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What We Know About Trump’s Ukraine Energy-Deal Scandal

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  • What We Know About Trump’s Ukraine Energy-Deal Scandal

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    President Trump embraces Energy Secretary Rick Perry as Vice-President Mike Pence applauds. Photo: Pool/Getty Images

    President Trump has repeatedly insisted he did nothing wrong when he pressured Ukraine in a phone call to investigate unsubstantiated allegations about the Biden family, an act which prompted a member of the U.S. intelligence community to file a whistle-blower complaint which, in turn, has led to an impeachment inquiry from House Democrats.

    In response to the allegations, both Trump and his defenders have repeatedly cited the administration’s obligation to fight corruption in Ukraine in whatever form it takes. They also might be making it worse, as new information has emerged about a shadowy attempt by Trump’s allies to set up lucrative business deals with Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state-owned oil company. In addition, there are new questions about U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s push for change at the same firm.

    Below is everything we know about the still developing story thus far.

    Trump’s bizarre claim and prediction about Rick Perry

    President Trump made a bizarre announcement while discussing the Ukraine scandal and impeachment inquiry with House GOP leaders on Friday. After again professing his complete innocence, Trump told his Republican colleagues that energy secretary Rick Perry was the person who made him make his fateful July 25 call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. According to Axios:

    [The president] said something to the effect of: “Not a lot of people know this but, I didn’t even want to make the call. The only reason I made the call was because Rick asked me to. Something about an LNG [liquified natural gas] plant,” one source said, recalling the president’s comments. 2 other sources confirmed the first source’s recollection.
    Trump’s apparent attempt to scapegoat one of the lowest-profile members of his administration drew widespread ridicule on social media — to the point that #PerryMadeMeDoIt soon began trending on Twitter. On Monday, Perry acknowledged pushing Trump to engage with Zelensky — but not about investigating the Bidens.

    But Trump didn’t just try to pass the buck to Rick Perry his GOP conference call, he also suggested that “more of this will be coming out in the next few days” — and he was definitely not wrong about that.

    Trump’s Ukraine scandal is growing

    Over the weekend, new reports revealed two attempts — first by a group of profit-minded Trump allies, and later by Energy Secretary Rick Perry — to push for a change of leadership at Naftogaz, the Ukrainian state-owned oil company. The Associated Press explains the first effort in their report:

    Their aims were profit, not politics. This circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted connections to Giuliani and Trump while trying to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s massive state gas company. Their plan was to then steer lucrative contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies, according to two people with knowledge of their plans.
    The group, which included two men at the center of Trump’s efforts to dig up Ukranian dirt on his political opponents, was not able to achieve its aims before a new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, took office in the country, and efforts to make similar inroads with his administration failed.

    Perry, who has become the Trump administration’s self-appointed global ambassador for the American energy sector, represented the U.S. at Zelensky’s inauguration. On the same trip, according to the AP, he pressed the new leader to shake up Naftogaz’s board, and recommended as one of his suggested replacements at least one Texas-based energy executive with whom he had political connections as the state’s former governor. Perry has denied any impropriety over the matter, insisting he was giving Ukraine recommendations it had asked for.

    It’s not yet clear if the two efforts, which were only a few months apart, were somehow linked.

    Who are the Trump allies who tried to score the energy deal?

    Per the Associated Press, three Florida-based businessmen — Igor Fruman, Lev Parnas, and Harry Sargeant III — were at the center of a shadowy effort to turn ties to Trump into a lucrative gas sales deal with Naftogaz.

    Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas

    Fruman and Parnas are Soviet-born, Ukrainian-American real estate entrepreneurs in South Florida with a history of shady business deals both in the U.S. and abroad; both have played a critical role in President Trump’s efforts to dig up damaging information in Ukraine about his political enemies.

    They are clients of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who they apparently befriended after quickly donating their way into the MAGA elite last year. The men have also reportedly acted as unregistered operatives for the Trump team in Ukraine, meeting at least four times with Ukrainian prosecutors, and introducing Giuliani to members of the country’s political elite as he pursued information which could damage Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

    Indeed, Fruman and Parnas were reportedly instrumental in starting and then promoting the two debunked conspiracies, including the theory targeting the Biden family, which President Trump asked Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate in their July 25 phone conversation. The businessmen were also reportedly responsible for much of the push to remove the former Obama-appointed U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who the Trump administration recalled in May.

