Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Refresher Course

So Rudolph Giuliani's Upper East Side office and apartment have been raided, and cellphones and computers seized, and a grand jury subpoena served on Giuliani's executive assistant, in an FBI investigation of whether he may have violated laws against trying to influence or lobby the US government on behalf of a foreign official without disclosing it to the Justice Department. Among other things, I trust. Also a phone taken from lawyer Victoria Toensing, who has been variously involved with Giuliani's Ukraine contacts Yuriy Lutsenko and Dmytro Firtash and has employed Lev Parnas and Ihor Fruman as "translators", I believe, and is the attorney of writer John Solomon, who is in turn one of the correspondents in the communications the feds are searching for on the devices they seized.

I'm re-upping the following, from January 2020, the day after Trump's impeachment lawyers presented his "case",  as a helpful guide to who all these people were and what they were likely to have been doing, and who they were doing it for (one Donald J. Trump, in his aspiration for a second presidential term)

By Jen Sorensen.

So the Republicans finally did get around to mentioning Rudolph Giuliani's name after all, yesterday, for 15 minutes of their 24 hours (which seem to have reduced themselves by about half, no surprise there), in the person of counselor Jane Raskin, who explained that Rudy was simply a "colorful distraction" introduced into the story by Democrats:

“The House managers would have you believe that Mr. Giuliani is at the center of this controversy,” Raskin said. “They’ve anointed him the proxy villain of the tale, the leader of a rogue operation. Their presentations were filled with ad hominem attacks and name-calling … but I suggest to you he’s front an center in their narrative for one reason alone: to distract from the fact that the evidence does not support their claims.”

Because it wasn't the way the Democrats saw it when he and Lev and Ihor, and the hack journalist John Solomon, and the hack Ukrainian prosecutors Viktor Shokin and Kostiantyn Kulyk and Yuriy Lutsenko, and the very rich Ukrainian crook Dmytro Firtash, worked to concoct their stories of how the real thieves of the Democratic National Committee emails were an imaginary Ukrainian firm called CrowdStrike (overlapping in their alternative universe with the American company of that name in ours); and the US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, was a secret member of the anti-Trump resistance; and Joe Biden's son Hunter had done something unspeakable and indeed undefinable, but very bad.

Raskin asserted that Giuliani’s pursuits were not about the 2020 presidential election, citing the fact that he undertook the effort before Mueller’s report on Russian interference was released and before Biden announced his presidential bid. She said he was driven by a motivation to defend his client against the Mueller probe. 
“He was not on a political errand,” Raskin argued. “He was doing what good defense attorneys do. … He was gathering evidence about Ukrainian election interference to defend his client against the false allegations being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller.” 

Let's just take a look at that, focusing on the timing:

19 April 2018: Giuliani takes the position as Trump's personal attorney, with a staff including Lev Parnas as a provider of interpreting services and it's not clear what (Parnas says, "We were good friends, he’s also my counsel... We were looking to do business together" but it's also the case that Parnas was at that dinner 11 days later on 30 April that Giuliani missed, of which Lordy there is a tape, where Trump learned that Ukraine might have oil and heard that Ambassador Yovanovitch might have said something critical about him and decided she needed to be "taken out"). He has his own business interests in Ukraine, and it's hard to say how his work for Trump and his work in Ukraine might overlap especially in these earlier laps for which we don't know much of anything, but:

January 2019: Giuliani is trying to get a US visa for Viktor Shokin, the corrupt prosecutor Biden had famously denounced in December 2015, who was removed by the Poroshenko government in the following March, but can't get it done, in spite of direct appeal to the White House ("They 'declined his visa today,' Parnas wrote. 'I can revive it,' Giuliani replied. 'It's going to work. I have no. 1 on it.'" That's the guy we now know as Individual no. 1.)

Parnas said in the interview with The Post, which took place prior to his arrest, that Giuliani had first invited Shokin to come to the United States for a meeting — a plan that was thwarted when Shokin learned the United States would not extend him a visa. Instead, Giuliani and Shokin spoke via Skype in January.
But Parnas said Giuliani had been upset when Shokin could not accept his invitation due to the visa issue.

(Though Shokin's visa application said he just wanted to visit his daughter in California.)

23 January: In a Skype call, Shokin tells Giuliani, among other things, that

he was fired because he wanted to investigate Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company where Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, was on the board. 

