spread of neolib­er­al­ism fuel­ing the multi­na­tion­al cor­po­rate pil­lag­ing of the envi­ron­men­tal in an insane glob­al econ­o­my that pur­sues max­i­mum prof­it at any cost. US impe­ri­al­ism done under the ban­ner of evan­ge­lis­tic spread­ing the mag­ic of the mar­kets (and if you don’t accept ‘the mar­ket’, you’re a dan­ger­ous com­mie and exis­ten­tial threat) is a trag­i­cal­ly wide­ly held ‘Amer­i­can’ view. So, yes, there’s going to be an effec­tive one par­ty rule on a lot of US for­eign pol­i­cy.

    I don’t think the impeach­ment is all pro-wrestling style ‘kay­fabe” the­atrics intend­ed to giv­en the illu­sion of a two par­ty sys­tem. There’s going to be enough divi­sion with­in a rul­ing class for there to be two legit­i­mate­ly com­pet­ing par­ties that are in real com­pe­ti­tion. Although it’s hard to see how any­one ever expect­ed Trump to actu­al­ly be con­vict­ed by the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Sen­ate so in that sense it’s all been threatrics. But the Democ­rats had plen­ty of rea­sons to run with this impeach­ment once the whistle­blow­er sto­ry went pub­lic.

    But that ques­tion of whether or not it’s all kay­fabe fake the­atric rais­es a grim but fas­ci­nat­ing ques­tion: since the dom­i­nant fac­tion of the rul­ing class — like the Koch donor net­work in the US — appears to be intent on dri­ving the world to the brink of col­lapse on vir­tu­al­ly all fronts, how much dis­sent is there with­in the bil­lion­aire class on the apoc­a­lyp­tic vision of their fel­low bil­lion­aires. Sure­ly there have to be some super-rich that aren’t fas­cist intent on stok­ing war and eco-col­lapse. They can’t all be secret dooms­day cultists schem­ing to cause and sur­vive the apoc­a­lypse, can they? Tom Stey­er seems nice. :D

    Sim­i­lar­ly, John Ker­ry or Barack Oba­ma, for all their flaws on for­eign pol­i­cy and espe­cial­ly Ukraine and Syr­ia, still don’t seem like they should be placed in the same cat­e­go­ry as their Repub­li­cans coun­ter­parts in terms of the intent of their admin­is­tra­tions even if the for­eign poli­cies are often over­lap­ping. These might be dis­tinc­tions they don’t deserve but they’re dis­tinc­tions that are impor­tant for the rest of us in terms of fix­ing things because the ‘to hell with them all’ approach to polit­i­cal reform is high­ly unlike­ly in the US. There isn’t going to be a time when the entire polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic estab­lish­ment gets replaced overnight and that makes the rel­a­tive san­i­ty of the Democ­rats an impor­tant dis­tinc­tion. If there’s going to be any­thing decent done in the polit­i­cal realm in the US it will almost cer­tain­ly hap­pen via the Democ­rats. The Repub­li­cans are the par­ty of the dooms­day fas­cists, ded­i­cat­ed to burn­ing it all down. That just leaves the Democ­rats if there’s going to be any hope for reform from with­in the sys­tem. That’s why it’s unam­bigu­ous­ly bet­ter for the world if the Democ­rats win the White House and Sen­ate in Novem­ber. The two par­ties might be a ‘good cop’/‘bad cop’ duo when it comes to US for­eign pol­i­cy, but it’s still much bet­ter to go with the ‘good cop’ Democ­rats if you had to choose one. The ‘good cop’ does a lot less dam­age. Imag­ine if Trump had been Pres­i­dent dur­ing Oba­ma’s term. US for­eign pol­i­cy in places like Ukraine and Syr­ia would und­out­ed­ly be worse which is amaz­ing­ly awful to think about. The ‘good cop’ is always bet­ter than the bad cop and the GOP is an extreme­ly bad cop. One of the biggest ignored sto­ries of the last gen­er­a­tion of US pol­i­tics is how the Repub­li­can Par­ty oper­a­tives and elect­ed offi­cials have increas­ing­ly become die hard ide­o­log­i­cal­ly far right foot sol­diers who per­son­al­ly hold what amounts to an ‘Alt Right’ world­view. As a result, the spir­it of the Repub­li­can Par­ty has increas­ing­ly become opposed to the very idea of being com­pas­sion­ate. Doing the right thing is a weak­ness. That’s the ‘bad cop’.

    Yes, the ‘good cop’ Democ­rats had a gen­er­a­tion of ‘Third Way’ pol­i­tics that facil­i­tat­ed the kind of right-wing for­eign and domes­tic poli­cies made the Democ­rats a much more ‘rul­ing class friend­ly’ par­ty than it had been before the Repub­li­can elec­toral dom­i­na­tion of the 80’s. It was the GOP’s dom­i­na­tion of the 80’s (Rea­gan did win 49 states in ’84) that scared the Democ­rats into the 90’s ‘Third Way’ pol­i­cy par­a­digm that haunts par­ty to this day. Third Way Democ­rats and Alt Right Repub­li­cans form the core of today’s US rul­ing class. That’s the de fac­to rul­ing par­ty in DC. But if Amer­i­ca is ever going to end the For­ev­er War for Oth­er Peo­ples’ Resources, it’s going to hap­pen through the Democ­rats. Trump is lit­er­al­ly try­ing to bring back the seizure of for­eign oil reserves. When the bad cop wants to apoc­a­lyp­ti­cal­ly burn it all down, it’s time to talk to the good cop. And yes, that might be falling for the ‘bad cop’/‘good cop’ the­atrics. But it’s also pos­si­ble the good cop does­n’t want to burn the place down and is will­ing to seri­ous­ly talk about what to do about the bad cop.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 3, 2020, 1:15 am
  5. Here’s a pair of arti­cles that shed some light on the nature of the rela­tion­ship Pres­i­dent Trump had with Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man when they met for the April 30, 2018, pri­vate din­ner for big donors to a pro-Trump super­PAC. This was the din­ner where Trump called for the fir­ing of US ambas­sador to Ukrain­ian, Marie Yovanovitch, in the mid­dle of his con­ver­sa­tion with Par­nas and Fru­man where he’s told that Yovanovitch was telling peo­ple in Ukraine that Trump was going to be impeached. A full video was released that shows the con­text of what was being dis­cussed in the lead up to that “get rid of her” com­ment. The PBS arti­cle includes a link to the full video. At ~42 min­utes is when Trump calls for get­ting rid of Yovanovitch. As the arti­cle describes, the con­ver­sa­tion lead­ing up to that call was most­ly about the con­flict in Ukraine, the threat of a Russ­ian inva­sion, and the sup­port or lack of sup­port Ukraine was get­ting from Euro­pean nations. But right before that, the con­ver­sa­tion was turned to a dis­cus­sion of oil and the prospects for devel­op­ing the Ukrain­ian oil sec­tor. AT ~38 min­utes video, a voice is her men­tion­ing US LNG exports and how that could be used to eco­nom­i­cal­ly com­bat Rus­sia. At ~38:30, Par­nas men­tions to Trump how he and Fru­man had just cre­at­ed a new ener­gy com­pa­ny for US LNG exports to Ukraine, which is how the con­ver­sa­tion ends up on Ukraine’s con­flict with Rus­sia and the calls for Yovanovitch’s fir­ing. Note that it was on August 10, 2018, just a few weeks before this meet­ing, that Par­nas and Fru­man cre­at­ed Glob­al Ener­gy Pro­duc­ers, LLC, the com­pa­ny set up to prof­it from their Naftogaz takeover ambi­tions. So based on the con­tent if that full video, it would appear that the April 30, 2018, meet­ing was the point wehre Trump him­self was intro­duced to Par­nas and Fru­man’s US-to-Ukrain­ian nat­ur­al gas export scheme. A scheme that required the Trump admin­is­tra­tion using its lever­age over Naftogaz’s super­vi­so­ry board to give the group of investors behind Par­nas and Fru­man effec­tive con­trol over the state-owned nat­ur­al gas giant.

    But we can’t be sure that meet­ing real­ly was when Trump was first intro­duced to the top­ic. Because the sec­ond arti­cle is about a sec­ond video released by Lev Par­nas last week of a gath­er­ing of Repub­li­cans that took place 10 days ear­li­er, on April 20, 2018. It’s around 37 min­utes long, and again shows Par­nas and Fru­man meet­ing Trump. This time it’s at Mar a Lago for a gath­er­ing that was orga­nized by the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee. It sounds like Par­nas and Fru­man met then-Con­gress­man Pete Ses­sions at this meet­ing and devel­oped a rela­tion­ship with him in the fol­low­ing months, that places Pete Ses­sions in the ear­ly months of this whole #UkraineGate mess. So it’s pos­si­ble Trump was first intro­duced to the nat­ur­al gas scheme at that ear­li­er meet­ing. We don’t know. The 37 min­utes does­n’t real­ly includes Par­nas or Fru­man talk­ing with Trump oth­er than some pho­tos with him in the last few min­utes. But it ends with Trump infor­mal­ly chat­ting with the group so it’s pos­si­ble the did their lob­by­ing after the video ends (it ends with Fru­man going to the restroom and turn­ing it off right before pee­ing). So there are a lot of ques­tions about that April 20 meet­ing, we do know now that the April 30, 2018, meet­ing was­n’t the first time Trump met Par­nas and Fru­man.

    Keep in mind this is all just like a month after their $325,000 dona­tion to the pro-Trump super­PAC. Because it pays to play the ‘pay to play’ game. That’s why peo­ple pay so much to play. It pays off.

    Ok, here’s the PBS arti­cle about the full video of the April 30, 2018, meet­ing and how the “get rid of her” com­ment was pre­ced­ed by a dis­cus­sion of Ukraine’s con­flict with Rus­sia and the the prospects of Ukraine’s ener­gy indus­try:

    PBS News Hours

    WATCH: Full video of Trump appear­ing to say Ukraine ambas­sador should be removed

    by Yamiche Alcin­dor
    Updat­ed on Jan 25, 2020 4:43 PM EST — Pub­lished on Jan 25, 2020 3:34 PM EST

    A video released Sat­ur­day cap­tures Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump appear­ing to say he wants to “get rid” of the then‑U.S. ambas­sador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

    The record­ing, which was pro­vid­ed to the PBS New­sHour by a lawyer for one of the peo­ple who heard the orig­i­nal con­ver­sa­tion, is said to be from a din­ner in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., on April 30, 2018– a year before Yovanovitch was actu­al­ly fired.

    Joseph Bondy, an attor­ney for Lev Par­nas, told New­sHour that Par­nas, an asso­ciate of Trump’s per­son­al lawyer Rudy Giu­liani, was at the din­ner with the pres­i­dent and sev­er­al oth­ers when Trump said he want­ed Yovanovitch out.

    About 42 min­utes into the hour-long video, Par­nas appears to say, “The biggest prob­lem there, I think where we need to start, is we got­ta get rid of the ambas­sador. She’s still left over from the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion.”

    Trump then appears to say, “Where? The ambas­sador to Ukraine?”

    Par­nas replies, “Yes. She’s basi­cal­ly walk­ing around telling every­body ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached, just wait.’”

    A few sec­onds lat­er, Trump appears to say, “Get rid of her! Get her out tomor­row. I don’t care. Get her out tomor­row. Take her out. OK? Do it.”

    Bondy said Par­nas attend­ed the din­ner along with Igor Fru­man, anoth­er of Giuliani’s busi­ness asso­ciates. Both Par­nas and Fru­man have been indict­ed on fed­er­al charges, includ­ing vio­lat­ing cam­paign finance laws.

    Sat­ur­day, Bondy said he released the video because he saw it as crit­i­cal to the public’s under­stand­ing. “Giv­en its impor­tance to the nation­al inter­est, we decid­ed to release this record­ing in a man­ner intend­ed to ensure equal pub­lic access, and in an effort to pro­vide clar­i­ty to the Amer­i­can peo­ple and the Sen­ate as to the need to con­duct a fair tri­al, with wit­ness­es and evi­dence,” he said.

    The record­ing made by Fru­man, reviewed and first report­ed by ABC News, appeared to cap­ture Trump mak­ing the com­ments. Bondy said that after news of the audio record­ing became pub­lic, Par­nas searched an online data­base con­nect­ed to his iPhone and found a video sent to him by Fru­man, from the din­ner that was more than an hour long. Bondy has turned the iPhone video over to con­gres­sion­al inves­ti­ga­tors.

    Min­utes before dis­cussing Yovanovitch, Trump dis­cussed the con­flict between Rus­sia and Ukraine, which is part of the rea­son Ukraine sought mil­i­tary aid from the Unit­ed States.

    In the video, some­one is heard say­ing, “The resources in Ukraine are tremen­dous.” A voice also says Ukraine is part of pipelines in Europe. In response, Trump appears to ask, “Ukraine has oil?” Some­one replies affir­ma­tive­ly. Trump then appears to ask, “Why aren’t com­pa­nies going in? Too risky?” Some­one says, “Exact­ly. They were sup­port­ing Clin­tons for all these years.”

    Sec­onds lat­er, Trump appears to ask, “How long will [Ukraine] last in a fight with Rus­sia?” Some­one replies, “With­out us, not very long.” Trump appears to echo the voice say­ing, “With­out us.”

    Trump has repeat­ed­ly said he does not know Par­nas well. He has also attacked Yovanovitch on Twit­ter by claim­ing that every place she went “turned bad.”

    The video begins with shaky footage of a num­ber of peo­ple stand­ing around a din­ner table. Then about two and a half min­utes in, a voice announces that the pres­i­dent has arrived and the cam­era shows Trump tak­ing a seat in a din­ing chair.

    Soon after, the cam­era turns to the ceil­ing of the room, cap­tur­ing audio of con­ver­sa­tions, and remains in that posi­tion for the remain­der of the video. Trump and oth­ers dis­cuss a num­ber of oth­er top­ics includ­ing inter­na­tion­al trade deals, nego­ti­at­ing with coun­tries like Chi­na and Argenti­na and try­ing to find a peace deal in the Mid­dle East.

    Trump can also be heard crit­i­ciz­ing Ger­many for its ener­gy part­ner­ship with Rus­sia and say­ing oth­er Euro­pean nations con­tribute too lit­tle to NATO and Ukrain­ian efforts to com­bat Rus­sia.

    At one point, Trump asks how Ukraine is feel­ing about the sit­u­a­tion with Rus­sia. “Do they feel they are going to be O.K.?” Trump asked.

    Oth­ers at the din­ner say they will be O.K. with U.S. sup­port and tell Trump that Petro Poroshenko, who was then the pres­i­dent of Ukraine but is now fac­ing crim­i­nal cor­rup­tion charges since he left office, is a “good guy.”

    Trump turns to the ques­tion of U.S. aid to Ukraine.

    “It’s always us that has to sup­port every­body? You have to won­der why doesn’t Ger­many sup­port them? Why aren’t these oth­ers?”

    “They are sup­port­ing Rus­sia,” some­one tells Trump. “A lot of coun­tries are back­stab­bing us and sup­port­ing Rus­sia.”

    The name “Biden” can be heard men­tioned by some­one oth­er than Trump, but the con­text is unclear and the con­ver­sa­tion con­tin­ued to focus on oth­er issues relat­ing to Ukraine.

    ...

    ———-

    “WATCH: Full video of Trump appear­ing to say Ukraine ambas­sador should be removed” by Yamiche Alcin­dor; PBS News Hours; 01/25/2020

    “About 42 min­utes into the hour-long video, Par­nas appears to say, “The biggest prob­lem there, I think where we need to start, is we got­ta get rid of the ambas­sador. She’s still left over from the Clin­ton admin­is­tra­tion.””

    “The biggest prob­lem there, I think where we need to start, is we got­ta get rid of the ambas­sador.” That’s the big mys­tery line said by Lev Par­nas to Pres­i­dent Trump at about 42 min­utes into the full video of the April 30, 2018, meet­ing for pro-Trump super­PAC mega-donors. And based on the full record­ing, we can now see that Trump made that com­ment min­utes into a con­ver­sa­tion that focused on a mix of Ukraine’s oil sec­tor poten­tial and US LNG exports in the con­text of the US show­down with Rus­sia and the Ukrainian/Russian con­flict:

    ...
    Trump then appears to say, “Where? The ambas­sador to Ukraine?”

    Par­nas replies, “Yes. She’s basi­cal­ly walk­ing around telling every­body ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached, just wait.’”

    A few sec­onds lat­er, Trump appears to say, “Get rid of her! Get her out tomor­row. I don’t care. Get her out tomor­row. Take her out. OK? Do it.”

    ...

    Min­utes before dis­cussing Yovanovitch, Trump dis­cussed the con­flict between Rus­sia and Ukraine, which is part of the rea­son Ukraine sought mil­i­tary aid from the Unit­ed States.

    In the video, some­one is heard say­ing, “The resources in Ukraine are tremen­dous.” A voice also says Ukraine is part of pipelines in Europe. In response, Trump appears to ask, “Ukraine has oil?” Some­one replies affir­ma­tive­ly. Trump then appears to ask, “Why aren’t com­pa­nies going in? Too risky?” Some­one says, “Exact­ly. They were sup­port­ing Clin­tons for all these years.”

    Sec­onds lat­er, Trump appears to ask, “How long will [Ukraine] last in a fight with Rus­sia?” Some­one replies, “With­out us, not very long.” Trump appears to echo the voice say­ing, “With­out us.”

    ...

    Trump can also be heard crit­i­ciz­ing Ger­many for its ener­gy part­ner­ship with Rus­sia and say­ing oth­er Euro­pean nations con­tribute too lit­tle to NATO and Ukrain­ian efforts to com­bat Rus­sia.

    At one point, Trump asks how Ukraine is feel­ing about the sit­u­a­tion with Rus­sia. “Do they feel they are going to be O.K.?” Trump asked.

    Oth­ers at the din­ner say they will be O.K. with U.S. sup­port and tell Trump that Petro Poroshenko, who was then the pres­i­dent of Ukraine but is now fac­ing crim­i­nal cor­rup­tion charges since he left office, is a “good guy.”

    Trump turns to the ques­tion of U.S. aid to Ukraine.

    “It’s always us that has to sup­port every­body? You have to won­der why doesn’t Ger­many sup­port them? Why aren’t these oth­ers?”

    “They are sup­port­ing Rus­sia,” some­one tells Trump. “A lot of coun­tries are back­stab­bing us and sup­port­ing Rus­sia.”
    ...

    And yet it’s still not entire­ly clear what Par­nas intends to “start” by get­ting rid of Yovanovitch. Inter­est­ing­ly, if you lis­ten to the video direct­ly, right before Par­nas makes his “The biggest prob­lem there, I think where we need to start, is we got­ta get rid of the ambas­sador...” com­ment, Par­nas says “if we takeover...” Those are lit­er­al­ly the three words he says and then trails off before com­plet­ing the sen­tence before tran­si­tion to “The biggest prob­lem there...”. “If we take over...”. That of course rais­es the ques­tion of what he was propos­ing “we take over.” With the obvi­ous answer being the Naftogaz ener­gy board because that was lit­er­al­ly the scheme from the very beg­gin­ing. That was why they set up the ener­gy com­pa­ny and paid $325,000 to a Trump super­PAC. So they could lob­by about the scheme to take over the board of Naftogaz and set up self-enrich­ing deals export­ing US LNG to Ukraine. So when Par­nas says “If we take over” and trails off right before call­ing for Yovanovitch’s fir­ing, that strong­ly sug­gests Trump knew at that point about their Naftogaz takeover scheme.

    That’s why it makes sense we hear in the min­utes lead­ing up to that moment a geopo­lit­i­cal dis­cus­sion about the ener­gy exports, Ukraine’s ener­gy sec­tor, and the con­flict with Ukraine and Rus­sia. It’s that con­text that’s used to jus­ti­fy US LNG exports to Ukraine. Par­nas’s and Fru­man’s Naftogaz scheme was osten­si­bly sup­posed to help with the con­flict with Rus­sia, which is pre­sum­ably the cov­er sto­ry that they were plan­ning on using for the plan to take over the Naftogaz board and set up a bunch of LNG export deals for their co-schemers. And that’s what makes Par­nas’s mys­te­ri­ous “If we take over” com­ment that he makes at exact­ly 42:05 in the video like­ly a ref­er­ence to the planned takeover of Naftogaz. Their takeover of Naftogaz’s super­vi­so­ry board so they could set up crony LNG export deals was cru­cial for the scheme and sell­ing it as good for Ukraine in its fight with Rus­sia was a cru­cial cov­er sto­ry for a scheme that auda­cious. And get­ting rid of Yovanovitch real­ly was crit­i­cal for tak­ing over Naftogaz. She would have blocked it.

    And that’s what makes the sec­ond video of a meet­ing Par­nas and Fru­man had with Trump 10 days ear­li­er so intrigu­ing. Because Par­nas’s mys­te­ri­ous “if we take over” com­ment where he seems to catch him­self and cut him­self off make more sense if they had an ear­li­er meet­ing with Trump where they already dis­cussed this issue. And once again we have a 37 minute video made by Igor Fru­man (and released by Lev Par­nas) that appears to encom­pass the entire meet­ing. Lev, Igor, and a group of oth­er peo­ple who are pre­sum­ably donors gath­er in a room for a 20 minute meet­ing with Trump (Trump shows up around ~9 min­utes in the video). Trump gives a kind of self pep-talk for a few min­utes and even­tu­al­ly there’s a Syr­i­an Amer­i­can lob­by­ing group that makes their case to Trump for a a pol­i­cy to get rid of Assad. But Lev and Igor nev­er appear to make their case to Trump in the 37 min­utes. There’s a peri­od at the end of the offi­cial gath­er­ing where Trump is meet­ing with the atten­dees and shak­ing hands so it’s pos­si­ble they got to make their case to Trump about Naftogaz dur­ing that peri­od. And Lev does get his pic­ture with Trump (at 35:11 in the video) after the meet­ing. It looks like every­one its just tak­ing turns get­ting their pic­tures with Trump. Fru­man’s video ends with his appear to got to a restroom and almost pee before turn­ing it off. So it’s pos­si­ble he and Fru­man went and had a more detailed chat with Trump about Naftogaz after Fru­man was done pee­ing. We don’t know. We just know they did­n’t real­ly get a chance to do much oth­er than get Lev­’s pic­ture with Trump from what we see in the video.

    The arti­cle describes the Syr­i­an-Amer­i­can lob­by­ing effort as being led by Rim Al-Bezem, a Penn­syl­va­nia car­di­ol­o­gist who is the pres­i­dent of the Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion group called Cit­i­zens for a Secure and Safe Amer­i­ca. Al-Bezam donat­ed a total of $18,800 to the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee and its Sen­ate cam­paign arm and rais­es mon­ey from oth­er Syr­i­an-Amer­i­can activists. That was part of the cost of get­ting into that din­ner. Five days before the April 20 meet­ing, Bri­an Bal­lard, a top fund-rais­er for Trump and the Repub­li­can Par­ty, reg­is­tered to lob­by for Al-Bezem’s Cit­i­zens for a Secure and Safe Amer­i­ca, which paid Bal­lard’s firm $350,000 in 2018 and 2019. This was two days after the April 13 US airstrikes on Syr­i­an gov­ern­ment air­fields in retal­i­a­tion for the alleged use of chem­i­cal weapons by the Assad gov­ern­ment against the rebels (based on OPCW find­ings that are now chal­lenged by whistle­blow­ers). Al-Bezem is heard on the video thank­ing Trump for the airstrikes and lob­by­ing for a hard­er line against Assad and the need for his over­throw. It’s anoth­er exam­ple of for­eign pol­i­cy lob­by­ing at one of these din­ners for large donors. It’s also now rel­e­vant in the con­text of the cur­rent show­down between Turkey and Assad/Russia over Idlib. The arti­cle men­tions how Dr. Al-Bezem had a lun­cheon with Trump months lat­er at a dif­fer­ent fundrais­er where she plead­ed for the US to pro­tect Idlib. There’s pre­sum­ably been a lot more lobbying/donations on the issue since.

    So when we learn about this new ear­li­er April 20, 2018, meet­ing where Trump met Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man met with Trump, we can’t hear them dis­cussing the scheme in the full 37 minute video of a donor gath­er­ing with Trump. But we can see Trump min­gling with the donor infor­mal­ly at the end of the video so it’s pos­si­ble they dis­cussed it with him there. But they’re clear­ly top donors if they’re meet­ing Trump so it seems like a good bet they got to have their pri­vate chit chat with him at some point soon after that short meet­ing cap­tured in the record­ing and well before the sec­ond meet­ing ten days lat­er:

    The New York Times

    Record­ing Sur­faces of Anoth­er Trump Meet­ing With Par­nas and Fru­man
    The pres­i­dent met twice in 10 days with donors who went on to become key play­ers in Rudolph W. Giuliani’s Ukraine pres­sure cam­paign.