    According to BuzzFeed News and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, starting in 2018, the two businessmen donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican lawmakers, GOP causes, and pro-Trump groups. That includes a $325,000 contribution to the Trump-boosting America First Action super PAC in May of 2018 which was so shady it got flagged by a non-partisan watchdog organization for review by the FEC.

    Their political contributions granted the businessmen a place among the MAGA donor class, with all the accompanying perks and influence. Fruman and Parnas have attended events and meetings in both Mar-a-Lago and Washington. Parnas, a former securities broker, has claimed that he has met with President Trump multiple times. Fruman and Parnas have allegedly cited their connections to Giuliani and other members of the GOP elite when trying to convince people to lend them money. On October 1, the Miami Herald reported that the two men have left a trail of debt across South Florida.

    Fruman and Parnas also founded a so-called gas export company in 2018 named Global Energy Producers, but the men appear to have no experience in the energy sector. The Campaign Legal Center, the watchdog that flagged their massive super PAC donation, alleges that the company is nothing more than a shell corporation.

    Both businessmen were referenced, but not named, in the whistleblower complaint which sparked Trump’s Ukraine scandal, and impeachment inquiry investigators have requested information from the men regarding their ties to, and work with, Giuliani and the Trump administration.

    It had previously been reported that the men had met with Naftogaz in an attempt to become natural gas suppliers to the company, but that nothing came of it.

    Greg Sargeant III

    According to the AP, Sargeant is a Boca Raton-based oil magnate who has served as a finance chair of the Florida GOP and contributed $1.2 million to Republican campaigns and political action committees. He also gave almost $14,000 to Rudy Giuliani’s long-shot 2008 presidential campaign, and $100,000 to the Trump Victory Fund this past June.

    Healy E. Baumgardner

    According to the AP, Baumgardner is a former Trump campaign adviser who eventually came to work with Parnas and Giuliani. She is the CEO of a Houston-based energy company called the 45 Energy Group, which is focused on “government relations, public affairs and business development.” She has also previously worked as a communications official in the George W. Bush administration and later became the deputy communications director of Giuliani’s presidential campaign.

    The attempt to rig a deal with Naftogaz

    According to the AP sources, Fruman, Parnas, and Sargeant approached a Naftogaz executive named Andrew Favorov at a Texas energy conference in early March and proposed making him the new CEO of the firm, as well as offering him a deal in which they would ship as many as 100 tankers of U.S. liquified natural gas to Ukraine per year.

    Harry Sargeant reportedly told Favorov that he regularly met with President Trump at Mar-a-Lago, and that the deal they were proposing had his full support. Lev Parnas also told Favorov that Trump was planning to replace U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch with someone more amenable to their business deals.

    Favorov apparently considered the proposal an attempted shakedown, and told a former business partner, Dale Perry, about the meeting. Perry was alarmed enough by what Favorov told him that he later reported it in a memo to a State Department official stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine. It’s not yet clear how the official handled the warning.

    On March 24, Parnas again claimed that President Trump would replace Ambassador Yovanovitch during what the AP describes as a “business pitch involving gas deals in the former Soviet bloc to a potential investor” which Parnas, Rudy Giuliani, and Healy Baumgardner conducted at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Giuliani later claimed that the pitch was about business deals in Uzbekistan, not Ukraine.

    On May 20, the Trump administration removed Yovanovitch from her post as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, following what was widely recognized as an orchestrated smear campaign.

    Giuliani has denied any involvement in business deals in Ukraine, telling the AP he did not pursue or know “about a deal in the Ukraine” and claimed “there is absolutely no proof that I did it, because I didn’t do it.” He did admit playing a role in the removal of Yovanovitch, however, but didn’t elaborate on what that role was, or why.

    John Dowd — the former Trump lawyer who now represents Fruman and Parnas — told the AP that it was Naftogaz who approached his clients, not the other way around. He also notably claimed the businessmen had presented the potential deal to Energy Secretary Rick Perry:

    The people from the company solicited my clients because Igor is in the gas business, and they asked them, and they flew to Washington and they solicited. They sat down and talked about it. And then it was presented to Secretary Perry to see if they could get it together. … It wasn’t a shakedown; it was an attempt to do legitimate business that didn’t work out.

    On Monday, a lawyer representing Sargeant released a statement insisting the oil magnate took no part in the scheme and had not met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago during his presidency. The lawyer, Christopher Kise, acknowledged that Sargeant was at a Houston dinner with Fruman, Parnas, and Favorov so he could offer “broad industry guidance and his expert view on the challenges presented by operating in foreign markets,” but “never discussed any role or participation in any Ukraine venture, nor any specifics regarding the potential business ventures of the other dinner participants.”

