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Igor Fruman, Former Associate Of Giuliani, Will Plead Guilty

(Reuters) - Igor Fruman, a former associate of Rudolph Giuliani, told a New York court hearing on Friday he will plead guilty to one criminal count in a campaign finance case.

Fruman worked to collect damaging information about Joe Biden before he became president. Giuliani, a one-time lawyer for former President Donald Trump, has not been charged with criminal wrongdoing although he is under federal investigation in the Southern District of New York.

(Reporting by Jon Stempel in New York and writing by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware)

Giuliani’s Home Searched, Phone Seized As Feds Execute Search Warrants

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Multiple outlets reported Wednesday that federal investigators executed a search warrant at a Manhattan apartment owned by former mayor, current Trump surrogate, and leader of the effort to overturn the 2020 election, Rudy Giuliani. According to The New York Times, that search is directly connected to an investigation of Giuliani's actions in Ukraine.

For literally years, Giuliani has been pushing false stories about President Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and actions that were taken in Ukraine during the Obama administration. The stories that Giuliani brought back from Ukraine led directly to the dismissal of a talented ambassador, generated a whole series of congressional investigations, and encouraged Donald Trump to make a phone call to the Ukrainian president that led directly to Trump's first impeachment.

The New York Times reports that investigators extended their search to Giuliani's office, and to the home of Guiliani associate Victoria Toensing, who also worked on several of his efforts to convince former Ukrainian officials to create false charges against Joe Biden or Huntet Biden. Toensing is closely associated with Russian organized crime figure Dmytro Firtash, who was also connected to Parnas and Fruman.


Wednesday, Apr 28, 2021 · 3:17:27 PM EDT · Mark SumnerWednesday, Apr 28, 2021 · 3:19:42 PM EDT · Mark SumnerWednesday, Apr 28, 2021 · 4:10:56 PM EDT · Mark Sumner

Despite multiple denials, Trump eventually admitted that he sent Giuliani to Ukraine specifically for the purposes of finding—or creating—dirt Trump could use against Biden. In the process, Giuliani worked worked with a pair of scam artists who were arrested trying to leave the country and charged with bribery, conspiracy, and funneling foreign funds into U.S. elections. Considering all this, it's not surprising that as far back as October of 2019, Giuliani was known to be the subject of a criminal investigation.

What's amazing is that it's taken this long for investigators to get around to searching Giuliani's East Side apartment. But then, as people say, elections matter.

There's an irony in The New York Times breaking the news that Giuliani is being investigated for his actions in connections with Ukraine, because it was the Times which provided Giuliani with breathless reporting in which they pasted pages of unverified charges made against the Biden family. Some actual investigation by Bloomberg in May of 2019 showed that there really was a scandal, but it didn't involve Biden. It involved Giuliani and a cohort of pro-Russia Ukrainians working to create a deceptive image of what had happened that was exactly backward from actual events.

Somehow, despite what seemed to be heaps of evidence that ensnared Giuliani into the schemes for which his associates Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas were indicted, Giuliani was left free to wander about the country, spreading lies about the election and heading up the team that generated the second Trump impeachment.

For a guy who once said he was worried about becoming a "laughingstock," it's really hard to see how Giuliani could have done much better.

According to reporting both the Times and at CNBC, investigators have been trying to get a search warrant for Giuliani's residence "for months." However, those attempts were repeatedly blocked. Now that Trump and former Attorney General Bill Barr aren't in place to keep the wheels of justice stuck in the mud, it seems that investigators have finally gotten around to not only searching Giuliani's apartment, but seizing all his electronic devices.

The Wall Street Journal reports that investigators arrived at Giuliani's place at 6 AM before beginning their search. So expect Fox News to be filled with the same umbrage that greeted a search of Roger Stone's home before his arrest, and the offices of Michael Cohen, before his arrest.

The investigation into Giuliani is, as might be expected, directly connected to the cases against Parnas and Fruman. Both of those indictments featured false names to cover what was clearly Giuliani's involvement. The investigation is expected to extend from illegal lobbying for Ukrainian officials in the United States, to Giuliani's business dealings in Ukraine, and his involvement in the removal of experienced ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

The story of Giuliani's attempt to manufacture dirt on Biden, assist a collection of foreign criminals, and thwart the will of American voters isn't over. But the lawyer who helped get Trump impeached—twice—may finally be getting his real day in court.

