Documents out this week paint clear picture of Lev Parnas doing Giuliani’s bidding in Ukraine–and by relation, Trump’s. But if Giuliani gets no money from Trump, who was paying for that?
In fact–and this may be the craziest part of the story–Parnas actually paid Giuliani. Huh? Let’s take a step back for a second.
Could be Parnas and his associate Igor Fruman (who isn’t talking/cooperating), are just patriots and Trump boosters who wanted to help the President out in his professed crusade to root out government corruption around the world. (Although Trump’s avowed corruption focus seems to sit singularly on Ukraine: he doesn’t say a peep about it in North Korea, or China, or Russia, or Saudi Arabia, etc., etc., etc.)
Could be Parnas and Fruman felt doing favors for Giuliani would curry them favor with the President or at least make them appear to be close to Trump, and thus make them figures to be reckoned with in Ukraine. So an investment of their time would mean financial riches (and also power) in the long run. The two did set up an oil and gas company. Of course, that type of company would also be useful as a pipeline for cash. And it’s not really clear if it ever was anything more than that.
And that’s not the whole story. And we don’t purport to know the whole story. One of the reasons we’re writing about this today, is there’s been so little reporting on this angle compared to everything else, that there’s precious little to go on. We’re just trying to piece together what we’ve been able to find.
What is clear from the trove of documents released by the House Intelligence Committee this week related to Parnas’, and Giuliani’s, and others’ role in the events leading to Trump’s impeachment, is that the pair were doing an awful lot of “consulting” for Giuliani. At least some of it related to an intimidation campaign against former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, which the Ukraine government announced this week it is investigating. And Giuliani, in one of the most damning (and also under-covered) documents released this week, identifies himself to Ukraine’s newly-elected President as Trump’s exclusive personal representative, and makes it clear he’s only working in the interests of the President, not the U.S. Says Giuliani:
“Just to be precise, I represent him as a private client, not as President of the United States. This is quite common under American law because the duties and privileges of a President and a private citizen are not the same. Separate representation is usual process.”
Which of course completely undermines Trump’s oft-repeated assertion that his motives in Ukraine were not in any way personal. (And BTW, who cares if Biden’s son is called to testify before the Senate as some kind of Republican-demanded tit-for-tat? Americans have always been very understanding of politicians—particularly Presidents (see Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton)—having wacko relatives. Because every family does.)
And before we go any further, let’s get one common misconception about Parnas and Fruman out of the way: they are both U.S. citizens. That’s part of why they may have originally been deemed “necessary”, if they were facilitating political contributions benefitting Trump from overseas, which is illegal. Which, BTW, is what they’re charged with by the U.S. government. Which is also why, when first confronted with a half-million dollar payment from Parnas, Giuliani insisted: “The money did not come from foreigners. I can rule that out 100%“. Which at least technically, is true.
There is at least one thing that’s clear because it’s been substantiated by Trump’s own Department of Justice: Parnas received $1,000,000 from a Ukrainian oligarch named Dmitry Firtash. Firtash has close ties to Russia. And again according to the DOJ, is closely affiliated with the Russian mob. He is in Austria right now, trying to avoid extradition to the United States to face charges he tried to bribe officials in India nearly $20-million to corner the mining rights to a mineral Boeing needs to build its 787 jets.
Back when Giuliani was trying to smear Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen, he pointed out that Cohen shared the same lawyer as Firtash . At that time, Giuliani himself described Firtash this way:
“He is considered to be one of the close associates of [Semion] Mogilevich, who is the head of Russian organized crime, who is Putin’s best friend.”
Since then Firtash has switched lawyers to Trump cronies and frequent Fox guests Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing. And Parnas’ lawyer gave the Washington Post a photo of Giuliani getting chummy with a Firtash associate at a cigar bar in Paris.
Firtash did not give the money directly to Parnas, he gave it to Parnas’ wife. But that’s how these things often go. $200,000 of it, Parnas claims, was for his work as a translator on Firtash’s legal team.
And according to Reuters, and at least partly confirmed again by Giuliani himself, at one point Parnas actually gave Giuliani $500,000, through Parnas’ appropriately named company “Fraud Guarantee”, in exchange for “consulting and legal advice”. That’s certainly an interesting twist. Because it would mean financially, though clearly not functionally, Giuliani was actually working for Parnas. And would also help start to explain how he’s able to work for Trump for free.
Never mind that: if you’re just looking for a short answer to the question we asked up top there’s no surprise twist there. It’s Russia.