    By Ben Prot­ess and Ken­neth P. Vogel
    Jan. 30, 2020

    A lawyer for Lev Par­nas, the for­mer asso­ciate of Pres­i­dent Trump’s per­son­al lawyer Rudolph W. Giu­liani who has offered to tes­ti­fy at the impeach­ment tri­al, released a new record­ing on Thurs­day of Mr. Trump meet­ing in April 2018 with a small group of donors at his pri­vate club in Flori­da.

    The record­ing doc­u­ment­ed the pres­ence of Mr. Par­nas and his busi­ness part­ner, Igor Fru­man, at the club, Mar-a-Lago, with the pres­i­dent, the first of two such donor gath­er­ings they par­tic­i­pat­ed in with him that month. They met with him again 10 days lat­er, on April 30, at his Wash­ing­ton hotel.

    ...

    In the record­ing, Mr. Trump can be heard dis­cussing his polling num­bers, the 2018 midterm elec­tions and a range of pol­i­cy issues of inter­est to the guests, includ­ing immi­gra­tion and the war in Syr­ia. The exchanges offered anoth­er win­dow into the president’s inter­ac­tions with his top finan­cial sup­port­ers — and, in one case, his open­ness to their con­cerns about a high-pro­file ele­ment of his for­eign pol­i­cy.

    The event was appar­ent­ly record­ed by Mr. Fru­man on his phone. In Octo­ber, fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors in New York charged Mr. Par­nas and Mr. Fru­man with cam­paign finance vio­la­tions, includ­ing what offi­cials said were efforts to mask their involve­ment in a $325,000 dona­tion to a pro-Trump fund-rais­ing com­mit­tee.

    The event at Mar-a-Lago was orga­nized by the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee and the Nation­al Repub­li­can Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee, and was attend­ed by Ron­na McDaniel, the chair­woman of the nation­al com­mit­tee, and Pete Ses­sions, a for­mer chair­man of the con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tee who was then a mem­ber of Con­gress from Texas.

    Ms. McDaniel greet­ed Mr. Par­nas and Mr. Fru­man famil­iar­ly, in the man­ner of a politi­cian who shakes the hands of thou­sands of peo­ple whose acquain­tance she may — or may not — have pre­vi­ous­ly made.

    “Hey, how are you?” she said to Mr. Fru­man. “Good to see you.”

    A spokesman for the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee dis­missed the greet­ing as insignif­i­cant.

    “On a giv­en day, the chair­woman greets hun­dreds if not thou­sands of peo­ple at events across the coun­try,” the spokesman said. “This is noth­ing more than that.”

    It was at that event that Mr. Par­nas met Mr. Ses­sions. The two men devel­oped a rela­tion­ship over the fol­low­ing weeks and months, records show. They would even­tu­al­ly dis­cuss remov­ing the Unit­ed States ambas­sador to Ukraine at the time, Marie L. Yovanovitch, which became a focus of the impeach­ment tri­al.

    Mr. Parnas’s lawyer, Joseph A. Bondy, had released anoth­er record­ing on Sat­ur­day of the donor din­ner held 10 days lat­er in Wash­ing­ton, at which the pres­i­dent dis­cussed Ms. Yovanovitch with Mr. Par­nas, Mr. Fru­man and oth­er donors.

    Among those acknowl­edged at the April 20 meet­ing in Flori­da was Bri­an Bal­lard, an influ­en­tial lob­by­ist who is a top fund-rais­er for Mr. Trump and the Repub­li­can Par­ty.

    Five days before the event, Mr. Bal­lard reg­is­tered to lob­by for a Unit­ed States-based Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion group called Cit­i­zens for a Secure and Safe Amer­i­ca, which paid his firm $350,000 in 2018 and 2019. He rec­om­mend­ed that the group’s lead­ers take their case against Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad direct­ly to Mr. Trump by pay­ing to attend a fund-rais­ing event, accord­ing to a report in The Wall Street Jour­nal last year.

    Rim Al-Bezem, a Penn­syl­va­nia car­di­ol­o­gist who is the pres­i­dent of the Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion group, donat­ed a total of $18,800 to the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee and its Sen­ate cam­paign arm. In an inter­view, she said she raised addi­tion­al mon­ey from oth­er Syr­i­an-Amer­i­can activists.

    As a result, she and an asso­ciate secured invi­ta­tions to the April 20, 2018, Mar-a-Lago round table, which came a week after Mr. Trump ordered airstrikes against Syr­i­an research, stor­age and mil­i­tary tar­gets to pun­ish Mr. Assad for a sus­pect­ed chem­i­cal attack that killed more than 40 peo­ple.

    At Mar-a-Lago, Dr. Al-Bezem can be heard on the record­ing telling Mr. Trump: “I’m here to thank you very much for your coura­geous acts. I can­not tell you how much Syr­i­an Amer­i­cans are indebt­ed to you.”

    Mr. Trump replied, “So they like the raid?”

    Dr. Al-Bezem and her asso­ciate assured the pres­i­dent that Syr­i­an-Amer­i­cans were thank­ful, but also pushed Mr. Trump to take a hard­er line against Mr. Assad.

    “Well, give me infor­ma­tion on that, O.K.?” Mr. Trump asked the women. “Because I talk about it all the time.”

    Four months lat­er, Dr. Al-Bezem raised an even more acute con­cern at anoth­er round table with Mr. Trump — this one ben­e­fit­ing the Mike Braun’s cam­paign for Sen­ate in Indi­ana, to which Dr. Al-Bezem donat­ed $1,000. Mr. Assad’s mil­i­tary and its Russ­ian allies were prepar­ing to launch an attack on Idlib province, the lone remain­ing major rebel strong­hold in Syr­ia, Dr. Al-Bezem told the pres­i­dent, urg­ing him to inter­vene.

    Days lat­er, Mr. Trump tweet­ed a warn­ing to Mr. Assad and his allies against “this poten­tial human tragedy,” which his top offi­cials echoed in a pres­sure cam­paign. Mr. Assad did not attack, and Mr. Trump cred­it­ed Dr. Al-Bezem with draw­ing atten­tion his atten­tion to the issue.

    “I whole­heart­ed­ly believe that Pres­i­dent Trump’s inter­ven­tion had avert­ed that attack,” Dr. Al-Bezem said in an inter­view on Thurs­day. She reject­ed the sug­ges­tion that her dona­tions paved the way for Mr. Trump to hear her con­cerns.

    “I don’t think it was a donor access thing. I think it was a human access thing,” she said. “The pres­i­dent lis­tened to me because he got the chance to maybe hear for the first time what’s hap­pen­ing in Syr­ia from a Syr­i­an-Amer­i­can.”

    ———-

    “Record­ing Sur­faces of Anoth­er Trump Meet­ing With Par­nas and Fru­man” by Ben Prot­ess and Ken­neth P. Vogel; The New York Times; 01/30/2020

    “The record­ing doc­u­ment­ed the pres­ence of Mr. Par­nas and his busi­ness part­ner, Igor Fru­man, at the club, Mar-a-Lago, with the pres­i­dent, the first of two such donor gath­er­ings they par­tic­i­pat­ed in with him that month. They met with him again 10 days lat­er, on April 30, at his Wash­ing­ton hotel.”

    The first of two meet­ings with Trump in late April of 2018. That’s cer­tain­ly the sign of access. They bought Trump’s ear. But we don’t hear them whis­per­ing in his ear in the full 37 minute minute they released so it seems like there’s much to this part fo the sto­ry that we have yet to learn.

    It sounds like this was the event were Par­nas and Fru­man met Jeff Ses­sion, who would go on to work with them. That makes Pete Ses­sions part of the whole Naftogaz scan­dal quite pos­si­bly:

    ...
    The event at Mar-a-Lago was orga­nized by the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee and the Nation­al Repub­li­can Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee, and was attend­ed by Ron­na McDaniel, the chair­woman of the nation­al com­mit­tee, and Pete Ses­sions, a for­mer chair­man of the con­gres­sion­al com­mit­tee who was then a mem­ber of Con­gress from Texas.

    Ms. McDaniel greet­ed Mr. Par­nas and Mr. Fru­man famil­iar­ly, in the man­ner of a politi­cian who shakes the hands of thou­sands of peo­ple whose acquain­tance she may — or may not — have pre­vi­ous­ly made.

    “Hey, how are you?” she said to Mr. Fru­man. “Good to see you.”

    A spokesman for the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee dis­missed the greet­ing as insignif­i­cant.

    “On a giv­en day, the chair­woman greets hun­dreds if not thou­sands of peo­ple at events across the coun­try,” the spokesman said. “This is noth­ing more than that.”

    It was at that event that Mr. Par­nas met Mr. Ses­sions. The two men devel­oped a rela­tion­ship over the fol­low­ing weeks and months, records show. They would even­tu­al­ly dis­cuss remov­ing the Unit­ed States ambas­sador to Ukraine at the time, Marie L. Yovanovitch, which became a focus of the impeach­ment tri­al.

    ...

    And then there’s the sep­a­rate sto­ry of the lob­by­ing by the Syr­i­an Amer­i­can group. Unlike Par­nas and Fruf­man’s scheme, the lob­by­ing by Dr. Rim Al-Bezem appeared to be entire­ly focused on the Syr­i­an rebels. It was very dif­fer­ent for­eign pol­i­cy lob­by­ing in that respect com­pared to Par­nas and Fru­man’s scheme. Dr. Al-Bezem does­n’t appear to be involved in self-deal­ing. But her pres­ences at this meet­ing cap­tured in the video is still notable in how it shows the price of lob­by­ing in DC. It’s what­ev­er it costs to get a din­ner with the pres­i­dent. Tens of thou­sands of dol­lars maybe? The prices pre­sum­ably fluc­tu­ate with the sleazi­ness of the admin­is­tra­tions. Dr. Al-Bezen had a lun­cheon with Trump again four months lat­er at a fundrais­er for Repub­li­can sen­a­tor Mike Braun. It’s a peek behind the cur­tain. A peek of very expen­sive meals where Trump goes around giv­ing these pri­vate din­ners to big mega donors. He does it for sen­a­tors or the RNC or pro-Trump super­PACs. Trump is there, ready to have din­ner with lob­by­ists, with it involves a for­eign nat­ur­al gas scheme or a for­eign civ­il war. It’s play to play for every­one:

    ...
    Among those acknowl­edged at the April 20 meet­ing in Flori­da was Bri­an Bal­lard, an influ­en­tial lob­by­ist who is a top fund-rais­er for Mr. Trump and the Repub­li­can Par­ty.

    Five days before the event, Mr. Bal­lard reg­is­tered to lob­by for a Unit­ed States-based Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion group called Cit­i­zens for a Secure and Safe Amer­i­ca, which paid his firm $350,000 in 2018 and 2019. He rec­om­mend­ed that the group’s lead­ers take their case against Pres­i­dent Bashar al-Assad direct­ly to Mr. Trump by pay­ing to attend a fund-rais­ing event, accord­ing to a report in The Wall Street Jour­nal last year.

    Rim Al-Bezem, a Penn­syl­va­nia car­di­ol­o­gist who is the pres­i­dent of the Syr­i­an oppo­si­tion group, donat­ed a total of $18,800 to the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee and its Sen­ate cam­paign arm. In an inter­view, she said she raised addi­tion­al mon­ey from oth­er Syr­i­an-Amer­i­can activists.

    As a result, she and an asso­ciate secured invi­ta­tions to the April 20, 2018, Mar-a-Lago round table, which came a week after Mr. Trump ordered airstrikes against Syr­i­an research, stor­age and mil­i­tary tar­gets to pun­ish Mr. Assad for a sus­pect­ed chem­i­cal attack that killed more than 40 peo­ple.

    ...

    Four months lat­er, Dr. Al-Bezem raised an even more acute con­cern at anoth­er round table with Mr. Trump — this one ben­e­fit­ing the Mike Braun’s cam­paign for Sen­ate in Indi­ana, to which Dr. Al-Bezem donat­ed $1,000. Mr. Assad’s mil­i­tary and its Russ­ian allies were prepar­ing to launch an attack on Idlib province, the lone remain­ing major rebel strong­hold in Syr­ia, Dr. Al-Bezem told the pres­i­dent, urg­ing him to inter­vene.
    ...

    Whether you’re look­ing to lob­by­ing to take over a for­eign state-owned nat­ur­al gas com­pa­ny for per­son­al prof­it or lob­by­ing on behalf of a rebel group, you’re to have to pay. Tens of thou­sands of dol­lars just as the cost of entry.

    So at this point we still don’t quite know what Lev Par­nas meant when he talked about “get­ting start­ed” by hav­ing Trump fire Marie Yovanovitch dur­ing their con­ver­sa­tion at the April 30, 2018, donor gath­er­ing. And we don’t yet know if they dis­cussed their Naftogaz scheme with Trump ten days ear­li­er. But we do now know that the con­ver­sa­tion they were hav­ing at that April 30 meet­ing that led up to the “Get rid of her!” com­ment by Trump was prob­a­bly a con­tin­u­a­tion of con­ver­sa­tion they got start­ed ten days ear­li­er at the Mar a Lago event. Which was prob­a­bly a con­ver­sa­tion about Naftogaz because what else could it have been about.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 10, 2020, 1:14 am
  6. There was a new lay­er of fraud added to the the whole #UkraineGate scan­dal this week. It involves Fraud Guar­an­tee, the com­pa­ny start­ed by Par­nas and Fru­man that end­ed up hir­ing Rudy Giu­liani for $500,000. Specif­i­cal­ly, it involves fraud by Fraud Guar­an­tee. More specif­i­cal­ly, it involves fraud relat­ed to what Rudy Giu­liani did in exchange for that $500,000. Yes, at the same time Giu­liani was orches­trat­ing the witch hunt against Hunter Biden he was hired by Par­nas and Fru­man’s com­pa­ny $500,000 to do what appears to be noth­ing. Or at least hard­ly any work. It’s unclear what, if any, work Giu­liani actu­al­ly did for Fraud Guar­an­tee which is where the fraud comes in. Sur­prise!

    So what was the Fraud Guar­an­tee fraud involv­ing Rudy’s $500,000? Well, as part of their net­work­ing with Flori­da Repub­li­cans Par­nas and Fru­man had been pitch­ing their Fraud Guar­an­tee com­pa­ny look­ing for investors. They met with a num­ber of wealthy Repub­li­can donors in Flori­da and one, Charles Guc­cia­r­do, decid­ed to invest for $500,000. Guc­cia­r­do’s $500,000 invest­ment was the mon­ey Fraud Guar­an­tee paid to Giu­liani. And he paid with the expec­ta­tion that Giu­liani would actu­al­ly do real mar­ket­ing work­ing, pitch­ing Fraud Guar­an­tee’s ser­vices to the pub­lic in the same way Giu­liani was the pitch­man for Life­Lock, the iden­ti­fy-theft pro­tec­tion firm. Fraud Gau­ran­tee’s osten­sivle prod­uct was sim­i­lar to Life­Lock­’s in that it was sup­posed to be insur­ance against fraud. So Giu­liani made sense as a pitch­man for Fraud Guar­an­tee’s ser­vices and that’s what Guc­cia­r­do paid for but Giu­liani did­n’t do that at all.

    It’s not clear what Giu­liani did for Fraud Guar­an­tee. His attor­ney said Giu­liani under­stand that his work would be sim­i­lar to what he did for Life­Lock and that he pro­vid­ed legal ser­vices. But sources close to the com­pa­ny say he did­n’t pro­vide any legal ser­vices and it’s clear he did­n’t do any of the pub­lic pitch­ing he did for Life­Lock. So it’s legit­i­mate­ly a mys­tery as to what Giu­liani did. And Guc­cia­r­do seems legit­i­mate­ly pissed about it. Like he was straight up scammed by Giu­liani. At least Hunter Biden is osten­si­bly over­paid to pro­vide some sort of inter­na­tion­al anti-cor­rup­tion stan­dards advice for Buris­ma. Giu­liani is straight-up scam­ming GOP mega-donors with his fake job at Fraud Guar­an­tee and that’s what SDNY inves­ti­ga­tors in New York are look­ing into:

    CNN

    Fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors weigh new charges that bring Lev Par­nas inves­ti­ga­tion clos­er to Giu­liani

    By Kara Scan­nell and Eri­ca Orden,

    Updat­ed 2:13 PM ET, Mon Feb­ru­ary 17, 2020

    New York (CNN)Federal pros­e­cu­tors are weigh­ing new charges against asso­ciates of Rudy Giu­liani in con­nec­tion with a com­pa­ny that paid him $500,000, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Pros­e­cu­tors with the US attor­ney’s office for the South­ern Dis­trict of New York are con­sid­er­ing whether to charge Giu­liani asso­ciate Lev Par­nas and at least one of his busi­ness part­ners with mis­lead­ing poten­tial investors for Fraud Guar­an­tee, the Flori­da-based com­pa­ny that paid Giu­liani, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s per­son­al attor­ney, these peo­ple say. Par­nas co-found­ed Fraud Guar­an­tee with the idea of pro­vid­ing insur­ance to com­pa­nies to pro­tect against fraud.

    The scruti­ny of Fraud Guar­an­tee brings the inves­ti­ga­tion clos­er to Giu­liani, Trump’s vocal defend­er, and rais­es ques­tions about what role the for­mer may­or played, if any, in the mar­ket­ing of the com­pa­ny. A lawyer for Giu­liani said his client nev­er had any con­ver­sa­tions about investor pitch­es or mar­ket­ing with Par­nas or his busi­ness part­ner David Cor­reia.

    Fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors in Man­hat­tan for months have been inves­ti­gat­ing Giu­lian­i’s actions, includ­ing his efforts to oust Marie Yovanovitch, then-US ambas­sador to Ukraine, and push for an inves­ti­ga­tion into the son of Trump’s polit­i­cal rival Joe Biden. Giu­liani has not been accused of wrong­do­ing. Yovanovitch was recalled ear­ly from her posi­tion in April 2019.

    In the case of Fraud Guar­an­tee, inves­ti­ga­tors have focused on the mar­ket­ing pitch, specif­i­cal­ly exam­in­ing whether the men duped investors about the val­ue of the com­pa­ny and how they intend­ed to use the pro­ceeds, the peo­ple famil­iar with the inves­ti­ga­tion say.

    FBI agents and pros­e­cu­tors inter­viewed investors who were pitched on the com­pa­ny, and through sub­poe­nas have obtained text mes­sages and oth­er doc­u­ments relat­ed to the effort. One per­son with knowl­edge of the com­pa­ny has said the men spent pro­ceeds from investors on pricey per­son­al expens­es.

    The new charges, if they are brought, would sig­nif­i­cant­ly increase the legal pres­sure on Par­nas and Cor­reia. Those men, plus Igor Fru­man, anoth­er Par­nas busi­ness asso­ciate, and Andrey Kukushkin, an asso­ciate in a mar­i­jua­na ven­ture, have been charged by Man­hat­tan fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors with cam­paign finance vio­la­tions relat­ing to dona­tions they made to US can­di­dates. All four have plead­ed not guilty.

    The tim­ing of any addi­tion­al charges is not clear. Pros­e­cu­tors have said in court that new charges in the case against Par­nas and the oth­er defen­dants are like­ly, but they have not spec­i­fied which charges or when they might be filed. The case is sched­uled to go to tri­al in ear­ly Octo­ber, which would mean tes­ti­mo­ny involv­ing Trump’s cir­cle could emerge in the final weeks of the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign.

    “We have tak­en into account pros­e­cu­tors’ state­ments that they might bring addi­tion­al charges against Mr. Par­nas and oth­ers since the incep­tion of this case. We are there­fore not sur­prised, and remain pre­pared to defend Mr. Par­nas against any such charges,” said Joseph Bondy, a lawyer for Par­nas.

    ...

    Court­ing Giu­liani

    The $500,000 pay­ment to Giu­liani for work with Fraud Guar­an­tee came just as Par­nas and Fru­man began help­ing Giu­liani arrange meet­ings in Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden, now a Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, and press the new­ly elect­ed pres­i­dent of Ukraine to announce an inves­ti­ga­tion into Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

    Trump’s attempts to pres­sure Ukraine to inves­ti­gate the Bidens were at the cen­ter of the Pres­i­den­t’s impeach­ment tri­al. Trump and his allies have repeat­ed­ly made unfound­ed and false claims to allege that the Bidens act­ed cor­rupt­ly in Ukraine.

    Fraud Guar­an­tee was set up by Par­nas and Cor­reia in 2013. They were pitch­ing their busi­ness as an insur­ance pol­i­cy for com­pa­nies to pro­tect against frauds. It isn’t clear whether they had any clients. In 2015, they were sued for not pay­ing $20,000 on a lease for office space the busi­ness claimed it was oper­at­ing from.

    By 2018, Par­nas, Cor­reia and Fru­man set up anoth­er com­pa­ny, Glob­al Ener­gy Pro­duc­ers, to break into the liq­ue­fied nat­ur­al gas busi­ness in Ukraine. They began donat­ing to Repub­li­can cam­paigns and super PACs to gain entry into exclu­sive din­ners, includ­ing mul­ti­ple events that gave them access to Trump.

    Accord­ing to the indict­ment, Par­nas and Fru­man had their own objec­tives and alleged­ly sought the removal of Yovanovitch to advance their own per­son­al finan­cial inter­ests, as well as the polit­i­cal inter­ests of at least one Ukrain­ian offi­cial.

    That year, they crossed paths with Giu­liani, who was work­ing on his own inves­ti­ga­tion in Ukraine for Trump. The for­mer New York City may­or was in the midst of an expen­sive divorce and was strapped for cash. Giu­liani has said he bor­rowed $100,000 from a friend, which the friend con­firms has near­ly been paid back in full.

    Giu­lian­i’s rela­tion­ship with Par­nas, Fru­man and Cor­reia appeared to solid­i­fy with the Fraud Guar­an­tee busi­ness deal. Par­nas and Fru­man would go on to help Giu­liani in his cam­paign to remove Yovanovitch in pur­suit of a Ukrain­ian inves­ti­ga­tion into the Bidens.

    Par­nas and Cor­reia pitched many wealthy GOP donors in Flori­da, and ulti­mate­ly Charles Guc­cia­r­do, a Repub­li­can donor and plain­tiffs’ lawyer, agreed to invest, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with their efforts.

    Guc­cia­r­do pro­vid­ed a $500,000 loan to Fraud Guar­an­tee, his lawyer, Randy Zelin, has pre­vi­ous­ly explained.

    Pur­suant to the writ­ten agree­ments Mr. Guc­cia­r­do entered into with the Com­pa­ny, his invest­ment, which was and remains a loan to the Com­pa­ny, was paid to Giu­liani Part­ners LLC on the Com­pa­ny’s behalf, pur­suant to the Com­pa­ny’s writ­ten instruc­tions,” Zelin said in a state­ment in Novem­ber.

    Accord­ing to Zelin, Guc­cia­r­do signed on with the invest­ment because of Giu­lian­i’s rep­u­ta­tion and because Guc­cia­r­do believed Giu­liani could pro­mote Fraud Guar­an­tee as he had anoth­er busi­ness, Life­Lock, which pitch­es itself as a way for clients to pro­tect against iden­ti­ty theft.

    Guc­cia­r­do “believed what Mr. Giu­liani did for Life­Lock, Mr. Giu­liani could and would do for the Com­pa­ny,” Zelin said. He also said the loan could be con­vert­ed to an equi­ty stake in the busi­ness.

    ...

    But Giu­liani nev­er did any pub­lic com­mer­cials or pitch­es for Fraud Guar­an­tee, and a per­son famil­iar with the com­pa­ny said Giu­liani did­n’t pro­vide any legal ser­vices.

    An attor­ney for Giu­liani said the for­mer may­or believed the pur­pose of Fraud Guar­an­tee was intend­ed to be sim­i­lar to that of Life­Lock and that Giu­liani had per­formed legal work. He also said Giu­liani did­n’t autho­rize either Par­nas or Cor­reia to make rep­re­sen­ta­tions about his involve­ment.

    ———–

    “Fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors weigh new charges that bring Lev Par­nas inves­ti­ga­tion clos­er to Giu­liani” by Kara Scan­nell and Eri­ca Orden; CNN; 02/17/2020

    Pros­e­cu­tors with the US attor­ney’s office for the South­ern Dis­trict of New York are con­sid­er­ing whether to charge Giu­liani asso­ciate Lev Par­nas and at least one of his busi­ness part­ners with mis­lead­ing poten­tial investors for Fraud Guar­an­tee, the Flori­da-based com­pa­ny that paid Giu­liani, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s per­son­al attor­ney, these peo­ple say. Par­nas co-found­ed Fraud Guar­an­tee with the idea of pro­vid­ing insur­ance to com­pa­nies to pro­tect against fraud.”

