In news that’s every bit as incestuous as it sounds, Rudy Giuliani negotiated with Yuri Lutsenko in January and February around a possible deal to represent Ukraine’s then top prosecutor in proceedings aimed at recovering assets Lutsenko said were looted from the government.
The payment to Giuliani’s company would have been “at least” $200,000. The discussions progressed as far as the drafting of contracts, according to a person familiar with the talks.
At the time, Giuliani was actively pursuing political dirt on Joe Biden, Hunter Biden and Democrats from Ukrainian officials, including Lutsenko, who was one of – if not the – key figures in the effort to smear ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.
Former special envoy Kurt Volker testified last month that he warned Giuliani early on that Lutsenko – whose story has shifted materially – was not a credible source. “Lutsenko is not credible. Don’t listen to what he is saying”, Volker told Rudy.
You’ll note that Lutsenko’s allegations (implicit and otherwise) are also at the heart of many a right-wing conspiracy theory. His subordinate Kostiantyn Kulyk was reportedly set to be fired by Volodymyr Zelensky this month.
Lutsenko featured heavily in Yovanovitch’s closed-door testimony. “Basically, it was people in the Ukrainian Government who said that Mr. Lutsenko, the former prosecutor general, was in communication with Mayor Giuliani, and that they had plans, and that they were going to, you know, do things, including to me”, Yovanovitch told Congress last month.
The deal with Giuliani would have cemented the relationship and given Lutsenko what amounted to a direct line to the White House. As The Washington Post (which originally reported the prospective arrangement) notes, “for Giuliani, the agreements would have been a way to accrue financial benefit from a person who was also providing him politically damaging information that could help another client, the president of the United States”.
“I thought that would be too complicated”, Giuliani told The New York Times in an interview on Wednesday. “I never received a penny”.
It won’t surprise you to learn that Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova – the notorious husband-wife duo who worked off the books for Trump – were involved. At least two versions of the draft deals (which were never executed) mentioned the pair. They too would have been paid.
DiGenova and Toensing have reportedly collected some $1 million in legal fees from Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash this year, a sum that includes payments to Lev Parnas, one of Giuliani’s two Ukraine fixers who were arrested last month trying to leave the country and charged with campaign finance fraud.
Parnas’s attorneys now claim their client has direct knowledge of scrapped plans for Devin Nunes to travel to Ukraine in order to interview two Ukrainian prosecutors, including Kulyk.
Firtash’s contacts managed to compel Viktor Shokin (the prosecutor who Joe Biden had removed) to deliver a witness statement early in September aimed at advancing Giuliani and Trump’s narrative about Hunter Biden while simultaneously exonerating Firtash, who is charged with conspiracy by the US and angling to avoid extradition. Giuliani repeatedly cited that statement during a series of paranoid television interviews which eventually prompted the Biden campaign to demand that he be blackballed by the networks from spreading unfounded conspiracy theories and pushing propaganda to the electorate.
An April draft agreement between Lutsenko, Toensing and diGenova made reference to assisting relevant Ukrainians in arranging meetings with US officials about what the documents call “the evidence of illegal conduct in Ukraine regarding the United States, for example, interference in the 2016 US elections”. A separate April document signed by Toensing lists Shokin as a client.
Giuliani is now widely believed to be under investigation on at least two fronts, including allegations he failed to register as a foreign agent.
“A February draft retainer agreement with Lutsenko called for [Giuliani, diGenova and Toensing] to help recover money allegedly stolen from Ukraine”, WaPo said Wednesday, adding the following:
The person said that another retainer agreement, drafted in March, called for Giuliani Partners to receive $300,000 from the Ministry of Justice for help locating the supposedly stolen assets. That draft agreement also stated that Toensing and diGenova would be working on the matter. That agreement called for payments to be made to Giuliani Partners. Yet another proposal called for the Ministry of Justice to hire Toensing and diGenova for asset recovery but did not mention Giuliani.
For its part, the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice said Wednesday the government didn’t enter into any contracts with Giuliani or pay him any money.
In October, it emerged that Giuliani was paid $500,000 by a company belonging to Parnas called – and this is true – “Fraud Guarantee”, for consulting services tied to “technologies” and for the provision of “legal advice on regulatory issues”.
Obviously, news that Giuliani was negotiating contracts worth nearly a quarter of a million dollars with Lutsenko at the same time the two were working together to smear US officials and push what Fiona Hill called a “fictional narrative of the Russian security services”, is damning in the extreme.
It’s also hilariously ironic. Giuliani claims to have been working to uncover a massive “pay for play” scheme. It just so happens that, while doing so, he was himself engaged in just a scheme.