Tag: lev parnas

Report: Giuliani's Shady Partners Financed First DeSantis Gubernatorial Race

In 2019, Lev Parnas and his partner, Igor Furman, were arrested at a New York airport as they attempted to flee the country. One day later, the Tampa Bay Times revealed that Parnas had hosted at least two fundraisers for then-gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis. Parnas had raised “significant sums of money,” including a $50,000 direct contribution to DeSantis.

Three years later, Parnas was convicted on charges of conspiring to funnel foreign contributions into U.S. political campaigns, soliciting more contributions, and aiding and abetting still more illegal contributions. The source of those contributions was indicted Russian oligarch Andrey Muraviev. DeSantis gave back the $50,000, though not the other money that Parnas had directed his way.

Through all of this DeSantis’ insisted that he had little or no contact with either Parnas or Furman, and that he did “not have a relationship with these individuals.” He continued to claim that Parnas was “just another donor.” But Ron DeSantis was lying. Reuters has published a series of texts that show how DeSantis begged for help from Parnas, how Rudy Giuliani became involved, and without the help of both of them, DeSantis likely would never have become governor of Florida.

That original Tampa Bay Times story underscored that Parnas did far more than direct a check to DeSantis. Documents, including the campaign calendar and list of fundraisers, showed that candidate DeSantis repeatedly sought assistance from Parnas, though it was unclear at the time if the two had actually met.

The new information from Reuters clears that up. A direct statement from Parnas shows he and now Gov. DeSantis met in person at least twice, with one of those meetings instigated by DeSantis.

“Ron DeSantis approached me at the Trump International Hotel and introduced himself, telling me that he was told to come meet me because I was very close with Donald Trump.”

Parnas went on to say that he had numerous conversations with DeSantis, who he called a close confidant. “We became very friendly,” said Parnas.

DeSantis didn’t just go to Parnas for money; he also used him as a go-between for invitations to other potential wealthy donors and for advice on his campaign. The $50,000 contribution was just a small part of the total funds the foreign agent sent DeSantis’ way. Parnas and Furman were known to have given at least $400,000 to Republican candidates in Florida, most of it going through a Trump-aligned Super PAC. In addition, one of the fundraisers that Parnas arranged for DeSantis donated $115,000 to DeSantis’ 2018 campaign.

How deep was DeSantis' involvement with Parnas and his schemes? Deep enough that Parnas says DeSantis agreed to meet directly with Russian oligarch Muraviev to discuss his support for legalizing and growing marijuana in Florida. That meeting was called off after Parnas’ arrest.

DeSantis’ spokesperson has refused to comment on any of this, calling it a “recycled story.”

However, it now seems as if the money wasn’t the biggest thing that Muraviev and Parnas did for DeSantis. The most valuable assistance provided was dragging in Giuliani to put DeSantis over the top.

In September of 2018, an FBI leak claimed that Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum was under investigation by the FBI for potential corruption in his role as mayor of Tallahassee. DeSantis jumped onto this story immediately, saying that Gillum was “embroiled in a lot of corruption scandals."

"This guy can't even run the city of Tallahassee,” DeSantis said in one his frequent appearances on Fox News. “There is no way Florida voters can entrust him with our entire state."

However, the story didn’t make much of an immediate impact on Florida voters. Barely two weeks before the 2018 election, the Tampa Bay Times poll showed Gillum with a six-point lead over DeSantis.

So DeSantis went looking for help from Parnas, and from the connections, he knew that Parnas could tap. On October 26, 2018, Parnas sent a text to DeSantis telling him that he would “have Rudy do a tweet” about Gillum.

DeSantis: “He needs to hit him on his scandal. Can say as a prosecutor this would be an indictable case etc.”Parnas: “👍Tomorrow.”

DeSantis had no actual evidence that Gillum had committed a crime, because there was no actual evidence. Still, he urged Guiliani to say his Democratic opponent was “indictable.”

One day later, Parnas sent a tweet from Giuliani back to DeSantis for review: “As a former prosecutor and Mayor, I ask the people of my adopted State Florida to reject a Mayor with highest murder and crime rates in State…”

Other national Republican figures, including Trump, joined in, with most of the focus going toward the idea that Gillum was “corrupt.”