    Charges could come from Fraud Guar­an­tee’s fraud­u­lent pay­ments to Giu­liani. And the $500,000 pay­ment Giu­liani got for Fraud Guar­an­tee came just as Par­nas and Fru­man began help­ing Giu­liani arrange meet­ings in Ukraine to dig up dirg on the Bidens. That pay­ment appears to be what solid­i­fies Giu­lian­i’s rela­tion­ship with Par­nas and Fru­man. But the $500,000 mon­ey was spent on pricey per­son­al items accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the inves­ti­ga­tion. It’s unclear if that includes pricey per­son­al items for Giu­liani but he was the intend­ed recip­i­ent and it sounds like he got the entire $500,000 so he seems like­ly a rea­son­able sus­pect for the pricey per­son­al pur­chas­es:

    ...
    In the case of Fraud Guar­an­tee, inves­ti­ga­tors have focused on the mar­ket­ing pitch, specif­i­cal­ly exam­in­ing whether the men duped investors about the val­ue of the com­pa­ny and how they intend­ed to use the pro­ceeds, the peo­ple famil­iar with the inves­ti­ga­tion say.

    FBI agents and pros­e­cu­tors inter­viewed investors who were pitched on the com­pa­ny, and through sub­poe­nas have obtained text mes­sages and oth­er doc­u­ments relat­ed to the effort. One per­son with knowl­edge of the com­pa­ny has said the men spent pro­ceeds from investors on pricey per­son­al expens­es.

    The new charges, if they are brought, would sig­nif­i­cant­ly increase the legal pres­sure on Par­nas and Cor­reia. Those men, plus Igor Fru­man, anoth­er Par­nas busi­ness asso­ciate, and Andrey Kukushkin, an asso­ciate in a mar­i­jua­na ven­ture, have been charged by Man­hat­tan fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors with cam­paign finance vio­la­tions relat­ing to dona­tions they made to US can­di­dates. All four have plead­ed not guilty.

    ...

    Court­ing Giu­liani

    The $500,000 pay­ment to Giu­liani for work with Fraud Guar­an­tee came just as Par­nas and Fru­man began help­ing Giu­liani arrange meet­ings in Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden, now a Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, and press the new­ly elect­ed pres­i­dent of Ukraine to announce an inves­ti­ga­tion into Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

    ...

    Giu­lian­i’s rela­tion­ship with Par­nas, Fru­man and Cor­reia appeared to solid­i­fy with the Fraud Guar­an­tee busi­ness deal. Par­nas and Fru­man would go on to help Giu­liani in his cam­paign to remove Yovanovitch in pur­suit of a Ukrain­ian inves­ti­ga­tion into the Bidens.
    ...

    The fact that Giu­lian­i’s rela­tion­ship with Fraud Guar­an­tee was financed by this $500,000 invest­ment and hap­pened at the same time Par­nas and Fru­man began work­ing with Giu­lian­i’s Ukrain­ian adven­tures is part of what’s inter­est­ing about this case. The tim­ing makes it appear that the $500,000 was like a pay­ment by some­one to some­how pay Giu­liani for allow­ing Par­nas and Fru­man to get involved with the Ukrain­ian effort. And it’s entire­ly fea­si­ble that they would be in a posi­tion where Giu­liani could demand a pay­ment — in the form of $500,000 fake job — because Par­nas and Fru­man had the entire Naftogaz nat­ur­al gas scheme that required the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s coop­er­a­tion. Giu­liani was a gate­keep­er for Trump’s crony deals and that fake Fraud Guar­an­tee job was the price. So one might rea­son­ably assume the Flori­da Repub­li­can donor, Charles Guc­cia­r­do, made the $500,000 invest­ment that he knew was going to Giu­liani as some­how cov­er pay­ment for Giu­lian­i’s Ukrain­ian adven­tures with Par­nas and Fru­man.

    But we can’t dis­count the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Par­nas and Fru­man and Giu­liani were all just kind of scam­ming Guc­cia­r­do in order to raise the $500,000 they need­ed to buy off Giu­liani. The fact that it seems like 100% per­cent of Guc­cia­r­do’s pay­ment to Fraud Guar­an­tee went to Giu­liani makes it seem like Guc­cia­r­do was mak­ing a pay­ment Giu­liani and Fraud Guar­an­tee was the vehi­cle for that pay­ment. But Guc­cia­r­do seems to be legit­i­mate­ly pissed about get­ting scammed and Giu­liani not act­ing like a Life­Lock pub­lic pitch­man for Fraud Guar­an­tee. So maybe Giu­liani demand­ed $500,000 as pay­ment for allow­ing Par­nas to get White House access for his Naftogaz schemes and Par­nas raised that mon­ey by lying to Guc­cia­r­do what Giu­liani would be will­ing to do for Fraud Guar­an­tee. That sce­nario would explain Guc­cia­r­do act­ing like he was being scammed. He was scammed to pay Giu­lian­i’s fee. Maybe. There’s an inves­ti­ga­tion yet to be com­plet­ed. An inves­ti­ga­tion that involves fig­ur­ing out if Giuiani did any work for Fraud Guar­an­tee at all because that remains unclear:

    ...
    Par­nas and Cor­reia pitched many wealthy GOP donors in Flori­da, and ulti­mate­ly Charles Guc­cia­r­do, a Repub­li­can donor and plain­tiffs’ lawyer, agreed to invest, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with their efforts.

    Guc­cia­r­do pro­vid­ed a $500,000 loan to Fraud Guar­an­tee, his lawyer, Randy Zelin, has pre­vi­ous­ly explained.

    Pur­suant to the writ­ten agree­ments Mr. Guc­cia­r­do entered into with the Com­pa­ny, his invest­ment, which was and remains a loan to the Com­pa­ny, was paid to Giu­liani Part­ners LLC on the Com­pa­ny’s behalf, pur­suant to the Com­pa­ny’s writ­ten instruc­tions,” Zelin said in a state­ment in Novem­ber.

    Accord­ing to Zelin, Guc­cia­r­do signed on with the invest­ment because of Giu­lian­i’s rep­u­ta­tion and because Guc­cia­r­do believed Giu­liani could pro­mote Fraud Guar­an­tee as he had anoth­er busi­ness, Life­Lock, which pitch­es itself as a way for clients to pro­tect against iden­ti­ty theft.

    Guc­cia­r­do “believed what Mr. Giu­liani did for Life­Lock, Mr. Giu­liani could and would do for the Com­pa­ny,” Zelin said. He also said the loan could be con­vert­ed to an equi­ty stake in the busi­ness.

    ...

    But Giu­liani nev­er did any pub­lic com­mer­cials or pitch­es for Fraud Guar­an­tee, and a per­son famil­iar with the com­pa­ny said Giu­liani did­n’t pro­vide any legal ser­vices.

    An attor­ney for Giu­liani said the for­mer may­or believed the pur­pose of Fraud Guar­an­tee was intend­ed to be sim­i­lar to that of Life­Lock and that Giu­liani had per­formed legal work. He also said Giu­liani did­n’t autho­rize either Par­nas or Cor­reia to make rep­re­sen­ta­tions about his involve­ment.
    ...

    And note how the tri­al Par­nas is cur­rent­ly fac­ing — that might face new charges relat­ed to all this — is sched­uled to start in Octo­ber, weeks before the elec­tion. So could become a par­tic­u­lar­ly polit­i­cal­ly impor­tant case if the #UkraineGate scan­dal ends up bring an elec­tion issue. Espe­cial­ly since the tri­al could involve the tes­ti­mo­ny of Trump’s inner cir­cle like Giu­liani:

    ...
    The tim­ing of any addi­tion­al charges is not clear. Pros­e­cu­tors have said in court that new charges in the case against Par­nas and the oth­er defen­dants are like­ly, but they have not spec­i­fied which charges or when they might be filed. The case is sched­uled to go to tri­al in ear­ly Octo­ber, which would mean tes­ti­mo­ny involv­ing Trump’s cir­cle could emerge in the final weeks of the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cam­paign.

    “We have tak­en into account pros­e­cu­tors’ state­ments that they might bring addi­tion­al charges against Mr. Par­nas and oth­ers since the incep­tion of this case. We are there­fore not sur­prised, and remain pre­pared to defend Mr. Par­nas against any such charges,” said Joseph Bondy, a lawyer for Par­nas.
    ...

    So we might learn more about the nature of what Charles Guc­cia­r­do thought he was buy­ing with his $500,000 invest­ment in Fraud Guar­an­tee that went straight to Giu­liani. Did he think he was buy­ing off Giu­liani or legit­i­mate­ly invest­ing in his pitch man ser­vices like he did for Life­Lock? If it’s the lat­ter, Guc­cia­r­do has a rea­son to be pissed. Giu­liani did noth­ing or at least has yet to explain what he did. So we’ll see if Par­nas scammed Guc­cia­r­do but the fact that Giu­liani appears to have done noth­ing in exchange for that $500,000 indi­cates he def­i­nite­ly grift­ed Guc­cia­r­do. Giu­liani just took the mon­ey and pro­vide some mys­tery ser­vices to Fraud Guar­an­tee in return. And that turns out to have been fraud. Maybe. We’ll see if there’s an inves­ti­ga­tion and what it says. Maybe right before the elec­tion.

    So that’s an entire­ly new scan­dalous lay­er to the sto­ry of Lev Par­nas, Igor Fru­man, and Rudy Giu­liani and the ori­gin of their rela­tion­ship. They share the bond of scam­ming a Flori­da GOP mega-donor to pay off Rudy appar­ent­ly. That’s how they cement­ed their ties. Scam­ming Guc­cia­r­do. That’s got to be like blood broth­er stuff in Repub­li­can huck­ster cir­cles. And then Par­nas betrayed Giu­liani be turn­ing states evi­dence. The tri­al has it all.

    The irony with all this is that the whole sto­ry is an exam­ple of why there should be a mar­ket for Fraud Guar­an­tee’s ser­vices. For deal­ing with right-wing oper­a­tives. It seems like there would be a big mar­ket.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 23, 2020, 12:36 am
  7. It’s Baaaaack! Yes, it’s look­ing like the #UkraineGate fias­co is going to be return­ing to the head­lines now that Joe Biden is look­ing more and more like the like­ly Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee. If Joe Biden gets the nom­i­na­tion we’re in store for a mas­sive push by the Trump team to jus­ti­fy the entire scan­dalous #UkraineGate shake­down scheme by mak­ing it look like there real­ly was some mas­sive scan­dal involv­ing Joe and Hunter Biden that jus­ti­fied extort­ing the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment. It’s not just inevitable. It’s already start­ed with even Repub­li­can Sen­a­tor Mitt Rom­ney, who vot­ed to con­vict Trump dur­ing the #UkraineGate impeach­ment tri­al, agree­ing to sup­port the Repub­li­can Sen­a­tors push­ing to sub­poe­na records on Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine that just start­ed up last week fol­low­ing Biden’s big Super Tues­day pri­ma­ry win.

    And that all means the entire Naftogaz side of the #UkraineGate scan­dal is going to at least be tan­gen­tial­ly back in the news for the fore­see­able future too, which is par­tic­u­lar­ly tan­ta­liz­ing since this part of the #UkraineGate scan­dal has nev­er real­ly been ade­quate­ly explored. Part of the rea­son the Naftogaz chap­ter was­n’t giv­en near­ly as much cov­er­age as the Biden/Burisma side of the sto­ry is that it was the Biden/Burisma side that involved the obvi­ous­ly impeach­able offens­es of extort­ing the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment into open show tri­al inves­ti­ga­tions into Trump’s polit­i­cal oppo­nent. The Naftogaz side of the sto­ry is more just insid­er-deal­ing scan­dal that, while super cor­rupt, was more tra­di­tion­al­ly swampy. Shak­ing down a gov­ern­ment for show tri­als is the unam­bigu­ous­ly impeach­able offense in the larg­er #UkraineGate sto­ry. The Naftogaz side was the kind of offense that should be impeach­able but it so typ­i­cal of the cur­rent Trumpian swamp that it bare­ly gath­ered any out­rage.

    But here’s an arti­cle that hints at one of the oth­er like­ly rea­sons the Naftogaz sto­ry has­n’t received near­ly as much atten­tion: The US real­ly has had a pol­i­cy of pro­mot­ing US liq­uid nat­ur­al gas (LNG) exports to Ukraine as part of its broad­er anti-Rus­sia pol­i­cy. And that pol­i­cy has broad bi-par­ti­san sup­port. It’s a sit­u­a­tion that gives poten­tial cov­er to the scheme involv­ing Lev Par­nas, Igor Fru­man, Ener­gy Sec­re­tary Rick Per­ry, Rudy Giu­liani and the oth­er cast of char­ac­ters involved in the plot to takeover Naftogaz’s board. They can always argue they were just try­ing to advance US inter­ests. That’s obvi­ous­ly going to be part of their expla­na­tion.

    And that’s why it’s impor­tant for the pub­lic to under­stand that the Naftogaz side of the #UkraineGate sto­ry involved a scheme to first get ambas­sador Marie Yovanovitch fired and then stack the Naftogaz board with cronies who will approve lucra­tive LNG-export deals for the co-schemers. It was emblem­at­ic of ‘the Swamp’ in the worst way. Yes, it was a scheme that was con­sis­tent with a broad­er US pol­i­cy of replac­ing Russ­ian dom­i­na­tion of the Euro­pean LNG mar­ket with US exports so it’s not quite as easy to crit­i­cize the Naftogaz com­po­nent of this sto­ry as it was to crit­i­cize the deci­sion to with­hold mil­i­tary aide unless Ukraine open show tri­als against the Bidens. They’re both sto­ries of swampy cor­rup­tion, but there’s not real­ly any com­po­nent of the Biden/Burisma/shakedown part of the sto­ry that was con­sis­tent with broad­er US pol­i­cy oth­er than the absur­dist claims that it was moti­vat­ed by anti-cor­rup­tion charges. The Naftogaz sto­ry at least involved increas­ing US LNG exports to Ukraine which is one of the key defens­es made by the Trump team to jus­ti­fy it. And that’s why it’s going to be cru­cial for the pub­lic to rec­og­nize that the Naftogaz scheme was incred­i­bly cor­rupt and a per­fect­ly exam­ple of of ‘The Swamp’. It’s the kind of cor­rup­tion that should spark out­rage both because it was out­ra­geous and entire­ly pre­dictable. It’s so bad you have to imag­ine that in addi­tion to mak­ing a pre-emp­tive polit­i­cal hit on one of Trump’s like­li­est oppo­nents in 2020, part of the motive for going as far as extort­ing Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky to force an inves­ti­ga­tion on the Bidens was to cre­ate cov­er over fear of the pub­lic response to the crazi­ly cor­rupt LNG scheme they were car­ry­ing out with Naftogaz. If there’s even­tu­al­ly a pub­lic uproar over the scan­dalous­ly swampy nature of Naftogaz scheme it will be extreme­ly handy for the GOP to just repeat ‘Biden/Burisma’ over and over as a whataboutism defense which had to be at least part of the motive of pur­su­ing the Biden Ukraine inves­ti­ga­tion so aggres­sive­ly.

    So how does the fol­low­ing RFERL arti­cle relate to all of that? Well, it sounds like there’s a new sit­u­a­tion aris­ing involv­ing Ukraine’s nat­ur­al gas sec­tor and US LNG exports where US sanc­tions on Rus­sia could lead to an increase in US LNG exports to Ukraine. It’s pro­posed US sanc­tions on Euro­pean com­pa­nies that are involved with the con­struc­tion of the Nord Stream 2 under­sea nat­ur­al gas pipeline from Rus­sia to Ger­many that the US has been oppos­ing. The argu­ments against the pipeline aren’t with­out mer­it. Ger­many is an obvi­ous major ben­e­fi­cia­ry of the pipeline but Nord Stream 2 is going to have a huge impact on the trea­suries of East Euro­pean coun­tries like Ukraine which will no longer be able to col­lect the tran­sit fees for the nat­ur­al gas pipelines run­ning from Rus­sia to the rest of Europe. It’s not a triv­ial event in terms of the rel­a­tive lever­age of Rus­sia to its east­ern Euro­pean neigh­bors and it’s cer­tain­ly not the kind of devel­op that’s in keep­ing with the West­’s ongo­ing Russ­ian eco­nom­ic con­tain­ment pol­i­cy (Ger­many being an obvi­ous excep­tion). Ukraine espe­cial­ly has a rea­son to freak out about it because one thing that’s ensure Ukraine’s access to Russ­ian gas in recent years despite Ukraine’s extreme hos­til­i­ties with Rus­sia is Rus­si­a’s need to use Ukraine to trans­fer nat­ur­al gas to the rest of Europe. When Nord Stream 2 comes online it’s going to be be a lot eas­i­er to cut Ukraine’s nat­ur­al gas off when ten­sions flare up. That’s what US offers of LNG sup­plies to Ukraine are such a big part of the Nord Stream 2 fight.

    The US is offi­cial­ly against Nord Stream 2 and has been try­ing to thwart its con­struc­tion through var­i­ous legal maneu­vers. As the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, the US sanc­tioned in Decem­ber any ships help­ing Gazprom lay under­sea cable in the Baltic Sea, forc­ing Switzer­land’s Allseas Group to aban­don the project and leav­ing a gap in the Den­mark por­tion of the pipeline. And the US still has the sanc­tion­ing pow­er it needs to end Nord Stream 2. At least that’s accord­ing to Andriy Kobolyev, the cur­rent CEO of Naftogaz. Recall that Kobolyev is one of the fig­ures the co-schemers want­ed to replace on Naftogaz’s board with Andrew Favorov who was seen as pass­ing Repub­li­can muster, but Favorov was per­son­al friends with Kobolyev and told him about it. Kobolyev is still Naftogaz’s CEO and now he’s lob­by­ing the US to stop Nord Stream 2 with addi­tion­al sanc­tions.

    Kobolyev has even float­ed the idea of US LNG pro­duc­ers stor­ing their EU-bound LNG in Ukraine’s stor­age facil­i­ties over the sum­mer. So he seems very keen on get­ting US LNG pumped into Ukraine.

    That’s the sto­ry that’s devel­op­ing involv­ing Naftogaz and it’s a sto­ry that involves US LNG export con­tracts to Ukraine because the US is the obvi­ous replace­ment for the Russ­ian nat­ur­al gas that Europe is sup­posed to be weened off of as part of this larg­er Russ­ian con­tain­ment pol­i­cy. So the ques­tion of who might get those US LNG export con­tracts is sud­den­ly more rel­e­vant which is fas­ci­nat­ing since those were the exact con­tracts the co-schemers were try­ing to cor­rupt.

    Koboloyev had a meet­ing with mem­bers of Con­gress on March 3rd. The mem­bers, led by Ted Cruz, appear inter­est­ing in doing what they can to stop the pipeline and accord­ing to Kobolyev fol­low­ing the meet­ing, “There is a very ele­gant and effi­cient way avail­able to the U.S. gov­ern­ment to make sure this pipeline will nev­er hap­pen and we believe that this should be done.” So it’s very pos­si­ble the US gov­ern­ment is going to be using the build­ing of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as an addi­tion rea­son to export US LNG to Ukraine. We’ll see if the US decides to use that “very ele­gant and effi­cient way” to stop Nord Stream 2 from being com­plet­ed but either way there will prob­a­bly be offers of US LNG exports. Who is going to get those US-to-Ukraine export con­tracts? That’s all why that is going to be a sto­ry to watch. And since it’s a sto­ry that involves the poten­tial sign­ing of US-Ukraine LNG exports it’s a sto­ry that could be use­ful remind­ing the pub­lic of how deeply cor­rupt the Naftogaz com­po­nent of the #UkraineGate sto­ry real­ly was:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty

    More Nord Stream 2 Sanc­tions On Hori­zon? U.S. Sen­a­tor And Ukraine’s Naftogaz Dis­cuss Ways To Halt Con­tro­ver­sial Gas Pipeline

    By Todd Prince
    March 07, 2020 21:37 GMT

    U.S. and Ukrain­ian efforts to stop Rus­si­a’s Nord Stream 2 project from being com­plet­ed have not end­ed with the Decem­ber pas­sage of U.S. sanc­tions that have effec­tive­ly pre­vent­ed ves­sels from lay­ing the final stretch of the nat­ur­al-gas pipeline.

    Andriy Kobolyev, the chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of Ukraine’s state-owned gas giant Naftogaz, trav­eled to the Unit­ed States in ear­ly March to lob­by for mea­sures to fur­ther stall the $11 bil­lion pipeline that aims to reroute Euro­pean Union-bound Russ­ian gas sup­plies, cir­cum­vent­ing estab­lished routes through Ukraine.

    Krem­lin-con­trolled Gazprom is seek­ing to use its own ves­sel to com­plete the last 160 kilo­me­ters of the pipeline along the bot­tom of the Baltic Sea from Rus­sia to Ger­many.

    Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin said in Jan­u­ary dur­ing a press con­fer­ence with Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel that he hoped the project would be com­plet­ed in ear­ly 2021 at the lat­est. Sev­er­al U.S. ana­lysts have said that time­frame was rea­son­able.

    But mem­bers of the U.S. Con­gress and Ukraine appear to be work­ing on their next move.

    “There is a very ele­gant and effi­cient way avail­able to the U.S. gov­ern­ment to make sure this pipeline will nev­er hap­pen and we believe that this should be done,” Kobolyev told RFE/RL in Wash­ing­ton on March 3 fol­low­ing his meet­ings with con­gress­mem­bers, includ­ing Sen­a­tor Ted Cruz (Repub­li­can, Texas), who is seen as a lead­ing voice in the effort.

    The Unit­ed States in Decem­ber passed a pro­vi­sion as part of the Nation­al Defense Autho­riza­tion Act that impos­es sanc­tions on any ves­sels help­ing Gazprom lay the Nord Stream 2 pipeline along the Baltic Sea.

    The pro­vi­sion forced Switzer­land’s Allseas Group to imme­di­ate­ly aban­don its work on the project, leav­ing a gap in the Den­mark por­tion of the waters. The two par­al­lel legs of the pipeline total just over 2,400 kilo­me­ters.

    Sanc­tions ‘Deter­rent’

    The U.S. oppos­es Nord Stream 2 because it says the pipeline increas­es Europe’s depen­dence on Russ­ian ener­gy and gives the Krem­lin more lever­age over East­ern Europe by cut­ting it out of lucra­tive tran­sit rev­enue.

    The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, once oper­at­ing at its full capac­i­ty of 55 bil­lion cubic meters (bcm) a year, could deprive Ukraine of bil­lions of dol­lars in annu­al tran­sit fees. Rus­sia and Ukraine signed a new, five-year gas-tran­sit agree­ment just days after the sanc­tions went into force.

    Rus­sia claims Wash­ing­ton is seek­ing to block the pipeline in order to open the Euro­pean mar­ket to more U.S. liq­ue­fied nat­ur­al gas (LNG). U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in June rec­om­mend­ed that Ger­many buy more U.S. LNG rather than Russ­ian piped gas.

    A mem­ber of the Sen­ate For­eign Rela­tions Com­mit­tee, Cruz was the co-author of the sanc­tions bill against Nord Stream 2 passed in Decem­ber. Texas is the largest pro­duc­er of nat­ur­al gas in the Unit­ed States.

    A spokesper­son for Cruz told RFE/RL that the sen­a­tor is focused on mak­ing sure the exist­ing sanc­tions “con­tin­ue to serve as a deter­rent, and ensure Nord Stream 2 nev­er comes on line.”

    What exact­ly the Unit­ed States will do if Rus­sia comes close to com­plet­ing the project is unclear, and Kobolyev declined to give any details, say­ing it’s a “sen­si­tive issue.”

    “If the U.S. real­ly wants this pipeline not to hap­pen, there is a way to achieve that out­come. That is why we are here” in Wash­ing­ton, he said.

    Rus­sia has two ships it could poten­tial­ly use to com­plete the project: the Akademik Cher­sky and the For­tu­na. How­ev­er, Rus­sia would first need to receive a per­mit from Den­mark to deploy the ships in its waters and that could be com­pli­cat­ed, ana­lysts said.

    Bombs On The Seabed

    Den­mark requires ships con­struct­ing the off­shore pipeline to pos­sess dynam­ic posi­tion­ing sys­tems, which allow a ship to main­tain its posi­tion and head­ing with­out the use of an anchor.