    Baumgardner said in a statement that she wouldn’t comment on business discussions, but called the scrutiny a “political assault on private business by the Democrats in Congress” which “is complete harassment and an invasion of privacy that should scare the hell out of every American business owner.” Rick Perry also pressured Ukraine to make changes at Naftogaz

    U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland said in July that he, Perry, and former Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker were the Trump administration’s “three amigos” on Ukraine matters and oversaw the U.S. relationship with the country. Perry helped arrange a 2017 deal to export U.S. coal to Ukraine and a 2018 deal to export U.S. liquified natural gas to Poland, which has in turn boosted the supply of LNG to Ukraine as well. The deals were also part of an ongoing effort to reduce Ukraine and Poland’s reliance on Russian energy supplies.

    In May, Perry led the U.S. delegation attending the inauguration of newly elected Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky. That trip to Kiev came up in the complaint filed by an intelligence community whistleblower regarding Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky, as Perry had replaced Vice-President Mike Pence after President Trump had instructed Pence not to go.

    On Sunday, the Associated Press reported that Perry met twice with Zelensky during the trip and allegedly pressured him to fire Naftogaz’s advisory board and came ready with a list of suggested replacements:

    Attendees left the [first] meeting with the impression that Perry wanted to replace the American representative, Amos Hochstein, a former diplomat and energy representative who served in the Obama administration, with someone “reputable in Republican circles,” according to someone who was in the room.

    A second meeting during the trip, at a Kiev hotel, included Ukrainian officials and energy sector people. There, Perry made clear that the Trump administration wanted to see the entire Naftogaz supervisory board replaced, according to a person who attended both meetings. Perry again referenced the list of advisers that he had given Zelenskiy, and it was widely interpreted that he wanted Michael Bleyzer, a Ukrainian-American businessman from Texas, to join the newly formed board, the person said. Also on the list was Robert Bensh, another Texan who frequently works in Ukraine, the Energy Department confirmed.
    One person present at the meetings told the AP they were shocked by Perry’s requests since they had always presumed the U.S. government “had a higher ethical standard.”


  • #2

    Well, how about that?

    We were just talking about Giuliani's partners in crime...
    • Giuliani pals were attempting to flee country when arrested for bribery, funneling foreign funds

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      Two men who assisted Rudy Giuliani in creating the Ukraine smear against Joe Biden have been arrested for campaign finance violations. While both men funneled six figure donations to Donald Trump through a PAC run by Donald Trump Jr., that does not appear to be the primary focus of the charges. Instead it seems the men are being charged for something more direct—bringing foreign funds into a U.S. election and plain old bribery. The source of that money was apparently Ukraine, the purpose of that bribery was getting rid of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

      The charges have now been filed. And the nature of the grand jury charges are easily seen in just a few words.

      The defendants conspired to circumvent the federal laws against foreign influence by engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates to federal and State office so that dependents could buy potential influence with candidates.

      It’s worth noting that the description of funneling foreign money to candidates might also fit with the way that the two men sent $325,000 to a pro-Trump PAC by routing it through an LLC. In fact, additional charges from the grand jury directly address the way that the men used an LLC to disguise the source of funds. And the charges pull no punches about the purpose of those funds.

      At around the same time PARNAS and FURMAN committed to raising those funds for Congressman-1, PARNAS met with Congressman-1 and sought Congressman-1’s assistance in causing the U.S. government to remove or recall the then U.S.-ambassador to Ukraine. PARNAS’ efforts to remove the Ambassador were conducted, at least in part, at the request or one or more Ukrainian officials,

      Marie Yovanovitch was high on the list of the list for Most Important Witnesses at the impeachment inquiry. The importance of her appearance just went up another notch.

      According to a broadcast report from NBC, Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested at Dulles Airport as they attempted to flee the country.

      Included in the charges are not just Parnas and Fruman, who were previously identified as assisting Rudy Giuliani in in his efforts as Trump’s personal attorney, but David Corriea who is “a businessman born in the United States” and Andrew Kukushkin, “a businessman and United States citizen who was born in Ukraine.” Corriea appears to be the owner of a holding company headquartered in Florida.

      It might be a good time for someone to ask Rudy Giuliani to hand over that passport.