Two years earlier, deliberate FBI interference by James Comey had been a decisive factor in putting Trump in the White House. FBI leaks had also insisted that there was no connection between Trump and Russia, a story that was run by The New York Times without any counter.

Now FBI leaks were once again weighing down a Democratic candidate, and Republicans at all levels were leaning into the story. As polls showed that the “corruption” storyline was getting wide play and Gillum’s lead was eroding, Parnas became ecstatic.

“Big day my brother!!!” Parnas texted DeSantis on Election Day. “We will win!!!”

DeSantis did win … by 0.4% , making it the closest governor’s race in the whole nation that year. The only charge eventually levied against Gillum was one count of lying to the FBI. Earlier this month, a jury found him not guilty.

“Had the FBI not leaked their investigation, which ultimately—and correctly—ended up in an acquittal, there is no question that Andrew Gillum would be the Governor of Florida today,” Gillum’s lawyers said in a statement. An FBI spokesperson declined to comment.

Ron DeSantis, his book bans, his trans hate, and his anti-science grandstanding that cost thousands of lives, would never have happened without the assistance of money and connections that he gained from a convicted foreign agent.

That might not be the only way that Parnas and Guiliani assisted DeSantis. From the beginning, it was assumed that the 2016 FBI “leaks” concerning Trump and Russia were sourced from Guiliani. An investigation wasn’t able to determine if this was true. No such investigation has happened when it comes to the leak of the story about Gillum. It’s worth investigating.

There’s no doubt that DeSantis owes his current role to Parnas. If Giuliani was the one behind the FBI leak in Florida, that’s doubly true. One thing is for sure: There was one hell of a lot of corruption involved in the 2018 Florida governor’s race, and none of it came from Andrew Gillum.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos .

Former Giuliani Collaborator Lev Parnas Spills On Trump And Ukraine

Even with all this shit in the record, Trump is running again, and I’m going to be on the story for the duration. Subscribe here to get a column nearly every day in your email inbox.

Guess who is back in the news? Our old friend, Lev Parnas! You remember Lev, don’t you? He was the moon-faced friend of Rudy Giuliani who was up to his neck in the Ukraine scandal back in 2019, running interference for the former New York mayor with the likes of Yuri Lutsenko, the corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor Trump was trying to get to open a criminal investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s dealings with Burisma, a shady Ukrainian energy holding company with ties to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

Oh, boy…here we go back into the swamp of the whole Trump-Ukraine scandal. Okay, we may as well dip a toe into those fetid waters, because our old pal Lev, bless his black little heart, has done us a favor – he’s given us a new way of looking at the Trump-Ukraine mess, which until now has been focused on Trump’s attempts to get Ukrainian dirt on the Bidens.

But it’s useful to go back a few years and have a look at Trump’s long history with Ukraine. It goes back to his hiring of Paul Manafort as his campaign manager. Manafort had a history as a political strategist – he formed a lobbying outfit with Trump-pal Roger Stone and Charles R. Black – and was a key adviser to four Republican presidential candidates: Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bob Dole. But by 2016, Manafort hadn’t been involved in U.S. politics for quite a while. Instead, he became a key adviser to Viktor Yanukovych, a Ukrainian politician close to Vladimir Putin who won the 2004 presidential election in Ukraine, only to be ousted from power in the famous Orange Revolution when tens of thousands took to the streets to protest the election, which was said to be corrupted by electoral fraud, voter intimidation, and other forms of corruption.

Manafort continued working for Yanukovych and ran his campaign when he ran again for president of Ukraine in 2010. During the same time, Manafort was working for corrupt Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a friend of Putin’s, and corrupt Ukrainian oligarch Dymtro Firtash, currently on the lam in Vienna, Austria, from several indictments in the U.S. (Firtash is represented in the criminal case by Trump-pals Joseph diGenova and Victoria Tensing. Lev Parmas served as translator between Firtash and the two Trump-friendly lawyers.)

So Manafort is the guy Trump got to run his campaign in 2016. What else did Manafort do that year? Why, on instructions from Trump, he got the Republican platform’s so-called “Ukraine plank” watered down so it no longer advocated supporting Ukraine with military aid.

Manafort of course was indicted by Robert Mueller and convicted of multiple counts of bank fraud and conspiracy against the United States and spent a couple of years in jail before he was released during the COVID pandemic. He was of course pardoned by Trump just before he left office in 2021.

