Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.
You almost have to feel sorry for Rudy Giuliani — almost.
As the personal attorney for President Donald Trump, he ran a shadow foreign policy campaign in Ukraine to smear Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, a front-runner to challenge Trump in the 2020 election. (And he couldn’t have done it without other associates, such as attorneys Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing, indicted henchmen Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and current Fox contributor John Solomon.)
But now, Giuliani has been left off the actual legal team for Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate. Instead, he’s presenting a virtual trial on his new podcast. And as we’ve already documented, his entire racket consists of telling people to tune in for his next appearance, during which he will show all this proof of Biden’s supposed wrongdoing — only to then ask people to tune in the next time after that, to see it then.
The second episode of Giuliani’s podcast, while seeming to show documentary evidence supporting his case — in the form of various papers he holds up for viewers to see on camera — is really just more of the same lies, distortions, and empty promises he’s dealt in so far.
Now, let’s examine just a handful of bogus claims from Giuliani’s latest round of falsehoods.
Giuliani says Shokin’s reputation for corruption is another big conspiracy by “children of Soros”
In this video, Giuliani focuses on Viktor Shokin, the former prosecutor general of Ukraine who was fired in 2016 at the urging of then-Vice President Biden and the international community. That event has formed the nucleus of right-wing smears against Biden, which allege that he pushed for Shokin’s removal in order to shield his son Hunter, who had joined the board of a Ukrainian gas company, from investigation.
In reality, the push to get Shokin fired was part of a Ukrainian anti-corruption effort by advocates and international supporters of the country. It was well-established that the United States’ position was that ousting Shokin was a critical aspect of anti-corruption measures. At the time of his removal, The New York Times reported that the “United States and other Western nations had for months called for the ousting of Mr. Shokin” for “turning a blind eye to corrupt practices and for defending the interests of a venal and entrenched elite.”
But not according to Giuliani’s telling. In his words, Shokin was an honest and active prosecutor: “If he was corrupt, he sure wasn’t good at it. Because I’ve met him — he’s not a rich man.”
And furthermore, Giuliani asserts, all the aspersions on Shokin’s character were also “created” as part of that grand conspiracy — the whole thing driven, he later claims, by George Soros’ nongovernmental organizations such as the Anti-Corruption Action Center in Ukraine, which he says are the true epicenter of corruption. “Then you wonder why, when they fire Shokin, they can get people from Italy and England and Germany to all say that he’s corrupt,” Giuliani claims. “They’re all people from the NGOs that were being paid off.”
The freezing of Burisma’s assets — Giuliani rewrites history
In his podcast, Giuliani lays out the case of the corrupt Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky, founder of the Burisma energy company. Giuliani claims that after the 2014 revolution in Ukraine — which overthrew a corrupt, pro-Russian government in which Zlochevsky had been a cabinet minister and engaged in all sorts of self-dealing for his company — “he was very afraid that the new government, which was going to be supposedly a reform government, was going to take his business away from him.”
Giuliani then claims Ukrainian authorities like Shokin were right on Zlochevsky’s trail: “And they already began actions against him in the U.K., to take his money away from him.” Thus, Giuliani says that Zlochevsky hired Hunter Biden to protect him from these corruption-busting Ukrainian prosecutors.
But way back in December 2015 — long before this story was ever part of the current impeachment debate or the 2020 election — The New York Times ran a news article that cast a suspicious eye on Hunter Biden’s involvement with the company. And even that coverage made it clear that Ukrainian prosecutors under Shokin were part of the problem by refusing to cooperate in that very investigation over in Britain, leaving little reason for Zlochevsky to even need Biden’s supposed help:
But after Ukrainian prosecutors refused to provide documents needed in the investigation, a British court in January ordered the Serious Fraud Office to unfreeze the assets. The refusal by the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office to cooperate was the target of a stinging attack by the American ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, who called out Burisma’s owner by name in a speech in September.
“In the case of former Ecology Minister Mykola Zlochevsky, the U.K. authorities had seized $23 million in illicit assets that belonged to the Ukrainian people,” Mr. Pyatt said. Officials at the prosecutor general’s office, he added, were asked by the United Kingdom “to send documents supporting the seizure. Instead, they sent letters to Zlochevsky’s attorneys attesting that there was no case against him. As a result, the money was freed by the U.K. court, and shortly thereafter the money was moved to Cyprus.”