    Den­mark restricts the use of anchors because its Baltic seabed is scat­tered with bombs from World War II that could cause envi­ron­men­tal dam­age if they explod­ed, said Mar­gari­ta Assen­o­va, a senior fel­low at the Jamestown Foun­da­tion spe­cial­iz­ing on Euro­pean ener­gy issues.

    The Akademik Cher­sky, which recent­ly set sail from Rus­si­a’s Far East toward the Suez Port in Egypt, does pos­sess dynam­ic posi­tion­ing. The For­tu­na, locat­ed in the Baltic Sea, does not.

    Cher­sky, though, requires a tech­nol­o­gy upgrade to be able to lay pipes. That could take two to three months, Assen­o­va told RFE/RL. It will then take addi­tion­al time for the Akademik Cher­sky to reach the Baltic, she said.

    ...

    Assen­o­va said Rus­sia may seek to con­vince Den­mark to ease its require­ments so it can com­plete the project. The Dan­ish Ener­gy Agency told RFE/RL on March 5 that Rus­sia had not yet request­ed per­mis­sion for its own ships.

    ‘Haz­ardous Alter­na­tives’

    Sen­a­tor Jeanne Sha­heen (Demo­c­rat, New Hamp­shire), a co-author of the orig­i­nal Nord Stream 2 bill, said Rus­sia was con­sid­er­ing “haz­ardous alter­na­tives” to fin­ish the project that could harm Europe’s envi­ron­ment and secu­ri­ty.

    “I hope Euro­peans remain clear-eyed about these risks and choose not to put their publics in dan­ger. Rest assured, the Unit­ed States will not stand idly by if mis­guid­ed efforts to com­plete the project are pur­sued — all options are on the table,” she told RFE/RL in a state­ment.

    For­mer U.S. Ambas­sador to Ukraine John Herb­st, who has been a strong sup­port­er of Nord Stream 2 sanc­tions, said he expects the Unit­ed States to craft anoth­er nar­row­ly focused sanc­tions bill to fur­ther delay the project.

    “As the Rus­sians pro­ceed to try to build this capac­i­ty, [Con­gress] will be pay­ing close atten­tion. I sus­pect that some smart per­son is going to come up with anoth­er smart sanc­tion that will deal with the next iter­a­tion of this [pipeline con­struc­tion] if that is nec­es­sary,” he said March 3 at an Atlantic Coun­cil con­fer­ence which Kobolyev also attend­ed.

    Sep­a­rate­ly, Kobolyev said he raised the idea of stor­ing U.S. liq­ue­fied nat­ur­al gas in Ukraine, which has under­uti­lized stor­age capac­i­ty amid its stand­off with Rus­sia.

    Kobolyev said gas prices in Europe this sum­mer could fall below $100 for 1,000 cubic meters amid an over­sup­ply. U.S. ener­gy pro­duc­ers could store their E.U.-bound LNG in Ukraine dur­ing the sum­mer as they wait for high­er prices to kick in with the arrival of cold­er weath­er.

    ————-

    “More Nord Stream 2 Sanc­tions On Hori­zon? U.S. Sen­a­tor And Ukraine’s Naftogaz Dis­cuss Ways To Halt Con­tro­ver­sial Gas Pipeline” By Todd Prince; Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty; 03/07/2020

    “There is a very ele­gant and effi­cient way avail­able to the U.S. gov­ern­ment to make sure this pipeline will nev­er hap­pen and we believe that this should be done,” Kobolyev told RFE/RL in Wash­ing­ton on March 3 fol­low­ing his meet­ings with con­gress­mem­bers, includ­ing Sen­a­tor Ted Cruz (Repub­li­can, Texas), who is seen as a lead­ing voice in the effort.”

    There is a very ele­gant and effi­cient way avail­able to the U.S. gov­ern­ment to make sure this pipeline will nev­er hap­pen. That’s what Naftogaz’s CEO was telling the press fol­low­ing his meet­ing with Ted Cruz and oth­er mem­bers of Con­gress inter­est­ed in block­ing the pipeline. And they aren’t inca­pable of putting obsta­cles in front of the project. That’s what Con­gress did in Decem­ber when it sanc­tioned any com­pa­nies help­ing lay the pipe down and forced a Swiss com­pa­ny to aban­don the project. But Kobolyev would­n’t say­ing what spe­cif­ic ele­ment and effi­cient solu­tion he had in mind and Rus­sia has its own ships that can poten­tial­ly fin­ish the pipeline but they would require Den­mark’s approval. So it’s pos­si­ble the idea is to have the US sanc­tion all non-Russ­ian ships work­ing on the project and then have Den­mark block the Russ­ian ships leav­ing no ship left to com­plete it. We’ll see, but it sounds like Cruz’s group is intent on stop­ping it:

    ...
    The Unit­ed States in Decem­ber passed a pro­vi­sion as part of the Nation­al Defense Autho­riza­tion Act that impos­es sanc­tions on any ves­sels help­ing Gazprom lay the Nord Stream 2 pipeline along the Baltic Sea.

    The pro­vi­sion forced Switzer­land’s Allseas Group to imme­di­ate­ly aban­don its work on the project, leav­ing a gap in the Den­mark por­tion of the waters. The two par­al­lel legs of the pipeline total just over 2,400 kilo­me­ters.

    ...

    What exact­ly the Unit­ed States will do if Rus­sia comes close to com­plet­ing the project is unclear, and Kobolyev declined to give any details, say­ing it’s a “sen­si­tive issue.”

    “If the U.S. real­ly wants this pipeline not to hap­pen, there is a way to achieve that out­come. That is why we are here” in Wash­ing­ton, he said.

    Rus­sia has two ships it could poten­tial­ly use to com­plete the project: the Akademik Cher­sky and the For­tu­na. How­ev­er, Rus­sia would first need to receive a per­mit from Den­mark to deploy the ships in its waters and that could be com­pli­cat­ed, ana­lysts said.
    ...

    But if Nord Stream 2 isn’t stopped, that means the loss of bil­lions of dol­lars for Ukraine each year in tran­sit fees. It real­ly is a huge deal for Ukraine so we should expect Ukraine to do every­thing it can to stop the pipeline. That’s going to be part of what will make the award­ing of con­tracts of US-Ukraine LNG exports so inter­est­ing: Ukraine is in an extreme­ly needy posi­tion right now with respect to its LNG access with Nord Stream 2 and Koba­lyev is prob­a­bly going to be will­ing to offer what­ev­er LNG deal to US exporters the Trump admin­is­tra­tion asks for. But it’s not just about US exports to Ukraine. The Nord Stream 2 fight is about US LNG export to much of the rest of Europe includ­ing and espe­cial­ly Ger­many:

    ...
    Sanc­tions ‘Deter­rent’

    The U.S. oppos­es Nord Stream 2 because it says the pipeline increas­es Europe’s depen­dence on Russ­ian ener­gy and gives the Krem­lin more lever­age over East­ern Europe by cut­ting it out of lucra­tive tran­sit rev­enue.

    The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, once oper­at­ing at its full capac­i­ty of 55 bil­lion cubic meters (bcm) a year, could deprive Ukraine of bil­lions of dol­lars in annu­al tran­sit fees. Rus­sia and Ukraine signed a new, five-year gas-tran­sit agree­ment just days after the sanc­tions went into force.

    Rus­sia claims Wash­ing­ton is seek­ing to block the pipeline in order to open the Euro­pean mar­ket to more U.S. liq­ue­fied nat­ur­al gas (LNG). U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in June rec­om­mend­ed that Ger­many buy more U.S. LNG rather than Russ­ian piped gas.

    A mem­ber of the Sen­ate For­eign Rela­tions Com­mit­tee, Cruz was the co-author of the sanc­tions bill against Nord Stream 2 passed in Decem­ber. Texas is the largest pro­duc­er of nat­ur­al gas in the Unit­ed States.

    A spokesper­son for Cruz told RFE/RL that the sen­a­tor is focused on mak­ing sure the exist­ing sanc­tions “con­tin­ue to serve as a deter­rent, and ensure Nord Stream 2 nev­er comes on line.”
    ...

    And note how Koblyev was get­ting sup­port­ive com­ments from for­mer US Ambas­sador to Ukraine John Herb­st at an Atlantic Coun­cil con­fer­ence dur­ing his lob­by­ing trip the US. It’s a reminder that oppo­si­tion to Nord Stream 2 is prob­a­bly going to find a lot of sup­port at the Atlantic Coun­cil mak­ing it all the more like­ly we’ll see bit US-Ukraine LNG export con­tracts award­ed soon­er or lat­er:

    ...
    For­mer U.S. Ambas­sador to Ukraine John Herb­st, who has been a strong sup­port­er of Nord Stream 2 sanc­tions, said he expects the Unit­ed States to craft anoth­er nar­row­ly focused sanc­tions bill to fur­ther delay the project.

    “As the Rus­sians pro­ceed to try to build this capac­i­ty, [Con­gress] will be pay­ing close atten­tion. I sus­pect that some smart per­son is going to come up with anoth­er smart sanc­tion that will deal with the next iter­a­tion of this [pipeline con­struc­tion] if that is nec­es­sary,” he said March 3 at an Atlantic Coun­cil con­fer­ence which Kobolyev also attend­ed.
    ...

    Will the bat­tle over Nord Stream 2 involve the award­ing of export con­tracts to fig­ures asso­ci­at­ed with the Naftogaz chap­ter of the #UkraineGate scan­dal? Who knows but if there’s one thing the Naftogaz side of the #UkraineGate sto­ry taught us it’s that the Trump admin­is­tra­tion is will­ing to engage in deeply cor­rupt secret side deals for the prof­it of close asso­ciates when it comes to LNG exports to Ukraine. And that’s all why this unfold­ing sto­ry over the Nord Stream 2 bat­tle is could be a sto­ry that increas­ing­ly inter­sects with teh Naftogaz chap­ter of #UkraineGate. It’s a mas­sive oppor­tu­ni­ty for swampy cor­rup­tion and there’s no rea­son to assume Trump is will­ing or able to pass up that kind of oppor­tu­ni­ty.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 8, 2020, 10:33 pm
  8. This was prob­a­bly just a mat­ter of time: the #UkraineGate sto­ry now has a bizarre COVID-19 angle. Yep. And of course it cen­ters around Rudy Giu­lian­i’s arch-con­spir­a­cy troll antics.

    It sounds like Rudy Giu­liani now has a team that’s rais­ing $10 mil­lion to cre­ate a doc­u­men­tary that they claim will prove to the world Joe Biden’s guilt regard­ing Hunter Biden, Burisa and the fir­ing of Ukrain­ian pros­e­cu­tor gen­er­al Vik­tor Shokin. Accord­ing to sources they are like­ly seek­ing fund­ing from over­seas investors which they are deny­ing. As the arti­cle notes, if they do end up rais­ing from for­eign sources (and it’s not hard to imag­ine plen­ty of Ukraini­ans who could be inter­est­ed in financ­ing this doc­u­men­tary), that might make the doc­u­men­tary run afoul of cam­paign finance laws if the film is con­sid­ered to be intend­ed to per­suade vot­ers. As such, the film’s pro­duc­ers por­tray­ing it as a pure­ly jour­nal­is­tic enter­prise that’s real­ly just on cor­rup­tion in Ukraine and isn’t specif­i­cal­ly try­ing to turn vot­ers against Biden. So the crew that brought us the shake-down of Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment to force an inves­ti­ga­tion into Biden his appar­ent­ly seek­ing out for­eign fund­ing for what would inevitably be a garbage hit piece of high­ly dubi­ous jour­nal­is­tic val­ue. At least they’re the­mat­i­cal­ly con­sis­tent.

    The fig­ure who appear to be the pri­ma­ry dri­ving forces behind mak­ing the ‘doc­u­men­tary’ is vet­er­an Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can fix­er and fundrais­er Tim Yale. In 2016, Yale raised mon­ey for a pro-Trump super PAC formed by Roger Stone to help Trump and after Trump won the nom­i­na­tion Yale sat on anoth­er pro-Trump super PAC. So Yale has been an ear­ly Trump sup­port­er mak­ing him some­one Trump will be heav­i­ly inclined to want to please. The com­pa­ny pro­duc­ing the film was incor­po­rat­ed in Feb­ru­ary of this year by Yale and George Dick­son III. It’s described by a source as “very pro­pa­gan­dis­tic” and involves actors por­tray­al peo­ple like Hunter Biden and Ukrain­ian offi­cials. So we’re get­ting a lot of hints that this is going to go off into all sort of right-wing fan­ta­sy direc­tions.

    Now here’s the COVID-19 angle: Tim Yale start­ed anoth­er project this year that has busi­ness involv­ing the White House. Devel­op­ing ther­a­pies for COVID-19. Yale claims that back in Jan­u­ary a “con­sor­tium of con­cerned pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor peo­ple” called and asked if he’d put togeth­er a team that could devel­op alter­na­tive ther­a­pies for the emerg­ing pan­dem­ic. His com­pa­ny, Lin­ear Ther­a­pies, is report­ed­ly devel­op­ing an antivi­ral drug ther­a­py aimed at stop­ping the coro­n­avirus from repli­cat­ing itself deliv­ered through an oral inhaler.

    Lin­ear Ther­a­pies’s vice pres­i­dent is Phil Oak­ley, a for­mer Army intel­li­gence ana­lyst who worked with Michael Flynn’s lob­by­ing firm Fly­nn Intel Group. Also, they’ve paid Dana Rohrabacher’s lob­by­ing firm, R&B Strate­gies, to lob­by Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence. So it sounds like Yale’s Lin­ear Ther­a­pies is one of the many com­pa­nies work­ing on an anti-viral ther­a­py. But unlike most com­pa­nies, Lin­ear Ther­a­pies has very clear and deep ties to the Trump White House. In terms of com­pa­nies that might get either fed­er­al assis­tance or fed­er­al reg­u­la­to­ry lenience when bring­ing a ther­a­py to mar­ket this sounds like the kind of com­pa­ny posi­tioned for extra help from the White House. Its own­er is mak­ing a Biden hit piece, after all. And that’s why these aren’t just two sep­a­rate sto­ries involv­ing Tim Yale and the Trump White House. They’re two inter­re­lat­ed sto­ries because the fact that Tim Yale is mak­ing a doc­u­men­tary to help Trump defeat Biden is obvi­ous­ly going to be a fac­tor when it comes to polit­i­cal pres­sure from the White House on agen­cies like the FDA to approve new COVID-19 treat­ments. In oth­er words, the cre­ation of the Biden ‘doc­u­men­tary’ might also rep­re­sent an effec­tive bribe for spe­cial treat­ment on the COVID ther­a­py approvals in addi­tion to being a vio­late for­eign cam­paign finance laws.

    And accord­ing to Yale at the begin­ning of June, they were plan­ning on sub­mit­ting a request to the FDA for approval of human clin­i­cal tri­als for their ther­a­py in a cou­ple of weeks (so right around now), and if they com­plete the tri­als and get the ther­a­py approved they are lined up to start pro­duc­tion in 30 to 45 days. But they’re giv­ing basi­cal­ly no infor­ma­tion to the pub­lic about the nature of their mys­tery ther­a­py. Keep in mind that Trump is going to be keen­ly inter­est­ed in find­ing some sort of effec­tive drug ther­a­py by Novem­ber and with Gilead­’s remde­sivir increas­ing­ly look­ing like a flop that makes Tim Yale’s COVID project the per­fect storm for Trump push­ing for risky gam­bles on inad­e­quate­ly test­ed ther­a­pies.:

    Moth­er Jones

    Rudy Giu­liani Is Look­ing for $10 Mil­lion to Finance a Ukraine-Biden Film
    Is Trump’s per­son­al lawyer orches­trat­ing for­eign involve­ment in the 2020 elec­tion?

    David Corn, Dan Fried­man, and Russ Choma
    May 28, 2020

    Rudy Giu­liani won’t give up. Even though his cru­sade to man­u­fac­ture dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine led to the impeach­ment of his client, Don­ald Trump’s per­son­al lawyer con­tin­ues to use this Ukrain­ian non-scan­dal to try to undo Biden’s pres­i­den­tial bid. To that end, Giu­liani and two associates—a Repub­li­can fundrais­er and a Cal­i­for­nia cannabis entrepreneur—have been try­ing to round up $10 mil­lion to finance the pro­duc­tion of a Biden-Ukraine doc­u­men­tary that can be released this year. Doc­u­ments obtained by Moth­er Jones indi­cate that Giu­liani and his col­lab­o­ra­tors are recruit­ing investors at $1 mil­lion a pop and that they have con­sid­ered the pos­si­bil­i­ty of draw­ing in investors from overseas—though Giuliani’s lawyer denies there has been any effort to bring in for­eign mon­ey. Any over­seas invest­ment in the project would raise the ques­tion of whether Giu­liani, who has been look­ing for infor­ma­tion from past and present Ukrain­ian offi­cials for his anti-Biden work, is attempt­ing to orches­trate for­eign involve­ment in the cur­rent pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

    It’s no secret that Giu­liani has been plot­ting to cook up a doc­u­men­tary focused on Hunter Biden and Ukraine that will pre­sum­ably con­cen­trate on the unfound­ed alle­ga­tions that Joe Biden pres­sured the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment to smoth­er an inves­ti­ga­tion of Buris­ma, an ener­gy com­pa­ny of which the younger Biden was a board mem­ber. Yahoo News report­ed on this effort in Feb­ru­ary, not­ing that the project was being led at that time by vet­er­an Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can fix­er and fundrais­er Tim Yale and that pre­lim­i­nary footage for the film includ­ed actors por­tray­ing Ukrain­ian offi­cials and Hunter Biden. The doc­u­ments obtained by Moth­er Jones reveal new details about this ven­ture and its financ­ing.

    Giu­liani has already pro­duced a pro­gram pro­mot­ing his Biden-Ukraine con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry for the ardent­ly pro-Trump One Amer­i­ca News Net­work. And he bangs away on this top­ic on his pod­casts. But accord­ing to one source famil­iar with the doc­u­men­tary project, Giu­liani envi­sions this film as the cul­mi­na­tion of his efforts and a pos­si­ble “kill shot” on Biden. “The goal is to do a doc­u­men­tary, get it dis­cussed on Twit­ter, shown in the White House,” this source says. “It’s very pro­pa­gan­dis­tic.”

    Accord­ing to the doc­u­ments, a com­pa­ny named See­View Media, which was incor­po­rat­ed in Delaware in Feb­ru­ary, has been set up to finance the film. Two key prin­ci­pals of the project are Yale and George Dick­son III. In 2016, Yale was on the advi­so­ry com­mit­tee of a super PAC formed to help Trump, once Trump became the like­ly Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee. Pri­or to that, he raised mon­ey for a sep­a­rate pro-Trump super PAC estab­lished by Roger Stone, the long­time Trump advis­er and polit­i­cal trick­ster who this year was con­vict­ed of lying to Con­gress relat­ed to the Trump-Rus­sia scan­dal.

    Dick­son is the founder and CEO of Can­na­sor­tium, which is based in Scotts Val­ley, Cal­i­for­nia. “Launch­ing from the heart of California’s cannabis indus­try and with a glob­al reach,” the firm’s web­site says, “the Can­na­sor­tium com­bines proven busi­ness mod­els with pro­pri­etary indus­try exper­tise to cre­ate the world’s pre­mier seed-to-con­sumer cannabis orga­ni­za­tion. Can­na­sor­tium rep­re­sents the next-gen­er­a­tion of cannabis companies—strategically posi­tioned and unique­ly diver­si­fied across every major sec­tor of the indus­try.” Dick­son has also been the CEO and pres­i­dent of Seis­mic Warn­ing Sys­tems, which boast­ed it “man­u­fac­tures sys­tems and ser­vices that pro­vide reli­able earth­quake detec­tion.” (Giuliani’s pre­vi­ous part­ners in skulduggery—Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man, who each were indict­ed for cam­paign finance vio­la­tions relat­ed to Ukraine scandal-chasing—were also pur­su­ing deals in the cannabis busi­ness. When Giu­liani was may­or of New York City, he presided over a mas­sive increase in mar­i­jua­na arrests.)

    The See­View Media documents—a term sheet and draft agree­ments for poten­tial investors—note that Yale and Dick­son are seek­ing $10 mil­lion for the project, with a min­i­mum invest­ment of $1 mil­lion. Investors are promised a 5 per­cent annu­al return and a “prof­it share per­cent­age” of 2 per­cent, accord­ing to the term sheet. A draft “note pur­chase agree­ment” says the mon­ey raised would be for “gen­er­al work­ing cap­i­tal and oth­er cor­po­rate pur­pos­es, with approx­i­mate­ly 50% used for pro­duc­tion (e.g. tal­ent, writ­ers, film crew, post-pro­duc­tion activ­i­ties, trav­el and admin­is­tra­tive over­head) and approx­i­mate­ly 50% used for pro­mo­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion.” None of the doc­u­ments men­tion Giu­liani by name and do not state whether he will receive any of the funds that are raised. But Yale tells Moth­er Jones that Giu­liani is the dri­ving force of this project and that he should be con­tact­ed for any details regard­ing it. “The may­or is the knowl­edge base,” he says.

    ...

    The draft note pur­chase agree­ment sug­gests that the group has con­sid­ered sell­ing shares in the project to for­eign­ers, for it con­tains a clause regard­ing the oblig­a­tions of any “Non-Unit­ed States per­son” who signs up as an investor. Accord­ing to the source famil­iar with the ven­ture, the project has been seek­ing finan­cial back­ers over­seas. Giu­liani did not respond to text mes­sages ask­ing about for­eign invest­ment in the film, but his lawyer Robert Costel­lo says, “I’ve checked with Mr. Giu­liani and you are mis­in­formed. There are no for­eign investors. There has been no mon­ey raised or solicit­ed from any for­eign cit­i­zens.” (Costel­lo would not answer ques­tions about oth­er aspects of the project.) The term sheet also has a con­fi­den­tial­i­ty clause: “No Investor will dis­close the terms or exis­tence of this Term Sheet to any per­son, oth­er than…[those] who have a need to know.”

    A project like this could run into prob­lems with the Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion. The doc­u­ments indi­cate that Yale and Dick­son are attempt­ing to fash­ion this ven­ture as a com­mer­cial and not a polit­i­cal oper­a­tion. But if the movie engages in what the FEC calls “express advo­ca­cy” (urg­ing view­ers to vote for or against Biden) or “elec­tion­eer­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion” (an effort clear­ly intend­ed to sway vot­ers with­in 60 days of a gen­er­al elec­tion), the com­mis­sion could regard this endeav­or as no dif­fer­ent than the work of a cam­paign or a super PAC. That would mean that it would be sub­ject to cam­paign spend­ing and dis­clo­sure rules. One such rule pro­hibits con­tri­bu­tions from over­seas. “For­eign nation­als are not allowed to make polit­i­cal ads,” says Daniel Wein­er, deputy direc­tor of the Bren­nan Center’s Elec­tion Reform Pro­gram.

    In the case of any FEC action—which is unlike­ly giv­en the FEC is bare­ly func­tion­ing these days—Yale, Dick­son, and Giu­liani would prob­a­bly claim the doc­u­men­tary is an act of jour­nal­ism, not a polit­i­cal hit piece, and should be free of any cam­paign reg­u­la­tion. Yale insists the movie will focus on cor­rup­tion in Ukraine and is not direct­ly aimed at Biden. “I haven’t sat through a meet­ing [about the film] that Biden is the focus,” Yale says. “I have sat through lots of meet­ings that the focus is cor­rup­tion.” He notes that they hope to release the movie this year but that there is no tar­get date.

    If the movie or ads for the film are overt­ly polit­i­cal, the FEC would have a case for requir­ing the dis­clo­sure of investors (as it does for super PACs). If there are over­seas investors and any are tied to for­eign gov­ern­ments, the project might be sub­ject to the For­eign Agents Reg­is­tra­tion Act (FARA), and Giu­liani and his crew could be com­pelled to reg­is­ter with the Jus­tice Depart­ment as for­eign agents. (In recent years, sev­er­al for­eign-owned media out­lets, includ­ing RT, the Eng­lish-lan­guage Russ­ian media oper­a­tion backed by the Krem­lin, have had to reg­is­ter as for­eign agents, even as they osten­si­bly pro­duce jour­nal­ism.) “If Giu­liani accepts for­eign fund­ing to con­duct a PR cam­paign aimed at influ­enc­ing the US pub­lic with regard to the nation­al poli­cies of the US or with ref­er­ence to Ukrain­ian nation­al inter­ests then there may be a FARA prob­lem,” says Josh Rosen­stein, a lawyer who spe­cial­izes in FARA at San­dler, Reiff, Lamb, Rosen­stein & Birken­stock

    Yale, who notes that his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the project has decreased in recent months because he has been in Rome work­ing on what he calls a poten­tial COVID-19 cure, tells Moth­er Jones that he has been involved with pro­duc­tion efforts for the doc­u­men­tary and with ver­i­fy­ing tips that Giu­liani and oth­ers have received from Ukraine. He notes that the project has col­lect­ed “60 hours of video or more of peo­ple telling incred­i­bly wild sto­ries.” And he says, “Can­celed checks and wire trans­fers typ­i­cal­ly don’t lie.” Yale declines, though, to explain what he means by that. He describes the film project as an effort to find “the truth” after what he says was a mis­lead­ing ver­sion of events pre­sent­ed dur­ing Trump’s impeach­ment. He adds, “I’m not the pro­duc­er.” As for the financ­ing of the film, Yale says he’s not aware of any fund­ing hav­ing yet been secured.