But that didn’t end Trump’s, shall we say, obsession with Ukraine. In 2018, Giuliani, working on behalf of Trump, dispatched Parnas to Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton (!), following a right-wing conspiracy theory that somehow the real corruption in the 2016 campaign wasn’t about Trump and Russia, but about Hillary receiving help from Ukraine. Parnas worked to get U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch fired, because her loyalty to Trump was alleged to be questionable. (She was accused, falsely, of refusing to hang Trump’s photograph in her ambassadorial office in Ukraine.)

What was really going on was that Trump and people close to him wanted Yovanovitch out because she was working with Volodymyr Zelensky’s administration on anti-corruption matters that had entangled people like Firtash and Deripaska in investigations in Ukraine.

There then developed what might be called a fellowship of interests between Donald Trump and Putin-friendly forces in Ukraine. Trump sent Giuliani and Parnas and others over there to dig up dirt on Biden. He recalled Yovanovitch from her post and in July of 2019 had his infamous phone call with Zelensky during which, among other things, Trump asked the Ukrainian president to help him find Hillary Clinton’s emails, which a right-wing conspiracy theory said were being held on a server in Ukraine.

The real push Trump made, however, was to get Zelensky to initiate an investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden. To that end, Trump famously threatened to withhold $400 million in military aid that had been appropriated by the Congress to help Ukraine fight Russian aggression on its eastern border. Trump had previously directed his chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold the funds. Mulvaney directed the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of State, and the Defense Department to put the funds on hold. In the call with the Ukrainian president, Trump repeatedly told Zelensky to contact Giuliani, who had no official role in the U.S. government, and William Barr, who did, as Attorney General.

The Trump phone call with Zelensky was revealed by a whistleblower, and the whole Trump-Ukraine scandal took off. On September 11, the military aid funds for Ukraine were released from the hold, and on September 24, the first impeachment inquiry against Trump was initiated by the House of Representatives. Hearings by the House Intelligence Committee took testimony from Yovanovitch, William Taylor, the acting ambassador who replaced her, and from several other witnesses about the attempts to influence the government of Ukraine to do Trump’s will.

The Judiciary Committee took the report of the Intelligence Committee and after a short period of hearings, voted to impeach Trump. On December 18, the House approved the articles of impeachment. Trump went to trial before the Senate and was found innocent, but the die was cast. Donald Trump had attempted to blackmail the president of Ukraine into helping his reelection by withholding military aid at a time when Ukraine had already lost Crimea to Russian aggression and was actively involved in a war on its eastern border with separatists supported and armed by Russia.

Parnas was indicted and convicted on federal charges of illegally funding the campaign of a congressman, Rep. Pete Sessions, to influence the firing of Ambassador Yovanovitch. Today, sitting at home in Florida under house confinement after spending four months of a 20 month sentence behind bars – as you can see, Parnas was not among the buddies Trump pardoned – he is reevaluating what happened not only to him, but the entire matter of the Trump-Ukraine scandal.

In an op-ed he wrote for Time magazine published yesterday, Parnas wrote, “I was used by Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in ways that helped pave the way for Putin to invade Ukraine, my native land. If Trump and Giuliani’s plans had worked, the Ukrainians might not have had the necessary weapons, medical equipment, and other supplies they needed to fight back. I had no official position, but my primary task was to be their go-between with Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs and government officials. In retrospect, I concluded that my real job was to help undermine and destabilize the Ukrainian government.”

Parnas is right about the real job he was doing for Trump. Sure, he was trying to get dirt on Biden and Hillary from Ukraine, but what he was also doing was enabling Vladimir Putin’s continuing efforts to take over the country of Ukraine. Parnas helped to get the anti-Putin American ambassador fired. Trump tried to withhold military aid that had been appropriated by Congress to help Ukraine fight off Russian aggression on its eastern border. His own campaign manager in 2016 was working for Oleg Deripaska, the Russian oligarch and friend of Putin who has been sanctioned for his involvement in anti-Ukraine corruption. Manafort even shared Trump campaign information with Deripaska in 2016 through Konstantin Kilimnik, whom he knew to be a Russian intelligence agent. Despite agreeing to cooperate with Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russia’s connections to Trump and his campaign, Manafort reneged on that agreement, was pardoned by Trump, and has remained silent to this day about the connections between himself, Trump, Russia, and Ukraine.

