Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Call Me Sherlock Holmes. II

Photo via The Mary Sue.

Carrying on a bit from last night:

But questioning Mr. Dowd about whether Mr. Trump wanted him to dangle pardons or other favorable treatment to witnesses might have been a worthy investigative pursuit because it would have cut to the heart of whether the president abused his power.


So he was sort of Parnas's lawyer in the months before "the months leading up to" Parnas's surrender, but that's extremely fishy in its own right, since Fraud Guarantee didn't really exist by 2018 (Florida dissolved the company in 2014, per Wikipedia) and the money was given to Giuliani not by Parnas, but fronted by a Long Island lawyer and Trump donor, Charles Gucciardo, as an "investment":

Giuliani told the newspaper the money was a “perfectly legitimate payment” and said Gucciardo got “promissory notes that were convertible into a percentage of the company.” However, Fraud Guarantee does not appear to have any customers and Giuliani did not appear to do any public marketing for the company. A lawyer for Parnas has not spoken publicly about the matter.

Weird unexplained but plainly laundered payments are a fixture in this world—Parnas himself got a million dollars from Dmytro Firtash's American lawyer, counselor Joseph DiGenova a month or so before his arrest.) So let's see if we can put together a bit of a timeline:

September 2019:

The whistleblower letter on Trump's phone call with President Zelenskyy comes out publicly 26 September, referring to a couple of guys who set Giuliani up with the crooked Ukrainian ex-prosecutor Viktor Shokin to help fabricate "dirt" on Marie Yovanovitch and Hunter Biden; they're quickly identified as Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Florida businessmen with some extremely louche associations with a company called "Fraud Guarantee" and with the Republican Party, to which they seem to be enthusiastic donors.

On 30 September House Intelligence Committee asks them for various documents.

October 2019

It develops that their attorney is John Dowd, Trump's former attorney during the Mueller investigation; Trump seems to have been involved in arranging this

The documents also include an email from Trump’s other lawyer, Jay Sekulow, revealing that Sekulow spoke to Trump about his former lawyer John Dowd representing Parnas and Fruman. “The president consents to allowing your representation of Mr. Parnas and Mr. Furman [sic],” Sekulow wrote on October 2, 2019.

In the story redacted from Judge Howell's order (and keep in mind I could be totally wrong and Howell could be discussing somebody entirely different), there are actually two schemes to pardon X developing at this point: a "secret lobbying scheme" in which the attorney not working as an attorney is working as a lobbyist, using his connections with senior White House officials as a personal favor (illegal because in violation of the Lobbyist Disclosure Act); and a "bribery conspiracy scheme" to offer a "substantial political contribution" to Trump himself in return for a pardon (I still feel this might refer to an agreement not to testify against Trump, as opposed to a cash payment).

If X is Parnas, then, the lobbying attorney who won't qualify for attorney-client privilege is Giuliani, and the bribery negotiator is Dowd, and the emails serving as evidence of the pardon conspiracies were composed between 2 October and 9 October, when Parnas and Fruman had lunch at the Trump International with Giuliani, went to Dulles International Airport with one-way tickets to Vienna via Frankfurt, and instead were arrested and jailed on charges (by SDNY) related to their laundering of an illegal $325,000 foreign donation to a Trump superPAC, and Parnas turned over 6 phones, tablets and computers which the FBI began studying alongside 8 devices seized from his home.

That's the significance of "months leading up to" his arrest, being the terminus ad quem covered by the documentation in the devices. "Cooperate and sacrifice yourself for the president" was Dowd's way of saying, "Sit tight, that pardon'll show up any day now, or maybe a little later."

On the next day, 10 October, the three House committees working on impeaching Trump subpoena Parnas and Fruman for "documents related to communications with the White House, Ukrainian officials, and Giuliani" within a week. Also 10 October,

“I don’t know those gentleman,” Trump told reporters outside the White House. “Now, it’s possible I have a picture with them because I have a picture with everybody. I don’t know them, I don’t know about them, I don’t know what they do.”

That seems to be when Parnas began feeling dubious about how well he could expect Trump to treat him—maybe because the FBI now had the documentation of the pardon conspiracy, as well as all the criminal activities. But the tone of hurt feelings with which he talked about it subsequently (e.g, on the Maddow show) also seemed completely genuine.

On 21 October, after intensive negotiation, he is released to home confinement in Boca Raton, with an ankle monitor.

November 2019

Parnas's lawyer Joseph Bondy announces on 2 November that John Dowd is no longer on the defense team and that his client is prepared to cooperate with the House committees.

I think that's a good place to stop the reconstruction, for now, showing that the identification of Parnas as X is really completely plausible. In fact, it could could all be true in its own right even if Judge Powell's order was about somebody else (not that I have anybody in mind).

Another pleasant thought, though: this is why Giuliani has been acting like such an unutterable idiot lately. He knows how criminally exposed he is in this stuff and he really, really wants a pardon of his own. There's absolutely nothing he won't do to get it, nothing too disgusting, nothing too cringy. If you go low, he'll crawl right under you.


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