    Last week, a Ukrain­ian par­lia­men­tar­i­an named Andriy Derkach, a for­mer mem­ber of Ukraine’s pro-Russ­ian Par­ty of Regions who met with Giu­liani a few months ago, released edit­ed audio­tapes of con­ver­sa­tions in 2016 between Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden and then-Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko, claim­ing the tran­scripts proved that Biden leaned on Ukraine to kill an inves­ti­ga­tion of Buris­ma. But the tapes proved noth­ing of the sort. To the con­trary, they sup­port­ed Biden’s account that he had pushed Poroshenko to fire a pros­e­cu­tor wide­ly seen as cor­rupt so the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment could secure inter­na­tion­al loans. The release of these record­ings appeared to be a con­tin­u­a­tion of the long-run­ning Giu­liani effort—cheered on by Fox News and oth­er con­ser­v­a­tive media—to taint Biden with base­less Ukraine-relat­ed accu­sa­tions. Giu­liani declined to tell the Wash­ing­ton Post if he had known of the release of the Biden record­ings in advance. But he texted to a Post reporter they are “just the tip of ice­berg.”

    ————-

    “Rudy Giu­liani Is Look­ing for $10 Mil­lion to Finance a Ukraine-Biden Film” by David Corn, Dan Fried­man, and Russ Choma; Moth­er Jones; 05/28/2020

    “Giu­liani has already pro­duced a pro­gram pro­mot­ing his Biden-Ukraine con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry for the ardent­ly pro-Trump One Amer­i­ca News Net­work. And he bangs away on this top­ic on his pod­casts. But accord­ing to one source famil­iar with the doc­u­men­tary project, Giu­liani envi­sions this film as the cul­mi­na­tion of his efforts and a pos­si­ble “kill shot” on Biden. “The goal is to do a doc­u­men­tary, get it dis­cussed on Twit­ter, shown in the White House,” this source says. “It’s very pro­pa­gan­dis­tic.”

    “It’s very pro­pa­gan­dis­tic.” That’s how the source describes the ‘doc­u­men­tary’. It also includes actors por­tray­ing fig­ures like Hunter Biden and Ukrain­ian offi­cials so it should be inter­est­ing to how those actor por­tray­als play out. And it’s Tim Yale, who was rais­ing mon­ey for Roger Stone’s pro-Trump super PAC back before Trump got the nom­i­na­tion in 2016, who is lead­ing the pro­duc­tion of this movie. He’s cer­tain­ly some­one who should have ready access to the pres­i­den­t’s ear:

    ...
    It’s no secret that Giu­liani has been plot­ting to cook up a doc­u­men­tary focused on Hunter Biden and Ukraine that will pre­sum­ably con­cen­trate on the unfound­ed alle­ga­tions that Joe Biden pres­sured the Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment to smoth­er an inves­ti­ga­tion of Buris­ma, an ener­gy com­pa­ny of which the younger Biden was a board mem­ber. Yahoo News report­ed on this effort in Feb­ru­ary, not­ing that the project was being led at that time by vet­er­an Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can fix­er and fundrais­er Tim Yale and that pre­lim­i­nary footage for the film includ­ed actors por­tray­ing Ukrain­ian offi­cials and Hunter Biden. The doc­u­ments obtained by Moth­er Jones reveal new details about this ven­ture and its financ­ing.

    ...

    Accord­ing to the doc­u­ments, a com­pa­ny named See­View Media, which was incor­po­rat­ed in Delaware in Feb­ru­ary, has been set up to finance the film. Two key prin­ci­pals of the project are Yale and George Dick­son III. In 2016, Yale was on the advi­so­ry com­mit­tee of a super PAC formed to help Trump, once Trump became the like­ly Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee. Pri­or to that, he raised mon­ey for a sep­a­rate pro-Trump super PAC estab­lished by Roger Stone, the long­time Trump advis­er and polit­i­cal trick­ster who this year was con­vict­ed of lying to Con­gress relat­ed to the Trump-Rus­sia scan­dal.
    ...

    But Tim Yale isn’t putting up all the mon­ey for this. He’s find­ing investors. Who might include for­eign investors which arguably makes this movie a cam­paign finance vio­la­tion of law bar­ring for­eign dona­tions in US elec­tions:

    ...

    The draft note pur­chase agree­ment sug­gests that the group has con­sid­ered sell­ing shares in the project to for­eign­ers, for it con­tains a clause regard­ing the oblig­a­tions of any “Non-Unit­ed States per­son” who signs up as an investor. Accord­ing to the source famil­iar with the ven­ture, the project has been seek­ing finan­cial back­ers over­seas. Giu­liani did not respond to text mes­sages ask­ing about for­eign invest­ment in the film, but his lawyer Robert Costel­lo says, “I’ve checked with Mr. Giu­liani and you are mis­in­formed. There are no for­eign investors. There has been no mon­ey raised or solicit­ed from any for­eign cit­i­zens.” (Costel­lo would not answer ques­tions about oth­er aspects of the project.) The term sheet also has a con­fi­den­tial­i­ty clause: “No Investor will dis­close the terms or exis­tence of this Term Sheet to any per­son, oth­er than…[those] who have a need to know.”

    A project like this could run into prob­lems with the Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion. The doc­u­ments indi­cate that Yale and Dick­son are attempt­ing to fash­ion this ven­ture as a com­mer­cial and not a polit­i­cal oper­a­tion. But if the movie engages in what the FEC calls “express advo­ca­cy” (urg­ing view­ers to vote for or against Biden) or “elec­tion­eer­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion” (an effort clear­ly intend­ed to sway vot­ers with­in 60 days of a gen­er­al elec­tion), the com­mis­sion could regard this endeav­or as no dif­fer­ent than the work of a cam­paign or a super PAC. That would mean that it would be sub­ject to cam­paign spend­ing and dis­clo­sure rules. One such rule pro­hibits con­tri­bu­tions from over­seas. “For­eign nation­als are not allowed to make polit­i­cal ads,” says Daniel Wein­er, deputy direc­tor of the Bren­nan Center’s Elec­tion Reform Pro­gram.
    ...

    So the film that’s sup­posed to exon­er­ate Trump over the #UkraineGate impeach­ment is pos­si­ble going to be a for­eign financed piece of pro­pa­gan­da that vio­lates cam­paign finance laws. Again, at least they’re con­sis­tent.

    Ok, now here’s an Orange Coun­ty Reg­is­ter piece on Tim Yale’s new COVID-19 mys­tery ther­a­py. A mys­tery ther­a­py they refuse to describe to the pub­lic oth­er than that it’s an anti-viral drug that would be deliv­ered via an oral inhaler. But they also informed the pub­lic that soon going to apply for human clin­i­cal tri­als and if they get approval they can have man­u­fac­tur­ing up and run­ning in 30 to 45 days. So if the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has some sort of mir­a­cle COVID drug ther­a­py announce­ment ‘Octo­ber Sur­prise’ kind of last minute polit­i­cal gam­bit in mind — which is some­thing Yale and Giu­liani are obvi­ous­ly very inter­est­ed in cre­at­ing one way or anoth­er — it’s worth not­ing that Tim Yale’s Lin­ear Ther­a­pies is well posi­tioned to play that role as the Trump-blessed deliv­er­er of a COVID ther­a­py:

    The Orange Coun­ty Reg­is­ter

    Dana Rohrabach­er begins lob­by­ing for start­up that’s try­ing to cure coro­n­avirus
    Com­pa­ny is lead by GOP vet­er­ans with ties to Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

    By BROOKE STAGGS | bstaggs@scng.com | Orange Coun­ty Reg­is­ter
    PUBLISHED: June 3, 2020 at 6:48 p.m. | UPDATED: June 3, 2020 at 6:48 p.m.

    Orange County’s longest-serv­ing for­mer con­gress­man, Dana Rohrabach­er, is now lob­by­ing Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence on behalf of a biotech­nol­o­gy start­up led by vet­er­an GOP oper­a­tives who say they’re devel­op­ing a ther­a­py that could effec­tive­ly “cure” COVID-19.

    Rohrabach­er, who now lives in Maine, launched the lob­by­ing firm R&B Strate­gies short­ly after leav­ing office in Jan­u­ary 2019.

    He formed the busi­ness with Paul Behrend, who was a top aide for Rohrabach­er and staff direc­tor with the House For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee until Rep. Ed Royce fired him in 2017 over grow­ing con­cerns about Behrends’ ties to Rus­sia. The scan­dal led to Rohrabach­er being dubbed “Putin’s favorite Con­gress mem­ber” — a label that con­tributed to Rohrabacher’s 2018 loss for re-elec­tion in the coastal Orange Coun­ty 48th Dis­trict. The seat went to Rep. Harley Rou­da, end­ing Rohrabacher’s 15 terms in con­gress.

    For­mer con­gress mem­bers have to wait one year after leav­ing office to start lob­by­ing on Capi­tol Hill. With that cool­ing peri­od over, Rohrabach­er began lob­by­ing under his own LLC on March 10 for a com­pa­ny called Lin­ear Ther­a­pies, accord­ing to reports filed this week and first report­ed by Politi­co. The Vir­ginia-based com­pa­ny paid him less than $5,000 in the first quar­ter of the year to lob­by Pence, who’s head­ing up the White House’s coro­n­avirus task force.

    Rohrabach­er didn’t respond to requests to speak for this sto­ry. But Tim Yale, pres­i­dent of Lin­ear Ther­a­pies, told the Reg­is­ter his com­pa­ny is devel­op­ing an oral inhaler aimed at stop­ping the coro­n­avirus from repli­cat­ing itself in peo­ple who’ve been exposed to, or already sick­ened by, the virus.

    Yale, an Orange Coun­ty native, said he’s known Rohrabach­er for 20 years. He’s a vet­er­an GOP fundrais­er who helped sup­port Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion, includ­ing work­ing with a super PAC start­ed by indict­ed for­mer Trump advis­er Roger Stone. Yale was also tapped by Trump attor­ney Rudy Guil­iani to help make a doc­u­men­tary about Hunter Biden, which Yale said is still in the works.

    But in Jan­u­ary, Yale said, a “con­sor­tium of con­cerned pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor peo­ple” called and asked if he’d put togeth­er a team that could devel­op alter­na­tive ther­a­pies for the emerg­ing coro­n­avirus. Yale said Royce, a Repub­li­can from Yor­ba Lin­da who long rep­re­sent­ed CA-39, had sim­i­lar­ly tapped him to help work on treat­ments for Ebo­la virus, so he had con­nec­tions in the world of anti-viral research.

    Also on the Lin­ear Ther­a­pies team as vice pres­i­dent is Phil Oak­ley. He’s a for­mer Army intel­li­gence ana­lyst who worked with Michael Flynn’s lob­by­ing firm Fly­nn Intel Group, which became a focus of Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion.

    Yale said Oak­ley has spent his life learn­ing to nav­i­gate bureau­cra­cy and that he’s con­fi­dent Rohrabacher’s con­nec­tions will set them up for suc­cess.

    Yale said his team has been self-fund­ing research with sci­en­tists in Italy, Japan, Cana­da and the Unit­ed States, though he declined to name them. He said they’re rough­ly two weeks from apply­ing with the Food & Drug Admin­is­tra­tion to begin human trails under the agency’s accel­er­at­ed emer­gency rules for coro­n­avirus treat­ments. If they com­plete those tri­als and the drug gains approval, Yale said man­u­fac­tur­ers are lined up to start pro­duc­ing the ther­a­py in 30 to 45 days..

    The com­pa­ny web­site offers very lit­tle infor­ma­tion. That’s by design, accord­ing to Yale, who said he enjoys being the “David” against the “Goliaths” of the major phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies chas­ing coro­n­avirus treat­ments.

    But five bio­chemists who spe­cial­ize in the type of treat­ment Lin­ear Ther­a­pies expressed skep­ti­cism about the claim, in part because of the company’s lack of trans­paren­cy and its inex­pe­ri­ence in devel­op­ing nov­el drugs. None of the five would com­ment direct­ly on the drug or the com­pa­ny, say­ing they don’t have access to the details of the sci­ence involved.

    ...

    ————-

    “Dana Rohrabach­er begins lob­by­ing for start­up that’s try­ing to cure coro­n­avirus” by BROOKE STAGGS; Orange Coun­ty Reg­is­ter; The Orange Coun­ty Reg­is­ter; 06/03/2020

    “Rohrabach­er didn’t respond to requests to speak for this sto­ry. But Tim Yale, pres­i­dent of Lin­ear Ther­a­pies, told the Reg­is­ter his com­pa­ny is devel­op­ing an oral inhaler aimed at stop­ping the coro­n­avirus from repli­cat­ing itself in peo­ple who’ve been exposed to, or already sick­ened by, the virus.

    Good luck to them. If Lin­ear Ther­a­pies devel­ops a gen­uine­ly effec­tive ther­a­py that’s great and hope­ful­ly they’ll get appro­pri­ate fed­er­al assis­tance in test­ing and pro­duc­ing the drug. It’s the inap­pro­pri­ate fed­er­al assis­tance that we have to wor­ry about. Because all we know is that some mys­tery con­sor­tia approached Yale back in Jan­u­ary and they are now try­ing to get FDA approval for human clin­i­cal tri­als of their mys­tery ther­a­py. A mys­tery ther­a­py that leaves experts skep­ti­cal. But they can’t be too skep­ti­cal because they know so lit­tle about it:

    ...
    But in Jan­u­ary, Yale said, a “con­sor­tium of con­cerned pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tor peo­ple” called and asked if he’d put togeth­er a team that could devel­op alter­na­tive ther­a­pies for the emerg­ing coro­n­avirus. Yale said Royce, a Repub­li­can from Yor­ba Lin­da who long rep­re­sent­ed CA-39, had sim­i­lar­ly tapped him to help work on treat­ments for Ebo­la virus, so he had con­nec­tions in the world of anti-viral research.

    Also on the Lin­ear Ther­a­pies team as vice pres­i­dent is Phil Oak­ley. He’s a for­mer Army intel­li­gence ana­lyst who worked with Michael Flynn’s lob­by­ing firm Fly­nn Intel Group, which became a focus of Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russ­ian inter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion.

    ...

    Yale said his team has been self-fund­ing research with sci­en­tists in Italy, Japan, Cana­da and the Unit­ed States, though he declined to name them. He said they’re rough­ly two weeks from apply­ing with the Food & Drug Admin­is­tra­tion to begin human trails under the agency’s accel­er­at­ed emer­gency rules for coro­n­avirus treat­ments. If they com­plete those tri­als and the drug gains approval, Yale said man­u­fac­tur­ers are lined up to start pro­duc­ing the ther­a­py in 30 to 45 days..

    ...

    But five bio­chemists who spe­cial­ize in the type of treat­ment Lin­ear Ther­a­pies expressed skep­ti­cism about the claim, in part because of the company’s lack of trans­paren­cy and its inex­pe­ri­ence in devel­op­ing nov­el drugs. None of the five would com­ment direct­ly on the drug or the com­pa­ny, say­ing they don’t have access to the details of the sci­ence involved.
    ...

    Yes, a com­pa­ny set up by the guy work­ing with Rudy Giu­liani to cre­ate their Biden/Ukraine hit ‘doc­u­men­tary’ was approach in Jan­u­ary by a mys­tery con­sor­tia about alter­na­tive COVID ther­a­pies and is now try­ing to get FDA approval for human clin­i­cal tri­als of a mys­tery COVID ther­a­py. You have to won­der what the odds are that his some­how involves hydrox­y­chloro­quine. It would be a very Trumpian twist. But we have no idea at this point because we are told noth­ing about what they want to test on humans. It’s all a mys­tery. We just know that if they get approval they claim they can get man­u­fac­tur­ing up and run­ning in 30 to 45 days. But in terms of polit­i­cal effect you don’t need the pro­duc­tion of a work­ing drug. You just need the announce­ment of one close enough to the elec­tion. So get ready for many excit­ing updates from Lin­ear Ther­a­pies about their mys­tery ther­a­py. Around the last week of Octo­ber through the first week of Novem­ber most like­ly.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 14, 2020, 10:06 pm
  9. While it remains to be seen what kind of long-term impact John Bolton’s new book is going to have on our under­stand­ing of what was hap­pen­ing inside the Trump White House, one of the unam­bigu­ous­ly pos­i­tive aspects of Bolton’s new book release is that it’s going to give us all sorts of excus­es to review pre­vi­ous­ly cov­ered, but large­ly for­got­ten, sto­ries are yes­ter­year that were nev­er real­ly ful­ly explored and under­stood. Espe­cial­ly the entire tale of #UkraineGate and its cast of char­ac­ters. So it’s worth not­ing that Bolton’s book has already giv­en us a real­ly big rea­son to reex­am­ine the nature of one of the large­ly for­got­ten chap­ters of the the for-pri­vate-prof­it schem­ing cen­ter­ing around Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man’s nat­ur­al gas ambi­tions. And this chap­ter does­n’t involve Ukraine. It cen­ters on a shad­ow-diplo­ma­cy ini­tia­tive in Venezuela which looks more like a shad­ow-shake­down. And it involves many of the same #UkraineGate char­ac­ters: Rudy Giu­liani, Lev Par­nas, and US petro­le­um investor Har­ry Sargeant III. Sargeant appears to have been one of many in the US petro­le­um sec­tor that who was keen­ly inter­est­ed in see­ing regime change in Venezuela.

    But what’s so inter­est­ing about this sto­ry is how it seems to be a kind of shake­down effort designed to cre­ate a ‘good cop’/‘bad cop’ nego­ti­a­tion dynam­ic with the Maduro gov­ern­ment where a pri­vate­ly-run diplo­mat­ic ini­tia­tive done seem­ing­ly on behalf of pri­vate oil inter­ests were play­ing the ‘good cop’ role. From a shake­down per­spec­tive it makes sense: have the US offi­cial­ly take a very hard line against a gov­ern­ment and then have a pri­vate ‘nicer’ secret diplo­mat­ic ini­tia­tive con­duct­ed by oil inter­ests who are promis­ing less harsh terms of sur­ren­der, pre­sum­ably in exchange for favor­able con­tracts. It looks like some­thing like that may have been tak­ing place here.

    The scheme also also involves then-Con­gress­man Pete Ses­sions, the Repub­li­can from Texas who long rep­re­sent­ed the heart of Tex­as­’s oil indus­try. Recall how Pete Ses­sion was seen in the video of the pri­vate din­ner with Trump record­ed by Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man that was released back in Jan­u­ary. As we’ll see in the fol­low­ing Wash­ing­ton Post arti­cle from the end of 2019 (Decem­ber 30), Ses­sions claims his secret diplo­ma­cy was done with the bless­ing of the State Depart­ment but the State Depart­ment is describ­ing it as counter to US pol­i­cy at the time and John Bolton was say­ing he was com­plete­ly opposed to it.

    Here’s the gen­er­al time­line of the scheme:

    * When Trump first took office he pledged to take a hard line against Maduro, a pol­i­cy that had the back­ing of the Flori­da Repub­li­cans which includes pow­er­ful Cuban and Venezue­lan com­mu­ni­ties.

    * In Feb­ru­ary 2018, Maduro announced a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion would be held in the spring. US busi­ness exec­u­tives with inter­ests in Venezuela, includ­ing Har­ry Sargeant, began encour­ag­ing nego­ti­a­tions to ease Maduro out of office.

    * In the Spring of 2018, Pete Ses­sions vis­it­ed Maduro in Cara­cas to serv­er as an emmis­sary for this secret diplo­mat­ic push. Ses­sion­s’s spokesman claims this was done in coor­di­na­tion with the high­est lev­els of the State Depart­ment but the State Depart­ment denies this. Ses­sions was host­ed by Raúl Gor­rín Belis­ario, the own­er of a major tele­vi­sion net­work in Venezuela who was viewed with dis­trust by some U.S. offi­cials. Months lat­er Gor­rín would be indict­ed in Flori­da on charges of mon­ey-laun­der­ing and bribery. Ses­sions left the meet­ing in Cara­cas Ses­sions with a list of con­ces­sions that had been agreed to by Maduro — his depar­ture from pow­er and a com­mit­ment to allow free and fair elec­tions in exchange for lenien­cy from the Unit­ed States — accord­ing to Ses­sion’s spokesman. But some US offi­cials feared the deal was intend­ed to legit­imize the upcom­ing elec­tion by open­ing up the vote to at least some oppo­si­tion can­di­dates, which could help Maduro remain in pow­er, rather than ease him from office. So it sounds like Ses­sions actu­al­ly got Maduro to agree to step down but it was opposed by some in the US gov­ern­ment over fears that the agree­ment would actu­al­ly help Maduro remain in pow­er. That’s quite a twist. Keep in mind that it’s very pos­si­ble the con­cerns weren’t so much that Maduro him­self would remain in pow­er but instead that a social­ist gov­ern­ment that would­n’t give for­eign investors every­thing they want would win the upcom­ing elec­tions. In oth­er words, the US pol­i­cy towards Venezuela has­n’t sim­ply been that Maduro needs to go. It’s been that Maduro needs to be replaced with a pup­pet gov­ern­ment that will effec­tive­ly hand the coun­try’s resource over to inter­na­tion­al inter­ests and crush any whiff of social­ism Free and fair elec­tions aren’t actu­al­ly a part of that agen­da.

    * About five weeks after return­ing from Cara­cas, Ses­sions met in his Capi­tol Hill office with Lev Par­nas to dis­cuss a pro­pos­al to sell liq­ue­fied nat­ur­al gas in Ukraine. Fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors assert that this is when Par­nas sought Sessions’s assis­tance in oust­ing then‑U.S. Ambas­sador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch at the behest of “one or more Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment offi­cials.” On May 9, the same day that Par­nas post­ed pho­tos of his meet­ing with Ses­sions on Face­book, Ses­sions sent Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo a let­ter urg­ing Yovanovitch’s removal.

    * In August 2018, U.S. pros­e­cu­tors charged Gor­rín with par­tic­i­pat­ing in a $1 bil­lion mon­ey-laun­der­ing and bribery scheme. Pros­e­cu­tors call Gor­rín a fugi­tive. Around that time, Rudy Giu­liani Giu­liani met in New York with Par­nas and two Amer­i­can busi­ness exec­u­tives with invest­ments in Venezuela to dis­cuss the Venezue­lan back-chan­nel effort. One of the par­tic­i­pants of the meet­ing describe it as focused on whether or not there was a way to nego­ti­ate with Maduro and reach a diplo­mat­ic solu­tion to the polit­i­cal chaos and eco­nom­ic col­lapse over­tak­ing the coun­try. So Venezuela was fac­ing a grow­ing crises and we have this pri­vate oil-led back-chan­nel play­ing the ‘good cop’.

    * In Sep­tem­ber 2018, there was a secret phone call between Rudy Giu­lian, Pete Ses­sions, and Maduro where they reviewed the con­ces­sions Maduro had agreed to back dur­ing Ses­sion­s’s secret trip to Cara­cas in March. Not long after this phone call Giu­liani met with Bolton to explain the secret pro­pos­al. Bolton was vehe­ment­ly opposed.

    * In Jan­u­ary of 2019, the oppo­si­tion-led Venezue­lan leg­is­la­ture declared that the elec­tion had been ille­git­i­mate and named leg­isla­tive leader Juan Guaidó the nation’s new pres­i­dent. He was quick­ly rec­og­nized by the Unit­ed States and dozens of oth­er coun­tries, lead­ing to the inter­na­tion­al push to top­ple Maduro and install Guaidó in a de fac­to coup.