Putin’s attempts to destabilize Ukraine date back to his connections with Yanukovych when he was briefly president of Ukraine in 2004, and when he was elected in 2010 running as a pro-Russia candidate. Manafort was working for and being paid by Deripaska when he ran Yanukovych’s campaign in 2010.

We will never know how many times Donald Trump talked on the phone with Russian President Putin during the time he was in the White House. He certainly knew of Putin’s ambitions for Ukraine because Putin never made a secret of them. Trump met privately with Putin, without even his own interpreter and with no notes taken, in Helsinki in 2018. To think that the two men didn’t discuss both Russian aid to Trump’s campaign in 2016 and what Putin’s plans were for Ukraine is naïve. Trump even went before the press after his meeting with Putin and said he would take the word of Putin over that of his own intelligence agencies, including the FBI, about Russian involvement in his 2016 campaign.

Of course, he would. Trump himself knew about every meeting between his campaign and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. One of the first things he did as president was to have Kislyak and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov into the Oval Office, where he shared secret intelligence with them about Israel.

These things between the leaders of countries and their representatives don’t happen in a vacuum. There are always quid pro quos. They happen at the highest levels, as they did between Trump and Putin at Helsinki, and they happen down there in the ranks using guys like Paul Manafort and Lev Parnas to do the dirty work. Trump’s attempt to withhold military support for Ukraine clearly would have benefited Vladimir Putin. Trump was caught and impeached and lost his reelection in 2020, but Putin went right ahead with his ambition to take over Ukraine. The result is happening right now in Ukraine as they suffer through Russian missile attack after missile attack on civilians and the war they’re fighting for their survival in the east and south of Ukraine.

Think about it. There are 195 countries across the world, but only two of them have played major roles in our last two presidential elections: Russia and Ukraine. The presidential candidate behind both of those connections was Donald Trump.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Please consider subscribing to Lucian Truscott Newsletter , from which this is reprinted with permission.

How Russian Agents Have Perverted Our Politics: A View From 1000 Feet

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We forgot to hold a funeral for the dead drop. “Dead drop,” you say? What the hell is a dead drop? It’s the now long-abandoned practice in spy craft whereby a spy – just for the hell of it, let’s make it a Russian spy – collects a package of secret information from the agent-in-place he (or she) is running in a foreign country. The way it works is this: the agent providing the secrets goes to a pre-arranged location – let’s say it’s a bench at an overlook of the Potomac River on the Virginia side along the George Washington Parkway – and he (or she) leaves the package in a pre-arranged place – let’s say it’s in a lidded paper coffee cup left casually at the side of the overlook’s restrooms.

Then the spy – the Russian agent ­ working for the SVR, the Foreign Intelligence Service, which replaced the KGB after the Berlin wall fell – anyway, the spy walks casually – it’s all done casually -- past the overlook restroom and retrieves the empty coffee cup and takes it back to his office at the Russian embassy or his home, where he proceeds to examine its contents. The package used to be microfilm, or a microdot placed on, say, a receipt from the coffee shop, or it might, in more modern times, be a memory chip or even a thumb drive.

The “dead” in dead drop refers to the fact that the agent-in-place and his spy handler never see each other because the whole thing is done according to a plan set up previously. Dead drops have been portrayed in countless spy novels and movies – the classic Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré comes to mind. It’s exciting. You get to see them passing the signal establishing the dead drop. One form it might take is a chalk mark on the back of a park bench, which signals that the dead drop is on at the pre-arranged location. Then you see the drop and the pickup. All of this to conceal the fact that Russia has an agent-in-place within some agency in our government, like in recent cases the Navy and even the FBI -- the law enforcement agency tasked with catching spies.

Well, as we should all know by now, the days of intelligence agents passing secrets in the night are long gone. Now the spies are right out in the open. And that’s the other thing we haven’t done. We haven’t stood back and looked at recent political events from an overall perspective. We’ve gotten lost in the rapidly and endlessly unfolding scandals of you-know-who, buried in the details of this secret meeting or that illegal campaign contribution or that questionable character being invited into the Oval Office, no less, for meetings that have gone all the way from trying to get the FBI Director to look the other way and go easy on one of what would become several White House felons, to out-and-out plots to use the military to seize election machinery and re-run an election, which was not in effect a coup, but a coup in progress.