Giuliani Negotiated Deal With News Outlet Pushing His Ukraine Conspiracies

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

After John Solomon ran columns in The Hill that touched off a disinformation campaign against Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, the publication had discussions with Rudy Giuliani about a business venture.

As ProPublica revealed last month, Giuliani associate Lev Parnas had helped arrange an interview Solomon conducted with a Ukrainian prosecutor who claimed the Obama administration interfered with anti-corruption cases involving high-profile people, including Biden’s son Hunter. Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, trumpeted Solomon’s work on cable news. The Hill articles are now a central component of the Trump impeachment investigation.

Less than four months after Solomon’s reporting, Giuliani and The Hill actively pursued a deal to create a podcast together, with Solomon acting as an intermediary, according to emails obtained by ProPublica. The project, which never came to fruition for unclear reasons, featured the former New York City mayor interviewing various public figures. The emails include recordings of lengthy chats with the commissioner of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred, and a retired Marine Corps general named James T. Conway.

The Conway interview largely concerned MEK, the dissident Iranian group that the United States had designated a terrorist group until 2012. MEK has paid Giuliani at least $20,000 for appearances and lobbying on its behalf. Conway declined to comment on the interview.

Giuliani told ProPublica that the podcast grew out of discussions with The Hill’s owner, Jimmy Finkelstein, a Republican and longtime friend who served as a fundraiser for Giuliani’s failed 2008 presidential run.

“I was talking to Jimmy about a podcast that didn’t happen,” Giuliani said in an email, adding that “John Solomon was just trying to help Jimmy get it done.”

Solomon repeatedly declined to comment, saying, “I refer you to The Hill for any matters involving Hill business.”

He said he had no formal business relationship with Giuliani.

“He has never had anything to do with my personal or private business, at all. He does not now, nor will he ever,” Solomon said.

The Hill, confirming the Giuliani discussions, said it was planning to create a “podcast network with a multitude of political voices from all sides.”

Giuliani said he was “never paid” for his podcast work. “I continue to believe that your interest in this is not legitimate,” he said in emails to ProPublica. “Don’t ever try to give me bull I’ve been around too long. This is a hit job on a perfectly legitimate situation.”

Giuliani himself seems to have had a wry attitude about his close relationship with Solomon. In late June, a month before Trump urged Ukraine’s leader to investigate his top political rival, the president’s personal attorney went to a London cigar shop with Parnas and his partner Igor Fruman.

Giuliani later emailed a photo of the moment to Solomon, with a subject line that began: “Smoked Filled Room.”

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan indicted Parnas and Fruman last month on allegations that they illegally funneled money into U.S. political campaigns. Giuliani is under investigation by the same office, according to multiple reports.

Details on Solomon’s role in the genesis of the campaign against Biden continue to emerge from the Democrats’ effort to impeach the president.

This month, the House committees carrying out the impeachment inquiry released text messages from September between Kurt Volker, Trump’s former special envoy to Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union. Volker informs Sondland that Giuliani will “talk w Solomon” and that the president’s attorney had “urged” him to do the same.

Solomon told ProPublica last month that his reporting was accurate and defended his sourcing, saying, “No one knew there was anything wrong with Lev Parnas at the time.”

Internal records show The Hill’s higher-ups were concerned about Solomon’s mixing of journalism and business. At one point in 2017, the then-publisher warned in an internal memo that Solomon was engaged in “reputation killing stuff.”

The memo alleged that Solomon brokered a branded content deal while influencing news coverage that benefited the group that paid for the content. Solomon deferred comment about those deals to the Hill.

When asked if he was compensated for arranging those deals, he repeatedly declined to answer.

While Solomon has left The Hill, he continues to publish stories about Ukraine and the Bidens on his personal blog. He is also a Fox News contributor. Giuliani, in turn, continues to use his work to advance the counter-narrative that it was the former vice president, not Trump, who is mired in a scandal involving a foreign power.

On Nov. 5, for instance, Solomon published a story on his personal website that featured State Department emails that he said were evidence that the Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden sat used its affiliation with the vice president’s son to leverage a meeting with a top State Department official to improve the firm’s image.