Which was of course false;

Ukrainian and American officials said that Shokin, contrary to what he told Giuliani, did not actively investigate Burisma while he was prosecutor-general, and that the dormant cases in Ukraine that targeted Burisma—questioning how it obtained its exploration licenses and whether it paid all of its taxes—had nothing to do with Hunter’s role on the board. 
“Shokin was not investigating. He didn’t want to investigate Burisma,” Daria Kaleniuk a leading Ukrainian anti-corruption advocate, told the Washington Post. “And Shokin was fired not because he wanted to do that investigation, but quite to the contrary, because he failed that investigation.” (JustSecurity)

But the fact is Shokin had been telling the story of how Biden got him fired all over the place from some time in 2018, and Parnas, who knew him well, must have been aware of this; and as far as that goes, the abominable Peter Schweizer, author of the calumnious Clinton Cash, had introduced it into his 2018 Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends, much remembered for its bold plagiarizing of Wikipedia.

25 January: Giuliani and Parnas have a meeting just a block from Trump Tower with Yuriy Lutsenko, Shokin's successor as prosecutor general, with a Ukrainian legislator named Hlib Zahoriy acting as translator

[Prosecutor Gyunduz] Mamedov and Hlib Zahoriy, at the time a Ukrainian lawmaker, accompanied Lutsenko to meetings with Giuliani, Parnas, and Fruman in New York on January 25 and 26, according to minutes of the meetings handed to House committees by the U.S. State Department’s Inspector General.
In the meetings, Lutsenko furnished Giuliani with a range of unsupported accusations alleging, among other things, wrongdoing by former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and officials in the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv including then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, the minutes show.... 
The proposal that he meet Giuliani came from Parnas and Fruman, Lutsenko said, and had been conveyed to his staff by Mamedov. He added that Mamedov knew Giuliani’s associates from his time in the Ukrainian port city of Odesa. The Black Sea city is the site of most of a business network Fruman built in the 1990s and early 2000s.

I don't know what connection there might be between Shokin's allegations about Bidens two days earlier and these by Lutsenko, as you can imagine, but it's not a coincidence, and Parnas and Fruman are clearly not uninvolved.

26 January: At a second session, Lutsenko also talks about the ledger of undercover payments from the Party of Regions to Paul Manafort which had been discovered in August 2016, and started the process that ended up putting Manafort in prison, and I guess we can assume he didn't deny Giuliani's idea (which he's said to have had from imprisoned Manafort himself) that the ledger might be a forgery, which it definitely isn't:

Despite claims by Manafort to the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, that the ledger was a forgery, bank records described in an FBI search warrant, and reviewed by the Associated Press, confirmed that at least $1.2 million in payments listed in the records next to Manafort’s name were actually deposited in one of his firm’s bank accounts in Virginia. (A record of one of those deposits was subsequently made public by [activist Serhiy] Leshchenko.)

In this way, almost all the themes of Trump's supposed interest in Ukrainian corruption, the Biden thing, the Yovanovitch thing, and the "Black Ledger" thing, come into Giuliani's head in this four-day period (the fourth theme, of the Ukrainian conspiracy against Trump's presidential candidacy, goes back to semi-legitimate reporting by Ken Vogel when he was working for Politico and the CrowdStrike effusions of an American journalist living in eastern Ukraine, George Eliason, with connections to the American crazy press, and Trump has been aware of these all the way back to early 2017).

4 February: Isaac-Edward Dovere reports at The Atlantic that Biden hasn't decided whether he'll run or not, though he had promised to decide by January.

March 12: Parnas sends Lutsenko a message of outreach from John Solomon, then writing for The Hill. It includes 17 questions largely focused on Yovanovitch and Biden.
March 13: Lutsenko sends Parnas an angry message.
“I’m sorry, but this is all simply b---t,” Lutsenko wrote. “I’m f---g sick of all this. I haven’t received a visit. My [boss] hasn’t received jack all. I’m prepared to [thrash] your opponent. But you want more and more. We’re over.”

Whose opponent? Is that the evidence that "dirt" on Biden is the main task, and the 2020 election is the main object?


17 March: At a dinner in Dover, Biden accidentally announces that he's running for president, in one of the most entertaining of Biden's gaffes; crowd chants, "Run, Joe! Run!"

20 March: Solomon publishes his first piece on information received from Lutsenko, alleging that there was something wrong with the release of the Manafort ledger, announcing that Lutsenko was starting an investigation of corruption, and complaining that Yovanovitch had given him a list of people he wasn't allowed—by the Americans!—to prosecute, including the ledger hero Serhiy Leshchenko.

22 March: Lutsenko complains that Ambassador Yovanovitch is still in place, which is "bringing into question all my allegations. Including about B." Understood to refer to Biden or Burisma.

24 March: text messages over the next six days suggest Giuliani's henchmen have put Ambassador Yovanovitch under some kind of close surveillance.