Almost all the unusual events in our recent political life have involved Russians, and as we will see, they go back much further than we usually recall. Trump met with an outright Russian spy in the person of Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in a private room after a big foreign policy speech he gave in April 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel. And then there was December 2016, when the same Russian spy, Kislyak, held a secret meeting with the son-in-law of the president-elect, Jared Kushner, and the man to be appointed national security adviser, Michael Flynn, in the transition office of Donald Trump in Trump Tower.

We should stop here to note that the word “spy” used in relation to the Russian Federation has a different meaning from its common use in this country. You don’t have to be a trained KGB or SVR agent that went to spy school to gather intelligence for your superiors in the Russian government. You can be the ambassador to a foreign country, or the owner of a Russian conglomerate doing business overseas, or even a Russian politician on a trip to visit a country considered a foreign adversary like, say, the U.S.A.

Five months after the secret meeting in Trump Tower, and the day after Trump fired his FBI director -- who had just announced that the FBI had been investigating Trump and his campaign for ties to Russia since July of 2016 -- President Trump would waltz Kislyak and his boss the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, past all the White House handlers and the Russian media – but not the American press pool covering the White House, who were banned from the event – right into the Oval Office where, it would later be reported, he passed some kind of top secret information to them about Israel and assured the two that he wasn’t bothered at all about Russian involvement in his election campaign because the United States does the same thing to other counties around the world.

Contacts between Russian spies and their targets in the U.S. would happen at places like an NRA convention, as when Maria Butina – remember her? – and her SVR handler, Aleksandr Torshin, a Russian senator who would soon become the Speaker of the Senate of the Russian Federation, a position you don’t get without the personal approval of Vladimir Putin, were given all-access passes to the NRA convention in St. Louis in 2012 and the next one in Houston in 2013, not to mention being welcomed at NRA headquarters in Virginia both years.

These two obvious Russian spies stayed involved with the National Rifle Association, the largest contributor to the campaign of Donald Trump. Torshin and Butina arranged for officials of the NRA to travel to Russia in 2015 for the convention of a completely fictional organization established by Butina called “Right to Bear Arms.” There is no right to bear arms in Russia as there is here. The organization, a mirror image of the NRA, was apparently established with Putin’s blessing simply to give open cover to the two spies, Butina and Torshin, to lure important Americans to Moscow.

Among those in Russia for the gun convention were outgoing NRA president David Keene and incoming NRA president Pete Brownell, Outdoor Channel CEO Jim Liberatore, and major Republican donors Hillary and Arnold Goldschlager. Who did they meet with while in Moscow? Well, how about Deputy Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin and our friend Foreign Minister Sergey Lavov – both destined to be sanctioned multiple times for stuff like annexing Crimea, interfering with the U.S. election of 2016, and of course invading Ukraine in 2022.

Torshin and Butina also held meetings that year with no less a figure than Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer and Hank Greenberg, the chairman of American International Group. They would also attend fundraisers for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, be VIPs at the NRA convention in Nashville, and attend something called “Freedom Fest” in Las Vegas where now-presidential candidate Donald Trump was the featured speaker.

So, why bother with dead drops when you can just dispatch folks like Russian Senate Speaker Torshin and honeypot babe Maria Butina, who formed an intimate relationship with the chairman and CEO of Overstock.com, Patrick M. Byrne, who would go on to become a major Trump Stop the Steal conspiracy theorist and attend an Oval Office meeting with Michael Flynn and others when overturning the election results of 2020 was discussed with Trump. I mean, Butina and Torshin attended the National Prayer Breakfast at which Trump spoke, inaugural balls in 2017 that Trump attended, and parties at the Swiss Ambassador’s residence where they made contact with J.D. Gordon, a retired Naval officer who served as director of national security for the 2016 Trump campaign.

On and on and on I could go, but this should give you a flavor of what the Russians have been up to for the past decade or so in this country. Much more can be found in the final report of Special Counsel Robert Mueller who, while unable to indict then-President Trump on multiple counts of obstruction of justice, was nevertheless able to lay out in excruciating detail how, under the direction of Vladimir Putin himself, SVR agents and hackers working for the Russian government infiltrated the American political system, exerted influence over the Trump campaign in 2016, helped to distribute hacked Democratic Party emails to damage the campaign of Hillary Clinton – I could go on, but why bother?