    * In August of 2019, Giu­liani, Par­nas, and Fru­man stayed at the Span­ish estate of wealthy Venezue­lan bil­lion­aire Ale­jan­dro Betan­court López where they met with a top aide of Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky. This was around the time Betan­court López Giu­liani to rep­re­sent him against US charges in a $1.2 bil­lion mon­ey-laun­der­ing case in Flori­da. So between Ses­sions have his March 2018 trip host­ed by Raúl Gor­rín Belis­ario and Giu­liani being host­ed by Ale­jan­dro Betan­court López there’s a clear theme of wealth Venezue­lan’s fac­ing mon­ey-laun­der­ing charges. You have to won­der how much Flori­da real estate inter­ests (like Trump) have an inter­est in not see­ing those kinds of charges ful­ly inves­ti­gat­ed.

    So based on this Wash­ing­ton Post report from back in Decem­ber it real­ly does sound like there was some sort of ‘good cop/bad cop’ par­al­lel sets of nego­ti­a­tions tak­ing place with the Maduro gov­ern­ment where the pri­vate oil-led side of the nego­ti­a­tions played the ‘good cop’ role. A role that involved mak­ing an offer that Maduro appar­ent­ly agreed to! And that rais­es the obvi­ous ques­tion: so what did these oil inter­ests get in return under this pro­pos­al? We haven’t heard about those details because we know almost noth­ing about what was actu­al­ly offered. We just know that Maduro report­ed­ly took the offer to step down and hold free and fair elec­tions and that was a deal the State Depart­ment reject­ed osten­si­bly over fears that it would some­how help Maduro stay in pow­er. And it was Pete Ses­sion, the con­gress­man of the oil giants, who was lead­ing this secret back-chan­nel effort. Again, what did those oil inter­ests get in return in these ‘good cop’ nego­ti­a­tions. We have no idea. So maybe now that John Bolton’s book is reopen­ing this incom­plete chap­ter of his­to­ry we can final­ly get those details:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Trump’s lawyer and the Venezue­lan pres­i­dent: How Giu­liani got involved in back-chan­nel talks with Maduro

    By Ros­alind S. Hel­der­man, Tom Ham­burg­er, Antho­ny Faio­la and Josh Dawsey
    Decem­ber 30, 2019 at 7:38 AM EST

    The inter­na­tion­al call came in Sep­tem­ber 2018, after months of ris­ing ten­sion between the Unit­ed States and Venezuela, a key strate­gic play­er in South Amer­i­ca.

    On one end of the line was Venezuela’s social­ist pres­i­dent, the pari­ah leader of a dis­in­te­grat­ing econ­o­my whom Pres­i­dent Trump’s admin­is­tra­tion was seek­ing to iso­late.

    On the oth­er end: the U.S. president’s per­son­al attor­ney Rudolph W. Giu­liani and then-Rep. Pete Ses­sions (R‑Tex.).

    Both were part of a shad­ow diplo­mat­ic effort, backed in part by pri­vate inter­ests, aimed at engi­neer­ing a nego­ti­at­ed exit to ease Pres­i­dent Nicolás Maduro from pow­er and reopen resource-rich Venezuela to busi­ness, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the endeav­or.

    Ses­sions had served as emis­sary in the back-chan­nel effort, vis­it­ing Maduro in Cara­cas that spring. The phone call, which Giu­liani joined, was a fol­low-up to that vis­it, Sessions’s spokesman Matt Mack­owiak told The Wash­ing­ton Post.

    The phone con­ver­sa­tion involv­ing the Venezue­lan pres­i­dent and Trump’s per­son­al lawyer, which has not been pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed, pro­vides anoth­er exam­ple of how Giu­liani used his pri­vate role to insert him­self into for­eign diplo­ma­cy, alarm­ing admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials con­fused about whose inter­ests he was rep­re­sent­ing.

    Giu­liani oper­at­ed a sim­i­lar cam­paign this year in Ukraine, where he pres­sured offi­cials to announce inves­ti­ga­tions to ben­e­fit Trump — an endeav­or that led to the president’s impeach­ment this month.

    The impeach­ment inquiry pushed into the spot­light con­sult­ing work Giu­liani has under­tak­en around the globe even as he has been rep­re­sent­ing Trump at no charge. His free­lanc­ing has trig­gered con­cerns among White House offi­cials that his inter­ces­sions have mud­died and at times under­cut offi­cial U.S. pol­i­cy, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the wor­ries, who, like oth­ers cit­ed in this sto­ry, spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to describe inter­nal dis­cus­sions. Mean­while, fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors are scru­ti­niz­ing the for­mer New York may­or as part of an inves­ti­ga­tion into pos­si­ble for­eign lob­by­ing vio­la­tions.

    Word of Giuliani’s call with Maduro even­tu­al­ly reached White House offi­cials who did not know why he was involved, accord­ing to one for­mer senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial.

    Giuliani’s will­ing­ness to talk with Maduro in late 2018 flew in the face of the offi­cial pol­i­cy of the White House, which, under nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er John Bolton, was then ratch­et­ing up sanc­tions and tak­ing a hard­er line against the Venezue­lan gov­ern­ment.

    Around the time of the phone call, Giu­liani met with Bolton to dis­cuss the off-the-books plan to ease Maduro from office — a plan Bolton vehe­ment­ly reject­ed, two peo­ple famil­iar with the meet­ing said.

    Giu­liani did not respond to mul­ti­ple requests for com­ment. A lawyer for Bolton declined to com­ment. The White House did not respond to requests for com­ment.

    In Jan­u­ary 2019, the Unit­ed States for­mal­ly rec­og­nized Maduro’s rival Juan Guaidó as pres­i­dent, a pol­i­cy move backed by Bolton. Lat­er in the year, Giu­liani would pick up a client in the region: a Venezue­lan tycoon under inves­ti­ga­tion by the Jus­tice Depart­ment for pos­si­ble mon­ey-laun­der­ing.

    It is not clear why Giu­liani became involved in the back-chan­nel nego­ti­a­tions with Venezuela’s pres­i­dent or the extent of his role. But the tale of behind-the-scenes talks with Maduro offers anoth­er exam­ple in which the president’s per­son­al attor­ney aligned with pri­vate inter­ests to try to sway U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy. And the episode involves some of the fig­ures who played a role in the Ukraine effort — includ­ing Ses­sions, an 11-term con­gress­man who pushed for the ouster of the U.S. ambas­sador to Ukraine around the time he met with Giu­liani asso­ciate Lev Par­nas in 2018.

    Ses­sions, who lost his seat that Novem­ber and is now run­ning for Con­gress in anoth­er Texas dis­trict, said through his spokesman that he has known Giu­liani for three decades but has nev­er worked with him on any pri­vate-sec­tor activ­i­ties.

    Back-chan­nel mis­sion

    When Trump took office, he promised to take a tougher stand against Maduro, who has been Venezuela’s pres­i­dent since the 2013 death of leader Hugo Chávez and has grown increas­ing­ly repres­sive, even as his coun­try has sunk into eco­nom­ic cri­sis.

    That approach had the back­ing of Repub­li­cans in Flori­da, which has large and polit­i­cal­ly engaged Venezue­lan and Cuban com­mu­ni­ties. Sen. Mar­co Rubio (R‑Fla.) accused then-Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma of fail­ing to hold Maduro account­able and of naive­ly pur­su­ing nego­ti­a­tions that failed to remove him from office.

    Trump’s per­son­al inter­est in the coun­try was piqued by a Feb­ru­ary 2017 White House vis­it by Lil­ian Tin­tori, the wife of a promi­nent Venezue­lan polit­i­cal pris­on­er. She was also a for­mer kite-surf­ing cham­pi­on who had appeared in that country’s ver­sion of the real­i­ty show “Sur­vivor.”

    Trump quick­ly adopt­ed Venezuela as a cause, sur­pris­ing some in the human rights com­mu­ni­ty, who not­ed that he did not show sim­i­lar inter­est in abus­es in coun­tries such as North Korea and Rus­sia.

    That year, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion labeled Venezuela’s vice pres­i­dent a drug king­pin and froze his assets in the Unit­ed States. It also imposed eco­nom­ic sanc­tions on Venezue­lan com­pa­nies and banned trav­el to the Unit­ed States by gov­ern­ment offi­cials and their fam­i­lies.

    “This cor­rupt regime destroyed a pros­per­ous nation by impos­ing a failed ide­ol­o­gy that has pro­duced pover­ty and mis­ery every­where it has been tried,” Trump declared before the U.N. Gen­er­al Assem­bly in Sep­tem­ber 2017. “To make mat­ters worse, Maduro has defied his own peo­ple, steal­ing pow­er from their elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives to pre­serve his dis­as­trous rule.”

    Con­di­tions wors­ened in Venezuela, where there were fre­quent short­ages of basic goods includ­ing food and med­i­cine, run­away infla­tion and spates of civ­il unrest. But Maduro remained in pow­er.

    In Feb­ru­ary 2018, Maduro announced that a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion would be held that spring. But most oppo­si­tion can­di­dates would be banned from run­ning, lead­ing to fears that the vote would be a sham elec­tion used to con­sol­i­date his pow­er.

    U.S. busi­ness exec­u­tives with inter­ests in Venezuela — among them Har­ry Sargeant III, the chief exec­u­tive of a Flori­da-based glob­al ener­gy and ship­ping com­pa­ny who has worked exten­sive­ly in the coun­try — began encour­ag­ing nego­ti­a­tions to ease Maduro out of office.

    In a state­ment, Sargeant said he “sup­port­ed the idea of a back chan­nel based on my over 30 years of first­hand expe­ri­ence in Venezuela and my obser­va­tion of the polit­i­cal dynam­ic going on in Cara­cas at the time.”

    “I believed then and now that an adver­sar­i­al sanc­tions pol­i­cy alone would have two pro­found­ly neg­a­tive effects,” he added. “First, it would exac­er­bate Venezuela’s human­i­tar­i­an cri­sis. Sec­ond, I believed it would under­mine key U.S. busi­ness inter­ests in Venezuela to the ben­e­fit of Amer­i­can adver­saries like the Rus­sians and Chi­nese.”

    It was against this back­drop that Mack­owiak said Ses­sions accept­ed an invi­ta­tion from Maduro to qui­et­ly vis­it Cara­cas and try to nego­ti­ate a path to improved rela­tions between the Unit­ed States and Venezuela.

    Ses­sions, a for­mer chair­man of the Nation­al Repub­li­can Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee who chaired the House Rules Com­mit­tee at the time, had long been inter­est­ed in Venezuela, in part because many of his Texas con­stituents had ener­gy inter­ests there, accord­ing to his spokesman.

    “He was pleased to help with this back-chan­nel mis­sion, which was coor­di­nat­ed with the high­est lev­els of the U.S. State Depart­ment,” Mack­owiak said, adding that Ses­sions met with top U.S. offi­cials before and after his trip.

    ...

    But peo­ple famil­iar with State Depart­ment offi­cials’ role said those offi­cials did not ini­ti­ate the trip or orga­nize or par­tic­i­pate in Sessions’s meet­ing with Maduro. And sev­er­al U.S. offi­cials dis­put­ed the notion that the trip was done with the government’s back­ing, not­ing that the White House at the time want­ed to take a hard­er line with Maduro and was not inter­est­ed in mak­ing con­ces­sions.

    Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil offi­cials, in par­tic­u­lar, were opposed to the kind of set­tle­ment with Maduro that Ses­sions was advo­cat­ing.

    “There was absolute­ly no inter­est or appetite for nego­ti­a­tions,” said a for­mer White House offi­cial. “We gen­er­al­ly did not wel­come efforts like this one. It wasn’t con­sis­tent with our pol­i­cy goals. We saw it as a nui­sance and a dis­trac­tion.”

    Sessions’s spokesman dis­missed such com­plaints as part of a “turf bat­tle” among Wash­ing­ton bureau­crats.

    “There might have been a dis­agree­ment between the State Depart­ment and the NSC about how best to bring peace to Venezuela,” Mack­owiak said. “But Rep. Ses­sions was pleased to be part of an effort, coor­di­nat­ed close­ly with the State Depart­ment, to bring a demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed pres­i­dent to Venezuela.”

    List of con­ces­sions

    Sessions’s dis­trict is home to Exxon­Mo­bil and oth­er oil com­pa­nies that were once active in Venezuela but were forced to scale back amid polit­i­cal tur­bu­lence. But Ses­sions told the Dal­las Morn­ing News in 2018 that the oil inter­ests did not play a role in his deci­sion to become involved. He said he had been work­ing with var­i­ous play­ers, includ­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Venezue­lan oppo­si­tion, to nego­ti­ate a solu­tion for more than a year.

    Ses­sions told the news­pa­per he was work­ing to fos­ter “dia­logue between par­ties that are try­ing to make progress.”

    Mack­owiak said Ses­sions used his own mon­ey to pay for the two-day trip.

    Two peo­ple with knowl­edge of the vis­it said he was host­ed by Raúl Gor­rín Belis­ario, the own­er of a major tele­vi­sion net­work in Venezuela who was viewed with dis­trust by some U.S. offi­cials and months lat­er would be indict­ed in Flori­da on charges of mon­ey-laun­der­ing and bribery.

    The peo­ple said that rather than stay­ing in a U.S. facil­i­ty, Ses­sions stayed at Gorrín’s lav­ish, mod­ernist, walled com­pound in a fash­ion­able part of the cap­i­tal.

    Mack­owiak said that Sessions’s trip, includ­ing where Ses­sions stayed, was coor­di­nat­ed with State Depart­ment offi­cials.

    Ses­sions left Cara­cas with a list of con­ces­sions that had been agreed to by Maduro — his depar­ture from pow­er and a com­mit­ment to allow free and fair elec­tions in exchange for lenien­cy from the Unit­ed States — accord­ing to Mack­owiak.

    But some U.S. offi­cials said they wor­ried that the deal Ses­sions was float­ing was intend­ed to legit­imize the upcom­ing elec­tion by open­ing up the vote to at least some oppo­si­tion can­di­dates, which could help Maduro remain in pow­er, rather than ease him from office, accord­ing to a per­son famil­iar with the con­ver­sa­tions. And they were con­cerned that the back-chan­nel over­tures sent mixed mes­sages to the Maduro gov­ern­ment.

    A cig­ar bar meet­ing

    About five weeks after return­ing from Cara­cas, Ses­sions met in his Capi­tol Hill office with Par­nas, who Mack­owiak said want­ed to dis­cuss a pro­pos­al to sell liq­ue­fied nat­ur­al gas in Ukraine.

    In an indict­ment this fall charg­ing Par­nas and his busi­ness part­ner Igor Fru­man with ille­gal­ly chan­nel­ing for­eign mon­ey into U.S. elec­tion cam­paign accounts, fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors said Par­nas sought Sessions’s assis­tance in oust­ing then‑U.S. Ambas­sador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch at the behest of “one or more Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment offi­cials.”

    On May 9, the same day that Par­nas post­ed pho­tos of his meet­ing with Ses­sions on Face­book, the con­gress­man sent Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo a let­ter urg­ing Yovanovitch’s removal.

    Mack­owiak said Ses­sions did not act at the request of Par­nas but wrote the let­ter after hear­ing con­cerns about the ambas­sador from sev­er­al mem­bers of Con­gress who had trav­eled to Ukraine.

    Mean­while, in Venezuela, Maduro won reelec­tion in May with near­ly 68 per­cent of the vote. The inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty large­ly reject­ed the vote because of alle­ga­tions of fraud and the ban­ning of key oppo­si­tion par­ties, and civ­il unrest ensued as Maduro pre­pared to begin anoth­er term.

    In August, U.S. pros­e­cu­tors charged Gor­rín, Sessions’s host for the congressman’s Venezuela vis­it, with par­tic­i­pat­ing in a $1 bil­lion mon­ey-laun­der­ing and bribery scheme. Pros­e­cu­tors have said Gor­rín is a fugi­tive. Nei­ther Gor­rín nor his Mia­mi-based lawyer respond­ed to requests for com­ment.

    Around that time, Giu­liani, who had joined Trump’s legal team months ear­li­er, began talks with indi­vid­u­als who were part of the back chan­nel to Maduro. In August, Giu­liani met in New York with Par­nas and two Amer­i­can busi­ness exec­u­tives with invest­ments in Venezuela to dis­cuss the effort, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the gath­er­ing.

    The meet­ing took place at a favorite Giu­liani hang­out, the Grand Havana Room cig­ar bar, blocks from Trump Tow­er in Man­hat­tan. Over whiskey and cig­ars, Giu­liani agreed to try to dis­cern whether there was a way to nego­ti­ate with Maduro and per­haps reach a diplo­mat­ic solu­tion to the polit­i­cal chaos and eco­nom­ic col­lapse over­tak­ing the coun­try, one of the par­tic­i­pants said.

    The phone call

    About a month lat­er, Maduro was on the phone with Ses­sions. In the room with the Venezue­lan pres­i­dent at the time was the country’s first lady, who serves as a close advis­er to her hus­band, as well as Venezuela’s vice pres­i­dent and infor­ma­tion min­is­ter, accord­ing to a per­son famil­iar with the con­ver­sa­tion.

    Giu­liani was intro­duced at the begin­ning of the call but appeared most­ly to lis­ten as Maduro and Ses­sions spoke, Mack­owiak said.

    In the near­ly hour-long con­ver­sa­tion, they reviewed the con­ces­sions that Maduro had agreed to make dur­ing Sessions’s vis­it months ear­li­er, accord­ing to the per­son famil­iar with the call.

    The Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­istry of Venezuela did not respond to a request for com­ment.

    Lat­er, word fil­tered to the White House that Giu­liani and Ses­sions had par­tic­i­pat­ed in a call with Maduro, caus­ing con­fu­sion, said a for­mer senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial.

    “We didn’t know why Rudy was involved at the time,” the per­son said.

    Not long after the call, Giu­liani told some of his asso­ciates that he had tak­en the idea of a soft land­ing for Maduro to Bolton, the president’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er. But he said the meet­ing had not gone well, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with his account.

    Charles Coop­er, a lawyer for Bolton, declined to com­ment.

    Bolton’s dis­taste for Giuliani’s for­eign pol­i­cy free­lanc­ing emerged dur­ing the impeach­ment inquiry. For­mer nation­al secu­ri­ty offi­cial Fiona Hill tes­ti­fied that Bolton warned her not to inter­act with the president’s lawyer, call­ing him “a hand grenade who’s going to blow every­body up.”

    In Jan­u­ary of this year, the sit­u­a­tion in Venezuela dis­in­te­grat­ed as Maduro pre­pared to be for­mal­ly inau­gu­rat­ed for anoth­er term. The leg­is­la­ture, led by Maduro’s oppo­si­tion, declared that the elec­tion had been ille­git­i­mate and named leg­isla­tive leader Guaidó the nation’s new pres­i­dent. He was quick­ly rec­og­nized by the Unit­ed States and dozens of oth­er coun­tries.

    Some Venezue­lan busi­ness lead­ers who had amassed vast wealth under Maduro but had been severe­ly con­strained by U.S. sanc­tions switched sides and began to assist Guaidó.

    Among them was Gor­rín, who played a key role in a failed effort to per­suade the nation’s Supreme Court to rec­og­nize Guaidó over Maduro, part of an effort to cur­ry favor with the Amer­i­cans, as The Post has report­ed.

    This sum­mer, anoth­er wealthy Venezue­lan ener­gy exec­u­tive, Ale­jan­dro Betan­court López, hired Giu­liani to serve as his lawyer and help argue that he should not be charged in a $1.2 bil­lion mon­ey-laun­der­ing case in Flori­da.

    Eight men — includ­ing Betancourt’s cousin — have already been charged in the case, which alleges that top offi­cials of Venezuela’s state-owned oil com­pa­ny, busi­ness lead­ers and bankers con­spired to steal mon­ey from the com­pa­ny and then laun­der it through Mia­mi real estate pur­chas­es and oth­er invest­ment schemes. Two peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter said that Betan­court is referred to in the crim­i­nal com­plaint as a uncharged co-con­spir­a­tor.

    Jon Sale, a Mia­mi-based lawyer rep­re­sent­ing Betan­court, has said his client denies any wrong­do­ing. He declined to com­ment on Betancourt’s rela­tion­ship with ­Giu­liani.

    In ear­ly August, Giu­liani was host­ed at Betancourt’s lav­ish estate out­side Madrid when Giu­liani met at Trump’s direc­tion with a top aide to the Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent, as The Post pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed.

    Giu­liani lat­er met with Jus­tice Depart­ment offi­cials and urged them not to charge Betan­court, The Post report­ed.

    In response to ques­tions about his work for Betan­court, Giu­liani wrote in a text mes­sage last month: “This is attor­ney client priv­i­lege so I will with­stand what­ev­er mali­cious lies or spin you put on it.”

    The news that Giu­liani was rep­re­sent­ing the wealthy ener­gy exec­u­tive before the admin­is­tra­tion while also serv­ing as the president’s per­son­al attor­ney dis­turbed vet­er­an U.S. offi­cials who have expe­ri­ence in Venezuela.

    “You have to ask, ‘Why is he doing this?’?” said one for­mer senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial.

    ———–

    “Trump’s lawyer and the Venezue­lan pres­i­dent: How Giu­liani got involved in back-chan­nel talks with Maduro” by Ros­alind S. Hel­der­man, Tom Ham­burg­er, Antho­ny Faio­la and Josh Dawsey; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 12/30/2019

    “It is not clear why Giu­liani became involved in the back-chan­nel nego­ti­a­tions with Venezuela’s pres­i­dent or the extent of his role. But the tale of behind-the-scenes talks with Maduro offers anoth­er exam­ple in which the president’s per­son­al attor­ney aligned with pri­vate inter­ests to try to sway U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy. And the episode involves some of the fig­ures who played a role in the Ukraine effort — includ­ing Ses­sions, an 11-term con­gress­man who pushed for the ouster of the U.S. ambas­sador to Ukraine around the time he met with Giu­liani asso­ciate Lev Par­nas in 2018.

    It’s hard to ignore the over­lap of char­ac­ters. Lev Par­nas, Rudy Giu­liani, and Har­ry Sargeant were key char­ac­ters in the #UkraineGate nat­ur­al gas schemes. And now we are learn­ing that the three were involved with a scheme that has the look of ‘good cop’/‘bad cop’ regime change ploy intend­ed to some­how ben­e­fit the US oil indus­try. It’s the kind of rev­e­la­tion that should be rais­ing all sorts of ques­tions about who was actu­al­ly behind both of schemes. Did Har­ry Sargeant rep­re­sent larg­er oil inter­ests in his role in #UkraineGate? We don’t know because we know very lit­tle about this entire episode. All we know is that “U.S. busi­ness exec­u­tives with inter­ests in Venezuela” began to lob­by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion for encour­ag­ing regime change nego­ti­a­tions with Maduro after Maduro announce new elec­tions in Feb­ru­ary of 2018 and it was Har­ry Sargeant who appeared to be rep­re­sent­ing these US busi­ness inter­ests. And Pete Ses­sions, the con­gress­man of Exxon­Mo­bil, was the elect­ed offi­cial who led these secret nego­ti­a­tions:

    ...
    In Feb­ru­ary 2018, Maduro announced that a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion would be held that spring. But most oppo­si­tion can­di­dates would be banned from run­ning, lead­ing to fears that the vote would be a sham elec­tion used to con­sol­i­date his pow­er.

    U.S. busi­ness exec­u­tives with inter­ests in Venezuela — among them Har­ry Sargeant III, the chief exec­u­tive of a Flori­da-based glob­al ener­gy and ship­ping com­pa­ny who has worked exten­sive­ly in the coun­try — began encour­ag­ing nego­ti­a­tions to ease Maduro out of office.

    In a state­ment, Sargeant said he “sup­port­ed the idea of a back chan­nel based on my over 30 years of first­hand expe­ri­ence in Venezuela and my obser­va­tion of the polit­i­cal dynam­ic going on in Cara­cas at the time.”

    “I believed then and now that an adver­sar­i­al sanc­tions pol­i­cy alone would have two pro­found­ly neg­a­tive effects,” he added. “First, it would exac­er­bate Venezuela’s human­i­tar­i­an cri­sis. Sec­ond, I believed it would under­mine key U.S. busi­ness inter­ests in Venezuela to the ben­e­fit of Amer­i­can adver­saries like the Rus­sians and Chi­nese.”

    It was against this back­drop that Mack­owiak said Ses­sions accept­ed an invi­ta­tion from Maduro to qui­et­ly vis­it Cara­cas and try to nego­ti­ate a path to improved rela­tions between the Unit­ed States and Venezuela.

    ...

    Sessions’s dis­trict is home to Exxon­Mo­bil and oth­er oil com­pa­nies that were once active in Venezuela but were forced to scale back amid polit­i­cal tur­bu­lence. But Ses­sions told the Dal­las Morn­ing News in 2018 that the oil inter­ests did not play a role in his deci­sion to become involved. He said he had been work­ing with var­i­ous play­ers, includ­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Venezue­lan oppo­si­tion, to nego­ti­ate a solu­tion for more than a year.

