Way back on October 23, I called this Ukrainian thing “the biggest scandal in American political history.” If you’re keeping up with the latest breaking news, then you know why I said that. On Saturday, I wrote a piece for my subscribers called “If Rudy Giuliani is a Hand Grenade, Lev Parnas is the Pin.” In both of those articles, I took a look at the role of Dmytro Firtash, a Putin-aligned Ukrainian oligarch who is presently under house arrest in Austria and fighting extradition to the United States.
If you watched the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment hearings over the last two weeks, you probably remember Ambassador Bill Taylor. He was the guy people likened to Walker Cronkite who said it was “crazy” to withhold aid to Ukraine for nakedly political purposes.
In June 2019, Taylor became chargé d’affaires ad interim for Ukraine. It was essentially his second go-round as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, but in a role that didn’t require Senate confirmation. His previous “official” posting in Kyiv lasted from 2006 to 2009. The position was vacant because the previous ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch, had been smeared and unceremoniously sacked.
In his first go-round as ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor was paid an unsolicited visit by Dmytro Firtash. We know all about this meeting because Taylor sent a lengthy cable back to State Department headquarters about it that was later published by WikiLeaks. Near the end of that cable is a description of Firtash’s explanation for his close relationship with notorious Russian mafia crime “boss of bosses” Semyon Mogilievich. Firtash is not the kind of guy ordinary people would want to associate with.
But Paul Manafort is not an ordinary person and he has maintained a long and very close relationship with Firtash. Together they were sued in the Southern District of New York by Yulia Tymenshenko, the former prime minister of Ukraine who was imprisoned in 2011 on trumped up charges. Manafort operated a real estate investment business in Manhattan which was funded by Firtash, but you can see from a complaint filed by a former employee with the New York Department of Labor’s fraud unit that their the business was actually a money laundering sham.
Rudy Giuliani became convinced that Ukrainian politicians had sabotaged Paul Manafort during his time as the campaign chairman of Donald Trump’s campaign by publishing the contents of a black ledger that detailed the illegal governmental payouts Manafort had received from now exiled Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Russian political party. This forms the primary basis for Trump’s belief that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Hillary Clinton.
Giuliani has immersed himself in this Manafort-Firtash relationship. The Washington Post recently reported that Giuliani has been consulting with Manafort despite the fact that the former Trump campaign chairman is in prison. It’s also clear now from reporting in the New York Times that Giuliani approached Firtash and convinced him to fire Lanny Davis as his lawyer and to hire Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing to represent him in his fight against extradition.
This is where Lev Parnas enters into the story.
Parnas and his business partner Igor Fruman were recently arrested for engaging in “political activities in the U.S. on behalf of one or more Ukrainian government officials.” This included the solicitation of help from former congressman Pete Sessions in the removal of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch from her post in Kyiv.
The two men were charged with four counts, including conspiracy, falsification of records and lying to the Federal Election Commission about their political donations, which included a $325,000 donation through a limited liability company to a super PAC formed to support Mr. Trump, according to the indictment.
Fruman has retained Trump’s Mueller investigation lawyer John Dowd as his attorney, and he’s not talking. But Parnas appears desperate to tell Congress and the American people everything he knows. And he knows all about Giuliani’s efforts to manufacture dirt on Joe Biden.
To truly understand what happened, it is necessary to know a little bit about the charges against Firtash. He’s accused of paying bribes to Indian officials to win the rights to mine titanium for Boeing. There’s a piece of evidence against him referred to as “Exhibit A” in court documents. Firtash would like to get this evidence thrown out.
Giuliani realized this and sent Parnas and Fruman to Vienna to argue that diGenova and Toensing would accomplish what Lanny Davis could not. They could win an audience with Attorney General William Barr and get the Chicago-based prosecutors to drop the Exhibit A evidence. They did, indeed, speak directly to Barr about this matter, but were reportedly told to take their case to the prosecutors in Illinois. Here is what Parnas wants to tell Congress about this whole affair:
[Firtash] hired [diGenova and Toensing], he said, on a four-month contract for a singular task — to arrange a meeting with the attorney general and persuade him to withdraw Exhibit A. He said their contract was for $300,000 a month, including Mr. Parnas’s referral fee. A person with direct knowledge of the arrangement said Mr. Parnas’s total share was $200,000; Ms. Toensing declined to discuss the payment but has said previously that it was for case-related translation.
There was one more piece to Mr. Parnas’s play. “Per Giuliani’s instructions,” Mr. Parnas’s lawyer said, his client “informed Mr. Firtash that Toensing and diGenova were interested in collecting information on the Bidens.” (It was the former vice president who had pushed the Ukrainian government to eliminate middleman gas brokers like Mr. Firtash and diversify the country’s supply away from Russia.)
One reason that Parnas’s claim is credible is that he was part of an anti-Biden working group that included diGenova and Victoria Toensing.
[Parnas’s lawyer, Joseph] Bondy told CNN that Parnas is also willing to tell Congress about a series of regular meetings he says he took part in at the Trump International Hotel in Washington that concerned Ukraine. According to Bondy, Parnas became part of what he described as a “team” that met several times a week in a private room at the BLT restaurant on the second floor of the Trump Hotel. In addition to giving the group access to key people in Ukraine who could help their cause, Parnas translated their conversations, Bondy said.
The group, according to Bondy, included Giuliani, Parnas [The Hill] journalist [John] Solomon, and the married attorneys Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing. Parnas said that Harvey would occasionally be present as well, and that it was Parnas’ understanding that [Derek] Harvey was [Devin] Nunes’ proxy, Bondy said.
I don’t know what it will take to convince congressional Republicans that Trump should be removed from office, but this story is going to become common knowledge before any vote is held.
In short, Trump empowered Giuliani to manufacture evidence that Ukraine had been responsible for hacking the DNC and framing Russia, that Joe Biden had forced out a Ukrainian prosector to kill an investigation into his son Hunter, and that Ukrainians had acted inappropriately by using doctored evidence to implicate Paul Manafort in corruption and thereby harm Trump’s campaign. Giuliani then deputized two Ukrainian-American fraudsters with ties to Russia to help him carry out his scheme. These fraudsters have been indicted both for their role in Giuliani’s scheme, including the sacking of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and for making illegal campaign contributions with foreign money to a Trump Super PAC. They also attempted to corrupt the Department of Justice and intervene in the extradition of a Russian-mob connected Ukrainian oligarch who ran a money laundering operation with Paul Manafort.
And, for the cherry on top, the Republican responsible for overseeing the impeachment inquiry in the House, Devin Nunes, was integrally involved in this all along the way.
Are you seeing now, why I called this this biggest political scandal in history?