The next day, Giuliani posted an image on Twitter of one of the emails from Solomon’s story.

“Total smoking gun!” the president’s lawyer proclaimed.

 

#EndorseThis: Kimmel Eyeballs ‘The Worst People’ In Trump’s Entourage

“Who could have ever guessed that Rudy Giuliani would have two henchmen named Lev and Igor?”

Perusing the mugshots of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman –the two mutts arrested as they tried to board a one-way flight to Germany — Jimmy Kimmel can’t help but notice how innocent they (don’t) look. According to the late-night comic these alleged crooks, charged by federal authorities with making massive illegal campaign contributions, exemplify the true nature of Trump’s entourage.

Instead of “the best people,” as the president often boasts, he is surrounded by a menagerie of creeps. With the likes of Parnas and Fruman brought in by Giuliani, says Kimmel, Trump world resembles “a Russian nesting doll of the worst people.”

Click and laugh.

 

 

 

Federal Authorities Investigating Giuliani’s Dealings With Parnas And Fruman

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani is under investigation.

“Rudy Giuliani’s financial dealings with two associates indicted on campaign finance-related charges are under scrutiny by investigators overseeing the case, law enforcement officials briefed on the matter said,” CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz and Evan Pérez are reporting.

“The FBI and prosecutors in Manhattan are examining Giuliani’s involvement in the broader flow of money that have become the focus of alleged violations that are at the center of the allegations against Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman,” the sources said. The sources did not say that Giuliani was a target of the investigation,” CNN adds.

But CNN legal analyst Elie Honig notes that “Prosecutors often do not interview targets.”

Those two associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested on Wednesday evening at Dulles airport, fleeing the country on one-way tickets. Multiple reports reveal they also worked for the former New York mayor during his official capacity as Trump’s lawyer, and helped him try to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and Hunter Biden.

Parnas and Fruman allegedly laundered Russian money into the campaigns of several Republican politicians, including President Donald Trump.

Watch Shimon Prokupecz report:

 

Energy Chief Perry Pressured Ukraine Gas Company To Favor Trump Donors

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.

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.

Their plan hit a snag after then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko lost his reelection bid to Volodymyr Zelensky, whose conversation with Trump about former Vice President Joe Biden is now at the center of the House impeachment inquiry of Trump.

But the effort to install a friendlier management team at the helm of the gas company, Naftogaz, would soon be taken up with Ukraine’s new president by U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, whose slate of candidates included a fellow Texan who is one of Perry’s past political donors.

It’s unclear if Perry’s attempts to replace board members at Naftogaz were coordinated with the Giuliani allies pushing for a similar outcome, and no one has alleged that there is criminal activity in any of these efforts. And it’s unclear what role, if any, Giuliani had in helping his clients push to get gas sales agreements with the state-owned company.

But the affair shows how those with ties to Trump and his administration were pursuing business deals in Ukraine that went far beyond advancing the president’s personal political interests. It also raises questions about whether Trump allies were mixing business and politics just as Republicans were calling for a probe of Biden and his son Hunter, who served five years on the board of another Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.

On Friday, according to the news site Axios, Trump told a group of Republican lawmakers that it had been Perry who had prompted the phone call in which Trump asked Zelensky for a “favor” regarding Biden. Axios cited a source saying Trump said Perry had asked Trump to make the call to discuss “something about an LNG (liquefied natural gas) plant.”

While it’s unclear whether Trump’s remark Friday referred specifically to the behind-the-scenes maneuvers this spring involving the multibillion-dollar state gas company, The Associated Press has interviewed four people with direct knowledge of the attempts to influence Naftogaz, and their accounts show Perry playing a key role in the effort. Three of the four spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. The fourth is an American businessman with close ties to the Ukrainian energy sector.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Energy Department said Perry, a former Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate, was not advancing anyone’s personal interests. She said his conversations with Ukrainian officials about Naftogaz were part of his efforts to reform the country’s energy sector and create an environment where Western companies can do business.

The Trump and Giuliani allies driving the attempt to change the senior management at Naftogazt, however, appear to have had inside knowledge of the U.S. government’s plans in Ukraine. For example, they told people that Trump would replace the U.S. ambassador there months before she was actually recalled to Washington, according to three of the individuals interviewed by the AP. One of the individuals said he was so concerned by the whole affair that he reported it to a U.S. Embassy official in Ukraine months ago.