Trump himself hired a man with ties to Russian intelligence, Paul Manafort, to chair his campaign. Manafort would share secret polling data on battleground states with Konstantin Kilimnik, a trained Russian spy who worked for Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to Putin who would be involved in Trump’s attempts to blackmail the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, into helping him defeat Biden in the election of 2020.

Remember a character by the name of Lev Parnas? How about Igor Fruman? What the hell were those two doing dining with Rudy Giuliani and President Donald Trump at his hotel in Washington in 2018, discussing how to get rid of the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch? They were both involved with Deripaska, to whom Manafort owed something like $12 million. They were eventually arrested at Dulles Airport by the FBI with one-way tickets to Austria through Germany and indicted and convicted of funneling foreign money to a Texas Republican Congressman, Rep. Pete Sessions, who helped them get Yovanovitch fired by writing a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who promptly did just that, recalling the ambassador to Ukraine without notice or giving a reason and allowing her only two days to leave her post in Kyiv.

Just to give you a flavor of how this stuff worked, a lawyer for Parnas, Joseph Bondy, wrote a letter to a federal judge attempting to get the U.S. Attorney in New York, Geoffrey Berman, to recuse himself from the Parnas case because of conflicts of interest. Bondy told the judge he had seen proof laying out how the U.S. attorney had gathered evidence on Parnas and from whom: “ The evidence seized likely includes e-mail, text, and encrypted communications that are either non-privileged or subject to an exception to any potentially applicable privilege, between, inter alia , Rudolph Giuliani, Victoria Toensing, the former President, former Attorney General William P. Barr, high-level members of the Justice Department, Presidential impeachment attorneys Jay Sekulow, Jane Raskin and others, Senator Lindsey Graham, Congressman Devin Nunes and others, relating to the timing of the arrest and indictment of the defendants as to prevent potential disclosures to Congress in the first impeachment inquiry of then-President Donald. J. Trump.”

All those high-ranking figures with close connections to Trump were implicated in trying to prevent the disclosure of secret connections to little old Lev Parnas. And why? How about because all of them were so neck deep in Trump’s Ukraine scandal that if Parnas’ connections were made public, they would lead directly to Russian intelligence assets like Deripaska and Kilimnik and oligarch Viktor Vekselberg and others, right up to and including the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov.

All of this was intended to destabilize the country of Ukraine, which under the leadership of Zelensky, was making noises about becoming closer to the European Union and maybe even joining NATO. And who was really, really pissed off about Ukraine? Pissed off enough that a few years later he would invade Zelensky’s country and try to depose him? Vladimir Putin.

Here is where our view from 1,000 feet comes in. Putin had been up to his games with the U.S. since Trump, who had announced he would run for president someday, took his Miss Universe pageant to Russia in 2013. Putin had backed right-wing candidates for office in countries like France and Germany and Poland and Hungary. He had his grubby power-grabbing fingers in the political life of countries on several continents, including Africa, South America, North America, and in the Near and Far East – remember Afghanistan before we decided to ignore the whole “graveyard of empires” thing and fuck things up over there. He had announced again and again that the fall of the Soviet Union was the most terrible thing that ever happened to his homeland, and although he had not yet announced it out loud, he was driven to do something about reconstituting Russia as the great power he considered it had always been and should be again.

So, he meddled. He meddled with businesses owned by his oligarchs. He meddled by making political deals to supply country after country with his oil and especially his gas reserves. He meddled by securing the Winter Olympics for Russia in Sochi and then engaging in a government-funded and government-driven plot to use performance enhancing drugs to have his people win and show Russia was a great power in sports once again.

But his biggest, most heavily-funded and closest-watched meddling was against Russia’s eternal big power rival, the United States. The whole “Ukraine scandal” that got Trump impeached was actually a power play by Putin to destabilize that country. Remember, as far back as 2014, he had seized Crimea and had his military, in uniforms without identifying insignia, fighting full time in Eastern Ukraine alongside Russian-speaking rebel Ukrainians. Remember that his boy Manafort was the one who had the Ukraine plank removed from the Republican platform in 2016. Who do you think was behind that? Manafort had already been working with Konstantin Kilimnik for years by then, and Kilimnik was Deripaska’s man in Ukraine. (Of course, this was before the Republican Party in 2020 just threw up its hands and said their platform was anything that Trump and his Russian handlers wanted to do.)

