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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

————-

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asso­ci­at­ed Press

Prof­it, not pol­i­tics: Trump allies sought Ukraine gas deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

___

THE BUSINESSMEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

___

THE ENERGY SECRETARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

———-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...
THE ENERGY SECRETARY

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

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

Asso­ci­at­ed Press

Giu­liani pals lever­aged GOP access to seek Ukraine gas deal

By DESMOND BUTLER and MICHAEL BIESECKER
Decem­ber 24, 2019

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

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

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

...

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

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

———–

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wall Street Jour­nal

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

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

———–

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion

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

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

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

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

    NBC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Oli­garch Dmytro Fir­tash appears to be linked to both efforts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ...

    ‘That’s a crock’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The bribery case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ...

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

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

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

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

    ———-

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ...

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

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

    ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 26, 2020, 11:22 pm
  2. I did­n’t get to vote on that 2 bil­lion dol­lar US-tax­pay­er backed loan to the fas­cists in Kiev. What­ev­er Trump did pales in com­par­i­son to the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion’s deci­sion to weaponize “overt Ger­man-style fas­cism” for pur­pos­es of US for­eign pol­i­cy objec­tives and to extend NATO’s bor­ders.

    Com­ments pls?

    Posted by The Gary Webb Experience | January 29, 2020, 6:04 am
  3. @The Gary Webb Expe­ri­ence: It’s hard to dis­pute that the US pol­i­cy towards Ukraine dur­ing the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion was hor­ri­ble and did indeed involve the deci­sion to basi­cal­ly weaponize Ukrain­ian fas­cists for the pur­pose of accom­plish­ing the long-stand­ing US for­eign pol­i­cy objec­tive of Ukraine into the West­’s orbit. If for­eign poli­cies that involved empow­er­ing awful groups and doing long-term dam­age to oth­er coun­tries was an impeach­able offense it’s unclear how far back we’d have to go to find a pres­i­dent who was­n’t impeach­able. But that should­n’t some­how let Trump off the hook. The guy has been com­mit­ting arguably impeach­able offens­es since before he was elect­ed and is clear­ly beyond cor­rupt, but there’s no way he’s going to be impeached for all of the rea­sons he tru­ly deserves to be impeached. The impeach of Trump is more anal­o­gous to tak­ing down Al Capone for tax eva­sion. The crime is rel­a­tive­ly small pota­toes com­pared to the total­i­ty of his crimes. His open and ongo­ing embrace of for­eign emol­u­ments alone was arguably impeach­able right out of the gate. And then there’s the exten­sive obstruc­tion of jus­tice. But per­haps his great­est impeach­able offense is sim­ply the fact that the guy appears to be some sort of patho­log­i­cal fab­u­list who can’t stop lying. It’s like he has a lie tick. He makes most oth­er Repub­li­cans look rel­a­tive­ly hon­est in com­par­i­son. If mak­ing elect­ed Repub­li­cans look rel­a­tive­ly hon­est isn’t impeach­able under the 25th Amend­ment, what is?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    PBS News Hours

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ...

    ———-

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ...

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

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

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

    ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The New York Times

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

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

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

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

    ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ———-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ...

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

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

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

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

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

    ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

    CNN

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

    By Kara Scan­nell and Eri­ca Orden,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ...

    Court­ing Giu­liani

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ...

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

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

    ———–

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ...

    Court­ing Giu­liani

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

    ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 23, 2020, 12:36 am

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