    • #3

      Florida businessmen who helped Giuliani in Ukraine arrested on campaign finance charges


      • #4

        2 Florida men tied to Giuliani arrested on campaign charges


        • #5
          Suspects arrested on campaign finance charges after having lunch with Giuliani

          Two associates of President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani had lunch with Giuliani at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., hours before they were arrested, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing a source who saw the group together.

          The two Soviet-born businessmen, Led Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested Wednesday night at Washington Dulles International Airport on campaign finance violation charges. Federal authorities allege they violated the law to funnel money to numerous Republican committees, including a $325,000 contribution in May 2018 to a pro-Trump super PAC called America First Action.

          Prosecutors say the two were attempting to leave the country with one-way international tickets when they were arrested.


          • #6


            • #7


              • #8
                The cesspool of GOP corruption seems to have no bottom...

                REVEALED: Rudy Giuliani’s indicted Ukraine henchman gave thousands to Kevin McCarthy

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                Lev Parnas, the foreign-born businessman who was indicted this week on campaign-finance charges, donated thousands of dollars last year to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).

                As flagged by New York Daily News reporter Michael McAuliff, Parnas in June 2018 contributed $2,700 to McCarthy’s reelection campaign.

                Other filings made with the Federal Elections Commission show that Parnas donated that exact same amount to Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), who on Thursday was implicated in an indictment of Parnas and his business partner, Igor Fruman.

                Mostly, however, Parnas in recent years has made donations to assorted state Republican parties throughout the country, as well as to the Great America Committee.



                • #9
                  Originally posted by TonyR View Post
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                  • #10
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                    • #11
                      "Newly released photos which seal the case on Trump's impeachment show VP Mike Pence, Rudy Giuliani, Donnie Jr., and Trump himself meeting with corrupt Ukrainian operatives as they dug up dirt on Joe Biden's son. The two Ukrainian operatives were arrested today on felony campaign finance violations as they were trying to flee the country. Trump claimed this morning that he *never met* these two criminals. But they were actually part of Trump's legal team who funneled foreign money to a super PAC led by Donald Trump Jr.


                      According to Buzzfeed, bank records reveal a whirlwind of spending at high-end restaurants, an infamous strip club, and five-star hotels by the operatives working directly Rudy Giuliani. Trump's cover-up not only threatens to take down his entire administration, but is dragging much of the Republican Party down with it. It was revealed today that GOP House Leader Kevin McCarty, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other top Republicans received the maximum campaign contributions from the Ukrainian crooks.

                      These idiots were so dumb they posed for photos as they committed treason. Trump's entire family and cabinet needs to impeached then prosecuted. Wrap it up and put a bow on it, we are done here."


                      • #12
                        Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies Trump pressured State Department to oust her

                        Hours into her testimony, the chairmen of the three committees said that they had been forced to issue a subpoena Thursday night to compel her to appear.

                        WASHINGTON — Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told House impeachment investigators Friday that President Donald Trump had personally pressured the State Department to remove her, even though a top department official assured her that she had "done nothing wrong."

                        Yovanovitch said that after she was abruptly recalled from her post in the spring, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan told her that the president had lost confidence in her, according to her prepared remarks.

                        "He added that there had been a concerted campaign against me, and that the department had been under pressure from the president to remove me since the summer of 2018," Yovanovitch said.

                        "He also said that I had done nothing wrong and that this was not like other situations where he had recalled ambassadors for cause," she added.

                        Yovanovitch, a career diplomat who said she was informed of her ouster in April, said in her statement that she was "incredulous that the U.S. government chose to remove an ambassador based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives."



                        • #13
                          Trump allies pursued business deals in Ukraine

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                          KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — As Rudy Giuliani was pushing Ukrainian officials last spring to investigate one of Donald Trump’s main political rivals, a group of individuals with ties to the president and his personal lawyer were also active in the former Soviet republic.

                          Their aims were profit, not politics. This circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted connections to Giuliani and Trump while trying to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s massive state gas company. Their plan was to then steer lucrative contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies, according to two people with knowledge of their plans.



                          • #14


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by TonyR View Post
                              While Trump spews conspiracy theories about the Biden family, his own children are openly profiting from foreign deals. Eric and Don Jr. currently have projects in the works in Ireland, India, Indonesia, Uruguay, Turkey and the Philippines. Trump himself has never divested from his real estate business, creating conflicts of interests around the world and violating the Constitution's foreign bribery clause.

                              The sheer hypocrisy of this family never ceases to amaze me. Their sole goal is to amass wealth and power through lies, deceit, and fear.