And now here we are about to enter the second year of Russia’s war to take over Ukraine, and what do we see when we take a look at Putin and his meddling and his “military might” presently being exercised in Ukraine? We see a man and an army that couldn’t even drive its tanks to within shooting distance of the capital of Ukraine, before they were driven back by Ukrainian soldiers on foot expertly executing ambushes and other forms of guerrilla warfare against the far more heavily armed Russian army. We see a man who couldn’t manipulate American politics for a second time and keep his man in the White House.

What we see is a paper-mache tiger with an intelligence service and a military so hollowed-out and corrupt that they were able to feed him a fiction that he, and Russia, and its army were still great when they weren’t. They could move Maria Butina around and place her in rooms with important American political and business figures – and in bed with one of them – but they couldn’t move even one tank onto a broad boulevard in the much smaller and weaker country of Ukraine.

We have seen all of Putin’s efforts at exerting his influence abroad in our own country. Hell, the man who would become Trump’s national security adviser sat next to him at the dinner Putin ginned-up for him to give a speech at way back in 2015. Republicans were able to make the whole Ukraine scandal go away with votes in the Senate at the first impeachment trial, and they were able to discredit the Mueller report with Barr as Attorney General back in 2019, but the whole story of Putin’s influence campaign in 2015 and 2016 is in there for all to read.

If you want evidence they’re still at it, you need look no further than the campaign of that lying sack of shit, George Santos, or Anthony Devolder, or whatever he’s calling himself this week. They sank $50,000 in the campaign of a single congressional candidate on Long Island using coffers controlled by one of Putin’s best friends, Viktor Vekselberg. Why would they do this? Why would they give illegal money to the reelection campaign of another single congressman from Texas, Pete Sessions, using that buffoon, Lev Parnas?

Ever heard of Mark Meadows? He was once a little ‘ole congressman from North CarolinaRep, and what do you know? He got himself an office in the West Wing right down the hall from the President of the United States as his Chief of Staff. You don’t think Vladimir Putin plays the long game? I give you George Santos, a pro-Russia Republican in the exact mold of Donald Trump. They’ll do it again, and then they’ll do it again and one day while we haven’t got our eyes on the ball and we’re being distracted by some new shiny thing over there, they might do it again with a figure slightly less felonious than Santos – but only slightly. Because we’re talking about the Republican Party here, folks – the party that is in the process of elevating Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene into the upper reaches of its leadership ranks.

Have you heard Marjorie on Ukraine and Russia lately? If she has her way, we won’t send another cent to Zelensky, and Putin will be presiding over a victory parade in Kyiv — that is, if there are enough of his troops left to goose-step down the boulevard for him.

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

Please consider subscribing to Lucian Truscott Newsletter , from which this is reprinted with permission.

Let’s Recall The Terrible Things Manafort And Giuliani Did In Ukraine

Though Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine is just days old, Russia has been working for years to influence and undermine the independence of its smaller neighbor. As it happens, some Americans have played a role in that effort.

One was former President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Another was Trump’s then-lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

It’s all detailed in a wide array of public documents, particularly a bipartisan 2020 Senate report on Trump and Russia. I was one of the journalists who dug into all the connections, as part of the Trump, Inc. podcast with ProPublica and WNYC. (I was in Kyiv, retracing Manafort’s steps , when Trump’s infamous call with Ukraine’s president was revealed in September 2019.)

Given recent events, I thought it’d be helpful to put all the tidbits together, showing what happened step by step.

Americans Making Money Abroad. What’s the Problem?

Paul Manafort was a longtime Republican consultant and lobbyist who’d developed a speciality working with unsavory, undemocratic clients . In 2004, he was hired by oligarchs supporting a pro-Russian party in Ukraine. It was a tough assignment: The Party of Regions needed an image makeover. A recent election had been marred by allegations that fraud had been committed in favor of the party’s candidate, prompting a popular revolt that became known as the Orange Revolution.

In a memo for Ukraine’s reportedly richest man , Rinat Akhmetov, Manafort summed up the polling: Many respondents said they associated the Party of Regions with corruption and considered it the “party of oligarchs.”