    ...

    Two peo­ple with knowl­edge of the vis­it said he was host­ed by Raúl Gor­rín Belis­ario, the own­er of a major tele­vi­sion net­work in Venezuela who was viewed with dis­trust by some U.S. offi­cials and months lat­er would be indict­ed in Flori­da on charges of mon­ey-laun­der­ing and bribery.
    ...

    And per­haps the most remark­able part of this entire sto­ry is that it sounds like Pete Ses­sions actu­al­ly suc­ceed­ed! He got Maduro to agree to step down and hold free and fair elec­tions. But the State Depart­ment report­ed­ly feared it would actu­al­ly help leave Maduro in place. At the same time, while Ses­sions claims he con­duct­ed this secret trip to Cara­cas with the high­est lev­els of the US State Depart­ment, the State Depart­ment denies this. So it sounds like Ses­sion­s’s trip may have been done with the bless­ings of some gov­ern­ment offi­cials and over the oppo­si­tions of oth­ers:

    ...
    Ses­sions, a for­mer chair­man of the Nation­al Repub­li­can Con­gres­sion­al Com­mit­tee who chaired the House Rules Com­mit­tee at the time, had long been inter­est­ed in Venezuela, in part because many of his Texas con­stituents had ener­gy inter­ests there, accord­ing to his spokesman.

    He was pleased to help with this back-chan­nel mis­sion, which was coor­di­nat­ed with the high­est lev­els of the U.S. State Depart­ment,” Mack­owiak said, adding that Ses­sions met with top U.S. offi­cials before and after his trip.

    ...

    But peo­ple famil­iar with State Depart­ment offi­cials’ role said those offi­cials did not ini­ti­ate the trip or orga­nize or par­tic­i­pate in Sessions’s meet­ing with Maduro. And sev­er­al U.S. offi­cials dis­put­ed the notion that the trip was done with the government’s back­ing, not­ing that the White House at the time want­ed to take a hard­er line with Maduro and was not inter­est­ed in mak­ing con­ces­sions.

    Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil offi­cials, in par­tic­u­lar, were opposed to the kind of set­tle­ment with Maduro that Ses­sions was advo­cat­ing.

    “There was absolute­ly no inter­est or appetite for nego­ti­a­tions,” said a for­mer White House offi­cial. “We gen­er­al­ly did not wel­come efforts like this one. It wasn’t con­sis­tent with our pol­i­cy goals. We saw it as a nui­sance and a dis­trac­tion.”

    Sessions’s spokesman dis­missed such com­plaints as part of a “turf bat­tle” among Wash­ing­ton bureau­crats.

    “There might have been a dis­agree­ment between the State Depart­ment and the NSC about how best to bring peace to Venezuela,” Mack­owiak said. “But Rep. Ses­sions was pleased to be part of an effort, coor­di­nat­ed close­ly with the State Depart­ment, to bring a demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed pres­i­dent to Venezuela.”

    ...

    Ses­sions left Cara­cas with a list of con­ces­sions that had been agreed to by Maduro — his depar­ture from pow­er and a com­mit­ment to allow free and fair elec­tions in exchange for lenien­cy from the Unit­ed States — accord­ing to Mack­owiak.

    But some U.S. offi­cials said they wor­ried that the deal Ses­sions was float­ing was intend­ed to legit­imize the upcom­ing elec­tion by open­ing up the vote to at least some oppo­si­tion can­di­dates, which could help Maduro remain in pow­er, rather than ease him from office, accord­ing to a per­son famil­iar with the con­ver­sa­tions. And they were con­cerned that the back-chan­nel over­tures sent mixed mes­sages to the Maduro gov­ern­ment.

    ...

    Then, in May of 2018, Ses­sions meets with Lev Par­nas in his Capi­tol Hill office where Par­nas appears to lob­by Ses­sions about the removal of Ukrain­ian ambas­sador Marie Yovanovitch. Maduro also wins reelec­tion:

    ...
    About five weeks after return­ing from Cara­cas, Ses­sions met in his Capi­tol Hill office with Par­nas, who Mack­owiak said want­ed to dis­cuss a pro­pos­al to sell liq­ue­fied nat­ur­al gas in Ukraine.

    In an indict­ment this fall charg­ing Par­nas and his busi­ness part­ner Igor Fru­man with ille­gal­ly chan­nel­ing for­eign mon­ey into U.S. elec­tion cam­paign accounts, fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors said Par­nas sought Sessions’s assis­tance in oust­ing then‑U.S. Ambas­sador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch at the behest of “one or more Ukrain­ian gov­ern­ment offi­cials.”

    On May 9, the same day that Par­nas post­ed pho­tos of his meet­ing with Ses­sions on Face­book, the con­gress­man sent Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo a let­ter urg­ing Yovanovitch’s removal.

    ...

    Mean­while, in Venezuela, Maduro won reelec­tion in May with near­ly 68 per­cent of the vote. The inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty large­ly reject­ed the vote because of alle­ga­tions of fraud and the ban­ning of key oppo­si­tion par­ties, and civ­il unrest ensued as Maduro pre­pared to begin anoth­er term.
    ...

    It was in August of 2018 that Rudy Giu­liani joins the back chan­nel nego­ti­a­tions to oust Maduro. That also hap­pens to be the month US pros­e­cu­tors charged Gor­rín with mon­ey-laun­der­ing. So it looks like mon­ey-laun­der­ing charges, and the prospect of hav­ing them lift­ed, were part of the lever­age used in these secret nego­ti­a­tions:

    ...
    In August, U.S. pros­e­cu­tors charged Gor­rín, Sessions’s host for the congressman’s Venezuela vis­it, with par­tic­i­pat­ing in a $1 bil­lion mon­ey-laun­der­ing and bribery scheme. Pros­e­cu­tors have said Gor­rín is a fugi­tive. Nei­ther Gor­rín nor his Mia­mi-based lawyer respond­ed to requests for com­ment.

    Around that time, Giu­liani, who had joined Trump’s legal team months ear­li­er, began talks with indi­vid­u­als who were part of the back chan­nel to Maduro. In August, Giu­liani met in New York with Par­nas and two Amer­i­can busi­ness exec­u­tives with invest­ments in Venezuela to dis­cuss the effort, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the gath­er­ing.

    The meet­ing took place at a favorite Giu­liani hang­out, the Grand Havana Room cig­ar bar, blocks from Trump Tow­er in Man­hat­tan. Over whiskey and cig­ars, Giu­liani agreed to try to dis­cern whether there was a way to nego­ti­ate with Maduro and per­haps reach a diplo­mat­ic solu­tion to the polit­i­cal chaos and eco­nom­ic col­lapse over­tak­ing the coun­try, one of the par­tic­i­pants said.
    ...

    Then in Sep­tem­ber of 2018, we have the phone call between Maduro, Ses­sions, and Giu­liani where they review the agree­ment Ses­sions and Maduro arrived at in March. This is after Maduro won the elec­tion in May so it’s a sign of how seri­ous­ly Maduro was poten­tial­ly treat­ing this secret back chan­nel. It’s anoth­er hint that these nego­ti­a­tions real­ly were being done with the back­ing of the Trump White House despite the State Depart­men­t’s denials. Giu­liani, being Trump’s per­son­al attor­ney, implic­it­ly plays the role of lend­ing cred­i­bil­i­ty to the nego­ti­a­tions. And it was short­ly after this call that Giu­liani reviewed the nego­ti­a­tions with John Bolton who com­plete­ly reject­ed the idea. It would be fas­ci­nat­ing to know what it was that Bolton reject­ed. Maduro was appar­ent­ly will­ing to step down. What was it Bolton found so objec­tion­able? It’s a reminder that we still know almost noth­ing about the nature of these nego­ti­a­tions and what sort of agree­ment they arrived at:

    ...
    About a month lat­er, Maduro was on the phone with Ses­sions. In the room with the Venezue­lan pres­i­dent at the time was the country’s first lady, who serves as a close advis­er to her hus­band, as well as Venezuela’s vice pres­i­dent and infor­ma­tion min­is­ter, accord­ing to a per­son famil­iar with the con­ver­sa­tion.

    Giu­liani was intro­duced at the begin­ning of the call but appeared most­ly to lis­ten as Maduro and Ses­sions spoke, Mack­owiak said.

    In the near­ly hour-long con­ver­sa­tion, they reviewed the con­ces­sions that Maduro had agreed to make dur­ing Sessions’s vis­it months ear­li­er, accord­ing to the per­son famil­iar with the call.

    ...

    Lat­er, word fil­tered to the White House that Giu­liani and Ses­sions had par­tic­i­pat­ed in a call with Maduro, caus­ing con­fu­sion, said a for­mer senior admin­is­tra­tion offi­cial.

    “We didn’t know why Rudy was involved at the time,” the per­son said.

    Not long after the call, Giu­liani told some of his asso­ciates that he had tak­en the idea of a soft land­ing for Maduro to Bolton, the president’s nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er. But he said the meet­ing had not gone well, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with his account.
    ...

    And was in Jan­u­ary of 2019 that the nego­ti­a­tions had clear­ly col­lapsed entire­ly, with Maduro prepar­ing to start a new term and the West start­ing ‘Venezue­lan Spring’-style regime change oper­a­tion to install Juan Guaidó. Venezue­lan oli­garchs like Gor­rín fac­ing US sanc­tions start switch­ing sides and back­ing Guaidó. Flash for­ward to the sum­mer of 2019 and we have Venezue­lan ener­gy exec­u­tive, Ale­jan­dro Betan­court López, hir­ing Rudy Giu­liani to rep­re­sent him over US charges of mon­ey-laun­der­ing in Flori­da. It’s at the Span­ish estate of Betan­court López where Lev Par­nas meets with the pres­i­den­tial aide to Ukraine’s pres­i­dent to dis­cuss the Ukrain­ian shake­down that Giu­liani and Par­nas were engaged in at the time:

    ...
    In Jan­u­ary of this year, the sit­u­a­tion in Venezuela dis­in­te­grat­ed as Maduro pre­pared to be for­mal­ly inau­gu­rat­ed for anoth­er term. The leg­is­la­ture, led by Maduro’s oppo­si­tion, declared that the elec­tion had been ille­git­i­mate and named leg­isla­tive leader Guaidó the nation’s new pres­i­dent. He was quick­ly rec­og­nized by the Unit­ed States and dozens of oth­er coun­tries.

    Some Venezue­lan busi­ness lead­ers who had amassed vast wealth under Maduro but had been severe­ly con­strained by U.S. sanc­tions switched sides and began to assist Guaidó.

    Among them was Gor­rín, who played a key role in a failed effort to per­suade the nation’s Supreme Court to rec­og­nize Guaidó over Maduro, part of an effort to cur­ry favor with the Amer­i­cans, as The Post has report­ed.

    This sum­mer, anoth­er wealthy Venezue­lan ener­gy exec­u­tive, Ale­jan­dro Betan­court López, hired Giu­liani to serve as his lawyer and help argue that he should not be charged in a $1.2 bil­lion mon­ey-laun­der­ing case in Flori­da.

    ...

    In ear­ly August, Giu­liani was host­ed at Betancourt’s lav­ish estate out­side Madrid when Giu­liani met at Trump’s direc­tion with a top aide to the Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent, as The Post pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed.
    ...

    So as we can see, at a min­i­mum there’s an inter­est­ing over­lap in the char­ac­ters and ener­gy inter­ests involved with the #UkraineGate scheme and this secret Venezue­lan back chan­nel nego­ti­a­tion that was revealed in Decem­ber. The same cast of char­ac­ters who appear to be using their inside track with the Trump White House as lever­age in ener­gy con­tract nego­ti­a­tions with for­eign coun­tries. But we don’t real­ly know how much over­lap there is between these two sto­ries because we still know bare­ly any­thing about this secret Venezue­lan backchan­nel. There was this late Decem­ber report and that’s been large­ly it. So let’s hope John Bolton’s new book prompts fur­ther inves­ti­ga­tions about what actu­al­ly hap­pened with these secret nego­ti­a­tions. Secret nego­ti­a­tions that have the dis­tinct feel of being part anoth­er secret Trumpian for-prof­it shake­down of a gov­ern­ment.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 21, 2020, 11:05 pm
  10. TRUMP’S LIES DEBUNKED:

    “For­mer Ukrain­ian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko DENIED that Joe Biden EVER approached him about Buris­ma Hold­ings, a gas com­pa­ny Biden’s son Hunter was a board mem­ber of.”

    For­mer Ukrain­ian pres­i­dent says Biden nev­er pressed him on Buris­ma
    “My absolute­ly clear answer: no, nev­er,” Petro Poroshenko told CNN.

    https://www.politico.com/news/2020/06/21/ukraine-president-hunter-joe-biden-burisma-331779

    Posted by Roberto Maldonado | June 22, 2020, 6:23 pm
  11. Here’s a quick Ukraine-relat­ed update that involves the ongo­ing US fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tion into Ukrain­ian bil­lion­aire Ihor Kolo­moisky’s shady deal­ings that, giv­en the tim­ing, is also poten­tial­ly an update on the Trump team’s ongo­ing plans to pull some sort of Ukraine-relat­ed smear stunt tar­get­ing Joe Biden:

    The FBI raid­ed the Cleve­land and Mia­mi offices of Ihor Kolo­moisky on Tues­day. While they would­n’t say what exact­ly they were inves­ti­gat­ing, the raid includ­ed the Cleve­land and Mia­mi offices of Opti­ma, which indi­cates this involves the alle­ga­tions by Pri­vat­Bank. Those were the 2016 charges by Pri­vat­Bank that Kolo­moisky and his Ukrain­ian bil­lion­aire part­ner Hen­nadiy Boholyubov laun­dered $780 mil­lion through the US using a series of bogus loans issued to com­pa­nies they con­trol. It was dubbed the Opti­ma Schemes because the US com­pa­nies Kolo­moisky and Boholyubov con­trolled at the time at the time all had “Opti­ma” in the name. So Tues­day’s FBI raids appears to be Opti­ma Scheme-relat­ed raids.

    Now, it’s pos­si­ble this is part of the some nor­mal course of the ongo­ing FBI inves­ti­ga­tion. But the fact that this tar­gets Kolo­moisky, the bil­lion­aire con­sid­ered to be the key Ukrain­ian backer of Ukraine’s pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­sky, and this raid is hap­pen­ing three months before a US elec­tion where the Trump cam­paign has made a huge invest­ment in con­coct­ing a kind of ‘Ukrain­ian Beng­hazi’ around Buris­ma and Bidens, rais­es the obvi­ous ques­tion as to whether or not we’re see­ing the Trump admin­is­tra­tion begin turn­ing the screws on Ukraine’s gov­ern­ment in antic­i­pa­tion of demand­ing coop­er­a­tion dur­ing their upcom­ing Biden smear. In oth­er words, we could be look­ing at anoth­er Trumpian shake­down in Ukraine with the aim of smear­ing the Bidens:

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty

    FBI Raids Offices Of U.S. Com­pa­nies Belong­ing To Ukrain­ian Tycoons

    By Todd Prince
    August 04, 2020 16:30 GMT

    The FBI has raid­ed the offices of U.S. com­pa­nies owned by a pow­er­ful Ukrain­ian tycoon linked to Pres­i­dent Volodymyr Zelen­skiy.

    The FBI searched offices in Cleve­land and Mia­mi on August 4 belong­ing to bil­lion­aire Ihor Kolo­moyskiy, whose media com­pa­ny infor­mal­ly backed Zelen­skiy’s suc­cess­ful pres­i­den­tial bid in 2019.

    “I can con­firm that we are at both loca­tions,” FBI Spe­cial Agent Vic­ki Ander­son-Gregg said in an August 4 tele­phone inter­view with RFE/RL from Cleve­land.

    She said she could not dis­cuss the details of the inves­ti­ga­tion as the case “is under seal right now.” Ander­son-Gregg said that no one had been detained in the raid.

    Kolo­moyskiy and his Ukrain­ian part­ner, Hen­nadiy Boholyubov, con­trol sev­er­al com­pa­nies run out of Mia­mi that own U.S. real estate as well as steel and alloy plants.

    U.S. media reports in April 2019 and May 2020 said that the FBI was inves­ti­gat­ing Kolo­moyskiy for mon­ey laun­der­ing. How­ev­er, the FBI nev­er con­firmed those sto­ries.

    Kolo­moyskiy and Boholyubov — bil­lion­aires who own ener­gy, met­als and media assets in Ukraine — are among the most influ­en­tial busi­ness­men in the coun­try.

    The tycoons returned to Ukraine from self-imposed exile a month after Zelen­skiy won the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in a land­slide in April 2019.

    Kolomoyskiy’s 1+1 chan­nel aired the TV com­e­dy series pro­duced by Zelenskiy’s pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny.

    Zelen­skiy appoint­ed Andriy Bohdan, Kolo­moyskiy’s for­mer lawyer, as his first chief of staff before replac­ing him in Feb­ru­ary.

    The pres­i­den­t’s report­ed close ties to Kolo­moyskiy have been a con­cern for Ukraine’s West­ern part­ners, who have tied finan­cial and polit­i­cal sup­port to Kyiv to reforms that reduce the influ­ence of tycoons.

    The Unit­ed States does not have an extra­di­tion agree­ment with Ukraine, mean­ing the tycoons will like­ly nev­er face pros­e­cu­tion in a U.S. court even if the Depart­ment of Jus­tice were to bring charges against them.

    ...

    Pri­vat­Bank Law­suit

    The con­fir­ma­tion of the FBI inves­ti­ga­tion fol­lows on the heels of a civ­il law­suit filed against the tycoons by Ukrain­ian lender Pri­vat­Bank in Delaware in May 2019.

    Kolo­moyskiy and Boholyubov owned Pri­vat­Bank until Decem­ber 2016, when Ukraine nation­al­ized it after the tycoons failed to inject cap­i­tal to sta­bi­lize the lender dur­ing a severe eco­nom­ic down­turn.

    Pri­vat­Bank claims the men laun­dered $780 mil­lion into the U.S. finan­cial sys­tem through a series of bogus loans issued to com­pa­nies they con­trol.

    The tycoons then used the mon­ey to acquire com­mer­cial prop­er­ty, fer­roal­loy plants, and spe­cial­ty steel com­pa­nies in the Unit­ed States — along with sev­er­al Cleve­land office build­ings — with­out ever return­ing the mon­ey, the bank claims.

    Pri­vat­Bank has dubbed the alleged fraud the Opti­ma Schemes because the U.S. assets were large­ly con­trolled by com­pa­nies with the name Opti­ma. The bank is seek­ing hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in resti­tu­tion.

    The Opti­ma busi­ness­es are run out of Mia­mi by the tycoons’ U.S. busi­ness part­ners, Mordechai Korf and Uriel Laber. A spokesper­son for Korf and Laber declined an RFE/RL request for com­ment about the August 4 raids.

    Ander­son-Gregg con­firmed the FBI agents were at the Cleve­land office of Opti­ma Man­age­ment, which over­sees the tycoons’ local real-estate invest­ments.

    Opti­ma Man­age­ment is locat­ed inside One Cleve­land Cen­ter, which is one of the local com­mer­cial build­ings owned by the tycoons.

    The Ukrain­ian bil­lion­aires owned five com­mer­cial build­ings in Cleve­land by the ear­ly 2010s and were the city’s largest com­mer­cial real estate own­er at the time.

    How­ev­er, they have since sold off two of the build­ings as well as prop­er­ties in Dal­las and Louisville.

    ———–

    “FBI Raids Offices Of U.S. Com­pa­nies Belong­ing To Ukrain­ian Tycoons” by Todd Prince; Radio Free Europe/Radio Lib­er­ty; 08/04/2020

    The FBI searched offices in Cleve­land and Mia­mi on August 4 belong­ing to bil­lion­aire Ihor Kolo­moyskiy, whose media com­pa­ny infor­mal­ly backed Zelen­skiy’s suc­cess­ful pres­i­den­tial bid in 2019.”

    Things are heat­ing up in the FBI’s inves­ti­ga­tion of the Pri­vat­Bank mon­ey-laun­der­ing alle­ga­tions. An inves­ti­ga­tion that could involve quite a bit of mon­ey-laun­der­ing involv­ing US prop­er­ties:

    ...
    Pri­vat­Bank claims the men laun­dered $780 mil­lion into the U.S. finan­cial sys­tem through a series of bogus loans issued to com­pa­nies they con­trol.

    The tycoons then used the mon­ey to acquire com­mer­cial prop­er­ty, fer­roal­loy plants, and spe­cial­ty steel com­pa­nies in the Unit­ed States — along with sev­er­al Cleve­land office build­ings — with­out ever return­ing the mon­ey, the bank claims.

    Pri­vat­Bank has dubbed the alleged fraud the Opti­ma Schemes because the U.S. assets were large­ly con­trolled by com­pa­nies with the name Opti­ma. The bank is seek­ing hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in resti­tu­tion.

    The Opti­ma busi­ness­es are run out of Mia­mi by the tycoons’ U.S. busi­ness part­ners, Mordechai Korf and Uriel Laber. A spokesper­son for Korf and Laber declined an RFE/RL request for com­ment about the August 4 raids.

    Ander­son-Gregg con­firmed the FBI agents were at the Cleve­land office of Opti­ma Man­age­ment, which over­sees the tycoons’ local real-estate invest­ments.
    ...

    And it’s the fact that this is an inves­ti­ga­tion involv­ing alle­ga­tions of mon­ey-laun­der­ing using US prop­er­ties that makes this such an inter­est­ing move by the FBI. Because while Kolo­moisky him­self may have no risk of get­ting extra­dit­ed to the US to face charges his prop­er­ties are pre­sum­ably vul­ner­a­ble to seizure in the US and he’s clear­ly got a lot of it. And that means the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has very real lever­age of Kolo­moisky and there­fore over Zelen­sky.

    So the fact that a very potent new form of lever­age of Kolo­moisky is now in place is going going to be some­thing to keep in mind when­ev­er Rudy Giu­liani gets around to spring his Ukrain­ian ‘Octo­ber Sur­prise’ that should be com­ing any day now. Will it be an August or Sep­tem­ber Sur­prise? Time will tell, but it’s got to be com­ing soon if it’s com­ing at all before the elec­tion. The smear-clock is tick­ing.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 4, 2020, 10:20 pm
  12. I believe that this is a coor­di­nat­ed media cam­paign by the new con­trollers of US Intel­li­gence media out­lets.

    This arti­cle includes the fol­low­ing:
    Mon­day’s res­ig­na­tions renewed con­cerns that Pack, an ally of for­mer White House chief strate­gist Steve Ban­non, will attempt to clean house at VOA, which is part of the US Agency for Glob­al Media, USAGM for short.
    A well-placed VOA employ­ee said there are inter­nal dis­cus­sions about a siz­able shake­up com­ing to the agency that may include for­mer White House offi­cial and con­ser­v­a­tive radio host Sebas­t­ian Gor­ka tak­ing on a lead­er­ship posi­tion. Giv­en Gorka’s par­ti­san back­ground, such an appoint­ment would send a major mes­sage about VOA shift­ing to become a mouth­piece for the admin­is­tra­tion.
    A source close to the White House said there is some dis­cus­sion among the pres­i­den­t’s advis­ers about mak­ing Gor­ka a USAGM board mem­ber

    https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/15/media/voice-of-america-top-officials-resign/index.html

    Posted by Ed Murrow | August 7, 2020, 4:46 pm
  13. Here’s just a quick update on the recent FBI raid of the prop­er­ties in Mia­mi and Cleve­land relat­ed to Ihor Kolo­moisky’s Opti­ma group of com­pa­nies and the fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tion into alle­ga­tions that mon­ey from Ukraine’s Pri­vat­Bank was laun­dered by Kolo­moisky through those com­pa­nies. It also relates to the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tion will be used by the Trump admin­is­tra­tion to ‘encour­age’ a coop­er­a­tive approach from Ukraine’s Pres­i­dent Zelen­sky dur­ing any upcom­ing smear cam­paigns by the Trump cam­paign against Joe Biden:

    While the FBI inves­ti­ga­tion of Kolo­moisky’s Opti­ma offices acts as a form of lever­age over Kolo­moisky, it’s impor­tant to recall that Kolo­moisky has report­ed­ly been approach­ing Rudy Giu­liani and the Trump admin­is­tra­tion over the last year or so with tales of Biden cor­rup­tion that have the strong appear­ance of being an active cam­paign by Kolo­moisky to win the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s favor. Which is an entire­ly plau­si­ble goal giv­en how Trump inter­acts with cor­rupt flat­tery. So as the fol­low­ing TPM piece reminds us, the FBI raid is the raid of some­one who has already been active­ly inter­est­ed in fuel­ing Rudy Giu­lian­i’s smear cir­cus:

    Talk­ing Points Memo
    Muck­rak­er

    FBI Raids Com­pa­ny Tied To Ukrain­ian Oli­garch Who Pushed Biden Dis­in­fo

    By Josh Koven­sky
    August 4, 2020 1:35 p.m.

