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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 [1] 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 [2]. 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 [3]. 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 [1]. 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 [4]:

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 [5] 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 [6], a Sovi­et-born Amer­i­can who has emerged as a wild card in Trump’s impeach­ment tri­al [7], 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. [8] 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 [4]

““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 [9]:

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 [10] to Volodymyr Zelen­skiy, whose con­ver­sa­tion with Trump [11] about for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden is now at the cen­ter of the House impeach­ment inquiry [12] 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 [13] 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” [14] 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 [9]

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 [3]. 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 [15]:

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 [15]

““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 [16]:

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 [17], while Mr. Par­nas had left a trail of founder­ing busi­ness­es. [18] 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. [19])

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. [20]

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 [16]

“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 [17], while Mr. Par­nas had left a trail of founder­ing busi­ness­es. [18] 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. [19])

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. [20]

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.