The Wall Street Journal has also documented that “Mr. Shokin had dragged his feet on those investigations, Western diplomats said, and effectively squashed one in London by failing to cooperate with U.K. authorities, who had frozen $23.5 million of Mr. Zlochevsky’s assets.”
There was no “raid” against Burisma in 2016
Giuliani also claims that under Shokin, the investigation against Burisma had been very much alive, and there was a “raid” of the company in February 2016 — around the same time as Joe Biden was demanding Shokin’s firing. (Giuliani’s phrasing that Shokin “arrested the Burisma company” seems a bit odd; how does one put an entire corporation in handcuffs?)
The Washington Post examined this claim back in December when House Republicans also attempted to advance the storyline that a “raid” had taken place against Burisma. But instead, they found that “nothing significant appears to have happened in February 2016 except primarily the reinstatement of a previous court order. Instead, Zlochevsky’s assets had been seized a year earlier and were only briefly not under a court order because of a prosecutorial error.”
Prosecutions against Burisma had been long dormant, as former Deputy Prosecutor General Vitaliy Kasko told Bloomberg this past May: “It was shelved by Ukrainian prosecutors in 2014 and through 2015.”
What is that document?
Giuliani also holds up what he says is a document from a prosecutorial office in Latvia, supposedly proving that prosecutors were on the trail of Hunter Biden in February 2016.
The Washington Post reached out last month to the Latvian government to find out whether the document was authentic but did not hear back. The paper also pointed to some suspicious signs that it might have been tailor-made just to go after Hunter Biden:
So what does it show? It essentially shows that Burisma paid four people through these transfers. Who are these people? They are all people who were employed by Burisma at the time. Archer and Hunter Biden served on its board, while Apter joined as chairman around the same time. Hunter Biden said he was convinced to join the board by the fourth person, Kwasniewski, who is a former president of Poland.
Somebody in Latvia apparently regarded these money transfers as suspicious, but there isn’t much to go on here. And even if the money was laundered, does it implicate Hunter Biden in the laundering? (There have long been legitimate questions about potential corruption at Burisma.) The document for some reason names four people as receiving the funds but mentions Hunter Biden as being involved only “in corruption affair.” Why is that? You would think the document might explain, but OANN doesn’t appear to have probed that.
Money laundering experts said there doesn’t seem to be much there there.
(Emphasis in the original.)
Forbes magazine, hardly a left-wing outlet, also took a look at this supposed document and noted the weaknesses of whatever it was supposed to prove:
But the document only states that “according to publicly available information, Burisma Holding Limited and its director Hunter Biden are involved in corruption affair.” The document proceeds to list monetary transactions of Burisma outside of Ukraine, without any mention of investigations or other evidence of allegedly corrupt activities beyond the initial reference to publicly available information.
Giuliani’s most irresponsible claim yet
Giuliani goes on to tell viewers that soon after he spoke with Shokin in late 2019, the former prosecutor general was poisoned with mercury and almost died in an apparent assassination attempt, having to be transported to Austria for both medical treatment and his personal safety.
“So there was an attempt to kill Shokin, which gives you an idea of how serious what we’re dealing with is,” Giuliani says. “This is a very, very serious matter.”
It may well be that Shokin was poisoned by some unknown party. The physician in Austria whom Giuliani cites to say that Shokin was poisoned, Dr. Nikolai Korpan, is in fact a reputable medical practitioner with significant prior experience treating these sorts of cases. (Indeed, it seems to be a common practice for the Russian government to kill people by poisoning, using “mysterious chemical substances” like mercury or dioxins as the method of choice.)
But what Giuliani is clearly trying to imply here — without just coming out and saying it directly, of course — is that Joe Biden or people close to him arranged for this crime to occur. He clearly does not have any evidence to say that, and for charges of this magnitude, it is grossly irresponsible to even be implying it as he is.
Tune in next time — same Rudy channel
Of course, Giuliani closes out with an exhortation for his viewers to watch the next episode, promising that’s when he’ll really get to the bottom of the Bidens’ supposed misdeeds.
“This is a vast crime. This is probably, obviously, going to be the biggest scandal so far of this century — let’s hope there’s none greater,” he says. “It makes Teapot Dome look cheap, when we get finished with the amounts of money, and there’s a lot more to it.”
“And in the next episode, we’ll finish the outline. We’ve got most of it. And then we’ll get right to the testimony, and you’ll get to see some of these witnesses on camera, for yourself, to see that we have something called proof — which Democrats do not have against the president, and never had.”