    FBI and IRS agents in Cleve­land and Mia­mi on Tues­day raid­ed the offices of a com­pa­ny tied to a Ukrain­ian oli­garch sus­pect­ed of push­ing dirt on Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden.

    Vic­ki Ander­son, a spokesper­son for the FBI’s Cleve­land office, con­firmed the raids of Opti­ma Man­age­ment to TPM, declin­ing to com­ment any fur­ther because the mat­ter “is still under seal.” Nobody was tak­en into cus­tody, Ander­son added.

    Opti­ma Man­age­ment is part­ly owned by Ukrain­ian oli­garch Ihor Kolo­moisky, per court doc­u­ments filed in Delaware last year.

    Kolo­moisky has faced a fed­er­al crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion out of the North­ern Dis­trict of Ohio for at least a year. The oli­garch told the New York Times in Novem­ber 2019 that, were he the Pres­i­dent of Ukraine, he would open the inves­ti­ga­tions into Biden that Trump and Giu­liani have sought.

    The next month, asso­ciates and polit­i­cal allies of Kolomoisky’s met with Trump attor­ney Rudy Giu­liani in Kyiv, offer­ing the for­mer NYC may­or a fab­ri­cat­ed nar­ra­tive about Biden..

    The meet­ings fueled sus­pi­cion that, in the words of one West­ern offi­cial based in Kyiv who spoke to TPM on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty, Kolo­moisky was “try­ing to become friends with Trump and Giu­liani” as the feds’ inves­ti­ga­tion of him pro­gressed.

    The oli­garch appears to have stayed involved in the cam­paign to dam­age Biden since then.

    Ear­li­er this year, after a Ukrain­ian mem­ber of par­lia­ment began releas­ing sup­posed audio record­ings of Biden speak­ing with Ukraine’s pres­i­dent in 2016, Kolo­moisky released a state­ment demand­ing that a crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion be opened based off of the tapes.

    ...

    Anoth­er attor­ney for Kolo­moisky, Bud Cum­mins, told TPM in Novem­ber 2019 that he tried to con­vince fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors at the South­ern Dis­trict of New York in Octo­ber 2018 to inves­ti­gate alle­ga­tions around Biden and sep­a­rate charges that Paul Man­afort was brought down by a Ukrain­ian plot — anoth­er Trump­world hob­by­horse. Cum­mins has denied to TPM that his work for Kolo­moisky was relat­ed to his con­ver­sa­tions with SDNY.

    Giu­liani has con­tin­ued to ref­er­ence Cum­mins’ attempt, crit­i­ciz­ing then‑U.S. Attor­ney for the South­ern Dis­trict of New York Geoff Berman for fail­ing to take on the inves­ti­ga­tion.

    Two oth­er asso­ciates of Kolomoisky’s who co-own Opti­ma have also lawyered up in Trump­world, hir­ing Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz to rep­re­sent them in a civ­il suit.

    ————-

    “FBI Raids Com­pa­ny Tied To Ukrain­ian Oli­garch Who Pushed Biden Dis­in­fo” by Josh Koven­sky; Talk­ing Points Memo; 08/04/2020

    “The meet­ings fueled sus­pi­cion that, in the words of one West­ern offi­cial based in Kyiv who spoke to TPM on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty, Kolo­moisky was “try­ing to become friends with Trump and Giu­liani” as the feds’ inves­ti­ga­tion of him pro­gressed.”

    Was Ihor Kolo­moisky try­ing to become the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s friend in order to get out of his fed­er­al bind when he was eager­ly offer­ing some sort of dirt on Joe Biden in Decem­ber of 2019? That’s one of the key ques­tions we have to ask fol­low­ing the FBI raid of these prop­er­ties. A key ques­tion with a very obvi­ous answer that should raise a lot of ques­tions about the nature of the dirt Kolo­moisky was offer­ing:

    ...
    The oli­garch appears to have stayed involved in the cam­paign to dam­age Biden since then.

    Ear­li­er this year, after a Ukrain­ian mem­ber of par­lia­ment began releas­ing sup­posed audio record­ings of Biden speak­ing with Ukraine’s pres­i­dent in 2016, Kolo­moisky released a state­ment demand­ing that a crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion be opened based off of the tapes.

    ...

    Anoth­er attor­ney for Kolo­moisky, Bud Cum­mins, told TPM in Novem­ber 2019 that he tried to con­vince fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors at the South­ern Dis­trict of New York in Octo­ber 2018 to inves­ti­gate alle­ga­tions around Biden and sep­a­rate charges that Paul Man­afort was brought down by a Ukrain­ian plot — anoth­er Trump­world hob­by­horse. Cum­mins has denied to TPM that his work for Kolo­moisky was relat­ed to his con­ver­sa­tions with SDNY.
    ...

    So when the FBI car­ried out those raids on Kolo­moisky’s Opti­ma offices it was­n’t just an action that cre­at­ed a form of legal lever­age over a key Ukrain­ian backer of the Zelen­sky gov­ern­ment. It was also a form of legal lever­age over some­one who had already eager­ly offered tales of dirt on Joe Biden back in Decem­ber in order to get out of the legal pres­sure he was already under. In oth­er words, if Ihor Kolo­moisky ends up being a key source of the Trump cam­paign’s upcom­ing Ukraine-relat­ed smear job against Joe Biden it’s going to be worth keep­ing in mind that he’s an extreme­ly moti­vat­ed wit­ness.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 8, 2020, 1:50 am
  14. Here’s an arti­cle from last week that rais­es a point that’s eas­i­ly for­got­ten as the 2020 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion gets ful­ly under­way. A point that gets more and more rel­e­vant the clos­er we get to the elec­tion, espe­cial­ly if Rudy Giu­lian­i’s threats of a cir­cus of Ukraine/Biden alle­ga­tions becomes real­i­ty: there’s still a fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tion in Lev Par­nas, Igor Fru­man, and Rudy Giu­liani. The under­ly­ing cast of char­ac­ters that result­ed in Trump’s impeach­ment haven’t been for­mal­ly pros­e­cut­ed yet because fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tors are still inves­ti­gat­ing. That seems like the kind of fun fact that might come up dur­ing the elec­tion.

    But as the fol­low­ing arti­cle also notes, while it’s hypo­thet­i­cal­ly pos­si­ble that fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors will for­mal­ly bring or drop charges between now and the elec­tion day, that’s high­ly unlike­ly to hap­pen. Although as we’ll also see, it does sound like fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors had indeed been plan­ning on for­mal­ly bring­ing charges against Par­nas and Fru­man by the end of July. That was the envi­sioned time­line at the begin­ning of the year. Then the coro­n­avirus hit and the entire inves­ti­ga­tion ground to halt.

    It sounds like the inves­ti­ga­tion picked up speed in June but there’s anoth­er anoth­er rea­son charges are unlike­ly before the elec­tion: the Jus­tice Depart­men­t’s pol­i­cy against bring­ing crim­i­nal charges that could impact an elec­tion. The same pol­i­cy that for­mer FBI direc­tor James Comey vio­lat­ed in 2016 when he revealed to Con­gress 10 days before the elec­tion that the FBI was reopen­ing an inves­ti­ga­tion into Hillary Clin­ton’s pri­vate email serv­er. There’s report­ed­ly great con­cern inside the Jus­tice Depart­ment today that any charges against Par­nas, Fru­man, or Giu­liani announced before the elec­tion could vio­late that Jus­tice Depart­ment pol­i­cy.

    And then there’s the still omi­nous sur­prise dis­missal of Geof­frey Berman — the New York fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tor who hap­pened to be inves­ti­ga­tion a large array of Trump-relat­ed cas­es — back in June. Berman’s inves­ti­ga­tions includ­ed the inves­ti­ga­tions of Par­nas, Fru­man, and Giu­liani. So the halt­ing of the inves­ti­ga­tions into these key #UkraineGate fig­ures by the coro­n­avirus in April was fol­lowed by the appar­ent sab­o­tage of the inves­ti­ga­tion by Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bill Barr in June.

    Anoth­er rea­son fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors are report­ed­ly hes­i­tant to bring charges against Rudy Giu­liani before the next pres­i­den­tial term is they’re con­cerned that Pres­i­dent Trump will sim­ply par­don him after the elec­tion if any charges are announced. And that’s all why we’re unlike­ly to see any charges before the elec­tion against the fig­ures at the cen­ter of the scan­dal that got Trump impeached:

    CNN

    As elec­tion looms, win­dow nar­rows for action in crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion into Rudy Giu­liani and asso­ciates

    By Kara Scan­nell and Eri­ca Orden,

    Updat­ed 7:40 PM ET, Fri August 7, 2020

    New York (CNN) With the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion few­er than 90 days away, fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors in New York face a nar­row­ing win­dow in which to take overt steps — includ­ing bring charges — in their inves­ti­ga­tion of Rudy Giu­liani, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s per­son­al attor­ney, and his Sovi­et-born asso­ciates.

    Since ear­ly last year, pros­e­cu­tors with the US attor­ney’s office in Man­hat­tan have been inves­ti­gat­ing Giu­liani along with busi­ness­men Lev Par­nas and Igor Fru­man in con­nec­tion with their efforts to oust the then-US ambas­sador to Ukraine and ini­ti­ate inves­ti­ga­tions by the coun­try into Trump’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

    In Octo­ber 2019, pros­e­cu­tors brought charges against Par­nas, Fru­man and two oth­er asso­ciates, indict­ing them in an alleged cam­paign-finance scheme involv­ing dona­tions to a pro-Trump super PAC. They have plead­ed not guilty.

    The inves­ti­ga­tion expand­ed into Giu­liani. Pros­e­cu­tors sent sub­poe­nas to polit­i­cal donors and fundrais­ers ask­ing about any busi­ness deal­ings they had with the for­mer New York City may­or or his firm Giu­liani Part­ners.

    The sprawl­ing inves­ti­ga­tion into all of the men, how­ev­er, was upend­ed by the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, lim­it­ing pros­e­cu­tors’ abil­i­ty to inter­view wit­ness­es, col­lect fur­ther evi­dence, and meet with the grand jury. Now, with the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion approach­ing, pros­e­cu­tors must decide, if they believe there is evi­dence of a crime, to bring charges or wait until after the elec­tion to avoid a so-called Octo­ber sur­prise.

    While pros­e­cu­tors pri­vate­ly indi­cat­ed as recent­ly as April that they intend­ed to bring addi­tion­al charges against Par­nas and Fru­man by the end of July, which CNN has report­ed, that time­line expired last week. And in recent dis­cus­sions with at least one defense coun­sel, pros­e­cu­tors pro­vid­ed no update on the tim­ing of addi­tion­al charges, accord­ing to a per­son famil­iar with the mat­ter.

    The inves­ti­ga­tion received renewed atten­tion in late June when Geof­frey Berman, the for­mer US attor­ney for Man­hat­tan, was oust­ed from his post, and pub­lic scruti­ny cen­tered on whether his dis­missal was linked to his office’s pur­suit of those close to Trump.

    Mean­while, Jus­tice Depart­ment guide­lines and long­stand­ing prac­tices dis­cour­age pros­e­cu­tors from bring­ing a polit­i­cal­ly sen­si­tive case — such as any that might involve a sit­ting Pres­i­den­t’s per­son­al attor­ney — in close prox­im­i­ty to an elec­tion. In New York in recent years, fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors have charged sim­i­lar­ly polit­i­cal­ly sen­si­tive cas­es no lat­er than August of an elec­tion year.

    In Giu­lian­i’s case, while he has been under scruti­ny for months, he has not had any con­tact with pros­e­cu­tors, accord­ing to his attor­ney. That is not uncom­mon for a tar­get of an inves­ti­ga­tion but, for a prospec­tive defen­dant like Giu­liani, a for­mer Man­hat­tan US attor­ney him­self, it is like­ly he would be informed of pos­si­ble charges and giv­en a chance to make his case to pros­e­cu­tors before they make a final deci­sion.

    “We have had no con­tact at all, nor do I sus­pect we’ll have any con­tact with fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors,” Robert Costel­lo, an attor­ney for Giu­liani, told CNN. “We don’t have any rea­son to believe that any­body is real­ly active­ly look­ing at Rudolph Giu­liani for hav­ing done any­thing wrong, because he has­n’t done any­thing wrong.”

    ...

    Covid caused delays

    Still, the inquiry involv­ing Giu­liani, Par­nas, Fru­man and their asso­ciates appears to have remained active in recent months, fol­low­ing some delays due to the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic.

    Pros­e­cu­tors and FBI agents inter­viewed mul­ti­ple wit­ness­es in Feb­ru­ary and March as the pan­dem­ic was tak­ing hold in New York. By April, how­ev­er, pros­e­cu­tors asked the judge over­see­ing the case to post­pone the Octo­ber tri­al date for Par­nas and Fru­man until next year. The tri­al is now set for Feb­ru­ary 1.

    They not­ed their time­line on bring­ing charges had been pushed back by the pan­demic’s impact on their abil­i­ty to inter­view wit­ness­es and con­vene a grand jury. At the time, they pri­vate­ly told lawyers for the men that they antic­i­pat­ed they would bring new charges by the end of July.

    By June, accord­ing to two peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter, the inves­ti­ga­tion picked up again, with pros­e­cu­tors and FBI agents active­ly inter­view­ing wit­ness­es as part of their inves­ti­ga­tion con­cern­ing Giu­liani, Par­nas and Fru­man. The peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter said pros­e­cu­tors’ ques­tions appeared to relate more to the con­duct of Par­nas and Fru­man and mat­ters that were charged in their orig­i­nal indict­ment — includ­ing a mar­i­jua­na busi­ness ven­ture and dona­tions the two made to Repub­li­can can­di­dates and a pro-Trump super PAC as an alleged effort to spread their influ­ence — than they did to Giu­liani.

    And in recent weeks, grand juries have recon­vened in New York, includ­ing in White Plains, which is part of the Man­hat­tan US Attor­ney’s office juris­dic­tion. For exam­ple, ear­li­er this month, a White Plains grand jury issued an indict­ment charg­ing Ghis­laine Maxwell, a for­mer girl­friend and asso­ciate of Jef­frey Epstein, with recruit­ing, groom­ing and ulti­mate­ly sex­u­al­ly abus­ing girls, some as young as 14. She has plead­ed not guilty.

    As part of their inves­ti­ga­tion, pros­e­cu­tors have con­tin­ued to inquire about Par­nas’s Flori­da-based com­pa­ny Fraud Guar­an­tee, which paid Giu­liani $500,000 in 2018, these peo­ple said, and while CNN has report­ed that pros­e­cu­tors have weighed addi­tion­al charges in con­junc­tion with the com­pa­ny, it isn’t clear that those charges would be filed against Giu­liani.

    Giu­liani is more direct­ly under scruti­ny for his efforts to remove the US ambas­sador to Ukraine, accord­ing to peo­ple famil­iar with the inves­ti­ga­tion, who say a charge could be brought as a vio­la­tion of for­eign lob­by­ing laws. Any charges under that statute, known as the For­eign Agents Reg­is­tra­tion Act, or FARA, would require the approval of the nation­al secu­ri­ty divi­sion in Wash­ing­ton, oper­at­ing under Attor­ney Gen­er­al William Barr.

    Berman dis­missal

    In July, fol­low­ing his dis­missal, Berman told law­mak­ers he was con­cerned that his removal — and an ini­tial deci­sion by Barr to replace him with an attor­ney from out­side the office with no pros­e­cu­to­r­i­al expe­ri­ence — was an effort to dis­rupt or delay inves­ti­ga­tions. Berman, who did­n’t cite spe­cif­ic inves­ti­ga­tions of con­cern, was ulti­mate­ly replaced by his deputy Audrey Strauss, a well-respect­ed attor­ney. There is no indi­ca­tion that inves­ti­ga­tions have been impact­ed.

    Dur­ing a hear­ing before the House Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee last week, Barr was quizzed on Berman’s fir­ing and whether he inter­fered in any inves­ti­ga­tions in the office.

    “Num­ber one, any­one famil­iar with the Depart­ment of Jus­tice would say that remov­ing a com­po­nent head is not going to have an impact on a pend­ing inves­ti­ga­tion,” Barr said in defend­ing the move.

    He added, “I have not inter­fered in any inves­ti­ga­tion. I’ve raised ques­tions on occa­sion about cer­tain mat­ters, but as far as I’m aware, the office was sat­is­fied with the res­o­lu­tion.”

    Impact of the elec­tion

    Even with pros­e­cu­tors’ con­tin­ued scruti­ny of Giu­liani, Par­nas and Fru­man, how­ev­er, the clock is tick­ing toward the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion peri­od, when pros­e­cu­tors are less like­ly to bring charges.

    Jus­tice Depart­ment mem­o­ran­dums advise pros­e­cu­tors against bring­ing any cas­es or tak­ing any overt inves­tiga­tive steps with the pur­pose of impact­ing an elec­tion or pro­vid­ing an advan­tage or dis­ad­van­tage to either can­di­date.

    Cur­rent and for­mer Jus­tice Depart­ment offi­cials say there is an unwrit­ten rule that extends that pol­i­cy to with­in 60 days of an elec­tion.

    In Giu­lian­i’s case, some observers say there is no rush for the US attor­ney’s office in Man­hat­tan to bring a case before the elec­tion. If pros­e­cu­tors believe they have evi­dence of a crime, they will have remain­ing time under the statute of lim­i­ta­tions after the elec­tion cycle.

    Oth­er lawyers have sug­gest­ed the out­come of the elec­tion could influ­ence the tim­ing of any case. If pros­e­cu­tors believe they have evi­dence of a crime and Trump los­es re-elec­tion, they could delay announc­ing charges until Jan­u­ary, after Trump leaves office, remov­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty that he might par­don an ally.

    If pros­e­cu­tors were to move toward charg­ing Giu­liani, pro­to­col dic­tates that they would brief senior Jus­tice Depart­ment offi­cials, like­ly includ­ing Barr, in advance of mak­ing such an announce­ment. Pros­e­cu­tors with the US Attor­ney’s office in Man­hat­tan ini­tial­ly briefed Barr on the inves­ti­ga­tion con­cern­ing Par­nas, Fru­man and Giu­liani ear­ly last year, short­ly after Barr was sworn in.

    The sen­si­tiv­i­ty of charg­ing deci­sions and inves­tiga­tive steps with respect to elec­tions has been a source of ten­sion for the Jus­tice Depart­ment, par­tic­u­lar­ly in recent years.

    Days before the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, then-FBI Direc­tor James Comey sent a let­ter to Con­gress con­cern­ing the reopen­ing of an inves­ti­ga­tion involv­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee Hilary Clin­ton’s emails.

    The Jus­tice Depart­men­t’s Inspec­tor Gen­er­al lat­er crit­i­cized Comey’s deci­sion, say­ing his “descrip­tion of his choice as being between ‘two doors,’ one labeled ‘speak’ and one labeled ‘con­ceal,’ was a false dichoto­my. The two doors were actu­al­ly labeled ‘fol­low policy/practice’ and ‘depart from policy/practice.’ ”

    Pros­e­cu­tors in the Man­hat­tan office have recent­ly been faced with sim­i­lar issues con­cern­ing charg­ing deci­sions in advance of elec­tions.

    In 2018, the year of the con­gres­sion­al midterm elec­tions, the office charged two polit­i­cal­ly sen­si­tive cas­es in August: one against Michael Cohen, Trump’s for­mer per­son­al attor­ney, and anoth­er against Chris Collins, then a Repub­li­can con­gress­man and ear­ly Trump sup­port­er who was up for reelec­tion that year.

    In both cas­es, pros­e­cu­tors made their charg­ing deci­sions with the elec­tions in mind.

    Cohen plead­ed guilty that August and is serv­ing a prison sen­tence in home con­fine­ment. Collins, who won his reelec­tion while under indict­ment, ini­tial­ly plead­ed not guilty, but lat­er changed his plea and resigned his seat. Collins was sen­tenced to 26 months in prison, but has yet to report because of the pan­dem­ic.

    ————

    “As elec­tion looms, win­dow nar­rows for action in crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion into Rudy Giu­liani and asso­ciates” by Kara Scan­nell and Eri­ca Orden; CNN; 08/07/2020

    “Pros­e­cu­tors and FBI agents inter­viewed mul­ti­ple wit­ness­es in Feb­ru­ary and March as the pan­dem­ic was tak­ing hold in New York. By April, how­ev­er, pros­e­cu­tors asked the judge over­see­ing the case to post­pone the Octo­ber tri­al date for Par­nas and Fru­man until next year. The tri­al is now set for Feb­ru­ary 1.

    By April of this year, as the pan­dem­ic took hold, the Octo­ber 1 tri­al date for Par­nas and Fru­man that pros­e­cu­tors had planned at the begin­ning of the year as pushed back to Feb­ru­ary of 2021. That had to be one of those events ear­ly on in the pan­dem­ic that demon­strat­ed to the the Trump White House the many hid­den ben­e­fits a pan­dem­ic presents to those will­ing to exploit it. But the pan­dem­ic did­n’t freeze the inves­ti­ga­tion indef­i­nite­ly. By June it was pick­ing up again...until Geof­frey Berman’s omi­nous mys­tery fir­ing in July:

    ...
    They not­ed their time­line on bring­ing charges had been pushed back by the pan­demic’s impact on their abil­i­ty to inter­view wit­ness­es and con­vene a grand jury. At the time, they pri­vate­ly told lawyers for the men that they antic­i­pat­ed they would bring new charges by the end of July.

    By June, accord­ing to two peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter, the inves­ti­ga­tion picked up again, with pros­e­cu­tors and FBI agents active­ly inter­view­ing wit­ness­es as part of their inves­ti­ga­tion con­cern­ing Giu­liani, Par­nas and Fru­man. The peo­ple famil­iar with the mat­ter said pros­e­cu­tors’ ques­tions appeared to relate more to the con­duct of Par­nas and Fru­man and mat­ters that were charged in their orig­i­nal indict­ment — includ­ing a mar­i­jua­na busi­ness ven­ture and dona­tions the two made to Repub­li­can can­di­dates and a pro-Trump super PAC as an alleged effort to spread their influ­ence — than they did to Giu­liani.

    ...

    In July, fol­low­ing his dis­missal, Berman told law­mak­ers he was con­cerned that his removal — and an ini­tial deci­sion by Barr to replace him with an attor­ney from out­side the office with no pros­e­cu­to­r­i­al expe­ri­ence — was an effort to dis­rupt or delay inves­ti­ga­tions. Berman, who did­n’t cite spe­cif­ic inves­ti­ga­tions of con­cern, was ulti­mate­ly replaced by his deputy Audrey Strauss, a well-respect­ed attor­ney. There is no indi­ca­tion that inves­ti­ga­tions have been impact­ed.
    ...

    And then there’s the con­cerns that pro­ceed­ing ahead with these pros­e­cu­tions before the elec­tion could influ­ence the elec­tion. Con­cerns that were iron­i­cal­ly ignored to Trump’s immense ben­e­fit in 2016:

    ...
    The sen­si­tiv­i­ty of charg­ing deci­sions and inves­tiga­tive steps with respect to elec­tions has been a source of ten­sion for the Jus­tice Depart­ment, par­tic­u­lar­ly in recent years.

    Days before the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, then-FBI Direc­tor James Comey sent a let­ter to Con­gress con­cern­ing the reopen­ing of an inves­ti­ga­tion involv­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­nee Hilary Clin­ton’s emails.

    The Jus­tice Depart­men­t’s Inspec­tor Gen­er­al lat­er crit­i­cized Comey’s deci­sion, say­ing his “descrip­tion of his choice as being between ‘two doors,’ one labeled ‘speak’ and one labeled ‘con­ceal,’ was a false dichoto­my. The two doors were actu­al­ly labeled ‘fol­low policy/practice’ and ‘depart from policy/practice.’ ”
    ...

    And that’s the sto­ry of how the coro­n­avirus — and Bill Barr — saved Trump from the embar­rass­ment of hav­ing the fig­ures at the cen­ter of the scan­dal that got him impeached charged by fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tors before the elec­tion. A sto­ry that will be worth keep­ing in mine when Rudy Giu­liani trots out his Biden-Ukraine smear cam­paign right before the elec­tion.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 15, 2020, 11:35 pm

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