___

THE BUSINESSMEN

Ukraine, a resource-rich nation that sits on the geographic and symbolic border between Russia and the West, has long been plagued by corruption and government dysfunction, making it a magnet for foreign profiteers.

At the center of the Naftogaz plan, according to three individuals familiar with the details, were three such businessmen: two Soviet-born Florida real estate entrepreneurs, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, and an oil magnate from Boca Raton, Florida, named Harry Sargeant III.

Parnas and Fruman have made hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations to Republicans, including $325,000 to a Trump-allied political action committee in 2018. This helped the relatively unknown entrepreneurs gain access to top levels of the Republican Party — including meetings with Trump at the White House and Mar-a-Lago.

The two have also faced lawsuits from disgruntled investors over unpaid debts. During the same period they were pursuing the Naftogaz deal, the two were coordinating with Giuliani to set up meetings with Ukrainian government officials and push for an investigation of the Bidens.

Sargeant, his wife and corporate entities tied to the family have donated at least $1.2 million to Republican campaigns and PACs over the last 20 years, including $100,000 in June to the Trump Victory Fund, according to federal and state campaign finance records. He has also served as finance chair of the Florida state GOP, and gave nearly $14,000 to Giuliani’s failed 2008 presidential campaign.

In early March, Fruman, Parnas, and Sargeant were touting a plan to replace Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolyev with another senior executive at the company, Andrew Favorov, according to two individuals who spoke to the AP as well as a memorandum about the meeting that was later submitted to the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.
Going back to the Obama administration, the U.S. Energy Department and the State Department have long supported efforts to import American natural gas into Ukraine to reduce the country’s dependence on Russia.

The three approached Favorov with the idea while the Ukrainian executive was attending an energy industry conference in Texas. Parnas and Fruman told him they had flown in from Florida on a private jet to recruit him to be their partner in a new venture to export up to 100 tanker shipments a year of U.S. liquefied gas into Ukraine, where Naftogaz is the largest distributor, according to two people briefed on the details.

Sargeant told Favorov that he regularly meets with Trump at Mar-a-Lago and that the gas-sales plan had the president’s full support, according to the two people who said Favorov recounted the discussion to them.
These conversations were recounted to AP by Dale W. Perry, an American who is a former business partner of Favorov. He told AP in an interview that Favorov described the meeting to him soon after it happened and that Favorov perceived it to be a shakedown. Perry, who is no relation to the energy secretary, is the managing partner of Energy Resources of Ukraine, which currently has business agreements to import natural gas and electricity to Ukraine.

A second person who spoke on condition of anonymity also confirmed to the AP that Favorov had recounted details of the Houston meeting to him.

According to Dale Perry and the other person, Favorov said Parnas told him Trump planned to remove U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and replace her with someone more open to aiding their business interests.
Dale Perry told the AP he was so concerned about the efforts to change the management at Naftogaz and to get rid of Yovanovitch that he reported what he had heard to Suriya Jayanti, a State Department foreign service officer stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv who focuses on the energy industry.

He also wrote a detailed memo about Favorov’s account, dated April 12, which was shared with another current State Department official. Perry recently provided a copy of the April memo to AP.
Jayanti declined to provide comment. Favorov also declined to comment.

On March 24, Giuliani and Parnas gathered at the Trump International Hotel in Washington with Healy E. Baumgardner, a former Trump campaign adviser who once served as deputy communications director for Giuliani’s presidential campaign and as a communications official during the George W. Bush administration.
She is now listed as the CEO of 45 Energy Group, a Houston-based energy company whose website describes it as a “government relations, public affairs and business development practice group.” The company’s name is an apparent nod to Trump, the 45th president.

This was a couple of weeks after the Houston meeting with Favorov, the Naftogaz executive. Giuliani, Parnas, and Baumgardner were there to make a business pitch involving gas deals in the former Soviet bloc to a potential investor.

This time, according to Giuliani, the deals that were discussed involved Uzbekistan, not Ukraine.
“I have not pursued a deal in the Ukraine. I don’t know about a deal in the Ukraine. I would not do a deal in the Ukraine now, obviously,” said Giuliani, reached while attending a playoff baseball game between the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins. “There is absolutely no proof that I did it, because I didn’t do it.”