26 March: Lutsenko writes to Parnas that he's "investigating" Burisma and "There is testimony about transfers to B" which is almost certainly a lie, along with follow-up claims on the 28th. Also on 26th and 27th there are conversations between Giuliani and Pompeo, we aren't told about what.

1 April: Solomon publishes his first article claiming that Biden called for Shokin's firing to avert an investigation of Burisma.

7 April: Giuliani puts the Biden story on Fox News.

9 April: Lutsenko expands his list of people the ambassador has ordered him not to prosecute,  which now includes three guys associated with presidential candidate and comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who had shockingly come out a winner in the first round of elections 31 March: Leshchenko, Vitaliy Shabunin (of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, a center of Lutsenko's enemies), and Oleksandr Danylyuk.

18 April: Lutsenko, presumably aware by now that Zelenskyy is going to win the runoff election on the 21st in a landslide and his behavior is likely to cost him his job, publicly retracts the whole story of Yovanovitch having a do-not-prosecute list. (It wasn't until 29 September that he acknowledged "I don't know any reason to investigate Joe Biden or Hunter Biden according to Ukrainian law." At that point he probably didn't imagine that we'd all be reading Parnas's texts and finding out how he'd led the Americans on.)

24 April: Biden announces his presidential candidacy. That night, Yovanovich gets a call from Carol Perez, director general of the Foreign Service:

“She said that she was giving me a heads-up, that things were going wrong, kind of ... off the track.” Hours later, at 1 a.m. in Ukraine, Perez called again to say “that I needed to be on the next plane home to Washington. And I was like, what? What happened? And she said, I don’t know, but this is about your security. You need to come home immediately.”

Which sounds scarier if you realize, as we're just starting to realize, that agents of Trump or his ubiquitous attorney might have been tailing her around Kiyiv for the past three or four weeks.

So, let's see:

There is certainly a problem with Counselor Jane Raskin's claim that Giuliani did not begin "investigating" Biden, if you want to call it that, before Biden decided to run. There are some signs he did not begin investigating Biden at all. He may have bumped into the story while he was working on whatever he was working on with Shokin in some other no doubt crooked "business" capacity, or he may have been looking for a hand to confirm Peter Schweizer's Biden story, in anticipation of Biden's run, which everybody knew was almost certainly going to happen.

There is a problem in Counselor Raskin's assertion that what Giuliani was doing was in behalf of the "defense" of his client, the president of the United States. How would it defend him? OK, there's an argument that if the Mueller investigation had found him chargeable with colluding with Russian intelligence but Giuliani had assembled some kind of cockamamie "proof" that Ukrainians had done all the stuff Russians were suspected of doing, um, that would be pretty weird, although in light of what we know since the Mueller Report and the Senate Intelligence Committee findings it couldn't have happened. But in any event the Yovanovitch matter and the Biden matter don't fit into that at all. If Masha had said mean things about the Emperor, if young Biden had a cushy job he didn't really deserve, how would that show that Trump was innocent of high crimes and misdemeanors?

What I'm trying to say is, in his dealings with Shokin and Lutsenko, and retailing of material to Solomon, Rudy was not showing any concern with defending Trump from Mueller at all, and he obviously wasn't showing an interest in Ukrainian corruption other than (with Lev 'n' Ihor) getting a piece of it in the energy sector, alongside the Three Amigos.

If he had been concerned about Trump's possible impeachment in the Russian conspiracy case, these Ukrainian matters weren't really going to help him prepare a defense at all (they have figured out a way of using them in the actual impeachment, for the story of how Trump was merely concerned with "corruption" and "burden-sharing", but Giuliani couldn't have prefigured that before late August). It strikes me that if he'd been concerned about actual corruption in Ukraine, as Trump is said to have been, he could have taken whatever evidence he had to the FBI (as Christopher Steele did with his crazy stores from Moscow), or something like that.

Either way, moreover, he wouldn't have been acting independently of Trump, and of course he isn't acting independently of Trump in Raskin's summary either.

Or alternatively, we just might note that Giuliani didn't have anything to give the FBI;

He went to Ukraine to find somebody who would sell him a story he couldn't find in the US, and I do mean "sell". Or, better, he was in Ukraine anyway, with Lev and Ihor, doing their stuff, and getting the troublesome ambassador fired so that the business project would go a bit easier, and Lev hooked him up with these people, and Big Donald was mightily pleased, especially by the idea of sticking it to that hypocritical Joe Biden who acts like such a nice guy all the time. But it's pretty obvious that everything Giuliani did on Trump's behalf, as opposed to his own mysterious business interests, was indeed aimed at the 2020 election—building up the fragments of a story in which Trump was the victim of an international conspiracy and his most likely rival was the archvillain. And Giuliani is front and center because he did all the work in the Ukraine matter, "drug deal" and all.

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