On Monday, media reports detailed a scheme involving a cabal of Republican businessmen who allegedly touted their ties to Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani while attempting to orchestrate a management shakeup at Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state gas company.
The idea, four sources told AP, was to install new management who would then channel business to allies of Trump. Ultimately, Rick Perry took it up, pressuring the country to oust Naftogaz’s supervisory board.
Perry reportedly suggested Naftogaz then add Houston oil executive Robert Bensh to the board, along with Texas private equity chief Michael Bleyzer.
Earlier this year, a pair of Giuliani’s clients chatted with Naftogaz “to pitch themselves as suppliers of US natural gas”, Politico wrote last week, citing other media reports.
Those clients were Trump donors Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. In addition to being Trump donors, they are key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry for their role in assisting Giuliani in efforts to compel Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden.
They (Parnas and Fruman) were arrested yesterday at Dulles International Airport and charged with campaign finance violations. The two were attempting to leave the country.
“Two Soviet-born donors to a pro-Trump fundraising committee who helped Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to investigate Democrat Joe Biden were arrested on criminal charges of violating campaign finance rules, including funneling Russian money into President Trump’s campaign”, the Wall Street Journal, which originally broke the news, said, adding that Parnas and Fruman… have been under investigation by the US attorney’s office in Manhattan, and are expected to appear in federal court in Virginia later on Thursday”.
That is “not good, not good”, to quote a favorite Trumpism.
House Democrats were drafting a subpoena for Parnas and Fruman on the assumption they wouldn’t show for scheduled depositions. Hilariously, the two Florida businessmen are being represented by John Dowd, who quit Trump’s defense team during the Mueller probe.
Prosecutors say Parnas and Fruman raised money for an unidentified congressman (likely former Texas Rep. Pete Sessions), and then looked to him to help orchestrate the removal Marie Yovanovitch “at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials”. That’s according to the indictment, which also details a marijuana scheme involving two other defendants (David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin) and an unidentified Russian businessman. Yovanovitch was, of course, recalled this year by Trump. Her ouster is one of the issues at the heart of the whistle-blower complaint.
Earlier this week, the two men – who, again, were instrumental in hawking purported “dirt” from Ukraine about Biden and Hillary Clinton – indicated they wouldn’t comply with congressional document requests and wouldn’t appear for depositions from the three House committees overseeing the impeachment inquiry.
“Parnas and Fruman will not respond to a deadline for documents and do not plan to appear for depositions scheduled for Thursday and Friday”, The Miami Herald wrote Monday, citing Dowd. The Herald has documented this story at length.
Last month, the paper wrote that according to Parnas, Ukraine’s government “has access to information on alleged wrongdoing by Joe Biden and his son Hunter and other US officials overseas, but the US government proved indifferent to receiving it through official channels”.
That, Parnas swears, is why he and Fruman had to work through Giuliani. “I got certain information and I thought it was my duty to hand it over”, Parnas told the Herald on September 26.
Parnas, The New York Times reminds you, helped connect Giuliani to Ukrainian prosecutors.
In any event, the two men are in custody now. On Thursday afternoon, they were subpoenaed by House investigators as expected.
“Your clients are private citizens who are not employees of the Executive Branch. They may not evade requests from Congress for documents and information necessary to conduct our inquiry”, Democrats said, in a letter to Dowd. “They are not exempted from this requirement merely because they happen to work with Mr. Giuliani, and they may not defy congressional subpoenas merely because President Trump has chosen the path of denial, defiance, and obstruction.”
One can’t help but wonder if, facing other charges in a separate case, they might suddenly become more willing to cooperate with House Democrats.
Oh, and they might want to avoid asking Rudy for legal advice in the future. “They had a campaign finance issue”, Giuliani told the Times last month, in an effort to downplay the two mens’ legal problems.
“I referred them to a campaign finance expert who pretty much resolved it”, he went on to say.
Apparently not, Rudy. Apparently not.