During this meeting, Parnas again repeated that Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador in Kyiv, would soon be replaced, according to a person with direct knowledge of the gathering. She was removed two months later.
Giuliani, who serves as Trump’s personal lawyer and has no official role in government, acknowledged Friday that he was among those pushing the president to replace the ambassador, a career diplomat with a history of fighting corruption.

“The ambassador to Ukraine was replaced,” he said. “I did play a role in that.”

But Giuliani refused to discuss the details of his business dealings, or whether he helped his associates in their push to forge gas sales contracts with the Ukrainian company. He did describe Sergeant as a friend and referred to Parnas and Fruman as his clients in a tweet in May.

As part of their impeachment inquiry, House Democrats have subpoenaed Giuliani for documents and communications related to dozens of people, including Favorov, Parnas, Fruman and Baumgardner’s 45 Energy Group.

Baumgardner issued a written statement, saying: “While I won’t comment on business discussions, I will say this: this political assault on private business by the Democrats in Congress is complete harassment and an invasion of privacy that should scare the hell out of every American business owner.”

Baumgardner later denied that she had any business dealings in Ukraine but refused to say whether the replacement of Ambassador Yovanovitch was discussed.

Sargeant did not respond to a voice message left at a number listed for him at an address in Boca Raton.
John Dowd, a former Trump attorney who now represents Parnas and Fruman, said it was actually the Naftogaz executives who approached his clients about making a deal. Dowd says the group then approached Rick Perry to get the Energy Department on board.

“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,” Dowd said. “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.”

___

THE ENERGY SECRETARY

In May, Rick Perry traveled to Kyiv to serve as the senior U.S. government representative at the inauguration of the county’s new president.

In a private meeting with Zelenskiy, Perry pressed the Ukrainian president to fire members of the Naftogaz advisory board. Attendees left the 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.
Perry’s push for Ukraine’s state-owned natural gas company Naftogaz to change its supervisory board was first reported by Politico.

A second meeting during the trip, at a Kyiv 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 Zelensky, 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.

Gordon D. Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt D. Volker, then the State Department’s special envoy to Ukraine, were also in the room, according to photographs reviewed by AP. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of retaliation, said he was floored by the American requests because the person had always viewed the U.S. government “as having a higher ethical standard.”

The Naftogaz supervisory board is supposed to be selected by the Ukrainian president’s Cabinet in consultation with international institutions, including the International Monetary Fund, the United States, and the European Union. It must be approved by the Ukrainian Cabinet. Ukrainian officials perceived Perry’s push to swap out the board as circumventing that established process, according to the person in the room.
U.S. Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said Perry had consistently called for the modernization of Ukraine’s business and energy sector in an effort to create an environment that will incentivize Western companies to do business there. She said Perry delivered that same message in the May meeting with Zelensky.

“What he did not do is advocate for the business interests of any one individual or company,” Hynes said Saturday. “That is fiction being pushed by those who are disingenuously seeking to advance a nefarious narrative that does not exist.”

Hynes said the Ukrainian government had requested U.S. recommendations to advise the country on energy matters, and Perry provided those recommendations. She confirmed Bleyzer was on the list.
Bleyzer, whose company is based in Houston, did not respond on Saturday to a voicemail seeking comment. Bensh also did not respond to a phone message.

As a former Texas governor, Perry has always had close ties to the oil and gas industry. He appointed Bleyzer to a two-year term on a state technologies fund board in 2009. The following year, records show Bleyzer donated $20,000 to Perry’s reelection campaign.

Zelenskiy’s office declined to comment on Saturday.

In an interview Friday with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Perry said that “as God as my witness” he never discussed Biden or his son in meetings with Ukrainian or U.S. officials, including Trump or Giuliani.
“This has been a very intense, a very focused push to get Ukraine to clean up the corruption,” Perry said in the interview. “I can’t go in good faith and tell a U.S. company, go and invest here, go and be involved if the corruption is ongoing.”

He did confirm he had had a conversation with Giuliani by phone, but a spokeswoman for the energy secretary declined to say when that call was or whether the two had discussed Naftogaz.