Manafort set to work rebranding the party with poll-tested messaging and improved stagecraft. Before long, the Party of Regions was in power in Kyiv. One of his key aides in Ukraine was, allegedly, a Russian spy. The Senate Intelligence Committee report on Trump and Russia said Konstantin Kilimnik was both “a Russian intelligence officer” and “an integral part of Manafort’s operations in Ukraine and Russia.”

Kilimnik has denied he is a Russian spy. He was indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for obstruction of justice for allegedly trying to get witnesses to lie in testimony to prosecutors in the Manafort case. Kilimnik, who reportedly lives in Moscow, has not been arrested. In an email to The Washington Post , Kilimnik distanced himself from Manafort’s legal woes and wrote, “I am still confused as to why I was pulled into this mess.”

Manafort did quite well during his time in Ukraine. He was paid tens of millions of dollars by pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych and other clients, stashing much of the money in undeclared bank accounts in Cyprus and the Caribbean. He used the hidden income to enjoy some of the finer things in life, such as a $15,000 ostrich jacket . Manafort was convicted in 2018 of wide-ranging financial crimes.

“We Are Going to Have So Much Fun, and Change the World in the Process”

In 2014, Manafort’s plum assignment in Ukraine came to an abrupt end. In February of that year, Yanukovych was deposed in Ukraine’s second uprising in a decade, known as the Maidan Revolution, in which more than a hundred protesters were killed in Kyiv. He fled to Russia, leaving behind a vast, opulent estate (now a museum ) with gold-plated bathroom fixtures, a galleon on a lake and a 100-car garage.

With big bills and no more big checks coming in, Manafort soon found himself deep in debt, including to a Russian oligarch . He eventually pitched himself for a new gig in American politics as a convention manager, wrangling delegates for an iconoclastic reality-TV star and real estate developer.

“I am not looking for a paid job,” he wrote to the Trump campaign in early 2016. Manafort was hired that spring, working for free.

According to the Senate report , in mid-May 2016 he emailed top Trump fundraiser Tom Barrack, “We are going to have so much fun, and change the world in the process.” (Barrack was charged last year with failing to register as a foreign agent, involving his work for the United Arab Emirates. He has pleaded not guilty. The case has not yet gone to trial.)

A few months later, the Trump campaign put the kibosh on proposed language in the Republican Party platform that expressed support for arming Ukraine with defensive weapons.

One Trump campaign aide told Mueller that Trump’s view was that “the Europeans should take primary responsibility for any assistance to Ukraine, that there should be improved U.S.-Russia relations, and that he did not want to start World War III over that region.”

According to the Senate report, Manafort met Kilimnik twice in person while working on the Trump campaign, messaged with him electronically and shared “sensitive campaign polling data” with him.

Senate investigators wrote in their report that they suspected Kilimnik served as “a channel for coordination” on the Russian military intelligence operation to hack into Democratic emails and leak them.

The Senate intel report notes that in about a dozen interviews with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Manafort “lied consistently” about “one issue in particular: his interactions with Kilimnik.”

Manafort’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Manafort didn’t make it to Election Day on the Trump campaign. In August 2016, The New York Times revealed that handwritten ledgers recovered from Yanukovych’s estate showed nearly $13 million in previously undisclosed payments to Manafort from Yanukovych and his pro-Russian party. Manafort was pushed out of his job as Trump’s campaign chairman less than a week later.

After Trump won the election, the Senate report says, Manafort and Kilimnik worked together on a proposed “plan” for Ukraine that would create an Autonomous Republic of Donbas in separatist-run southeast Ukraine, on the Russian border. Manafort went so far as to work with a pollster on a survey on public attitudes to Yanukovych, the deposed president. The plan only would need a “wink” from the new U.S. president, Kilimnik wrote to Manafort in an email.

Manafort continued to work on the “plan” even after he had been indicted on charges of bank fraud and conspiracy, according to the Senate report. It’s not clear what became of the effort, if anything.

“Do Us a Favor”

With Manafort’s conviction in 2018, Rudy Giuliani came to the fore as the most Ukraine-connected person close to President Trump. Giuliani had long jetted around Eastern Europe. He’d hung out in Kyiv, supporting former professional boxer Vitali Klitschko’s run for mayor. One of Giuliani’s clients for his law firm happened to be Russia’s state oil producer, Rosneft.

By 2018, Giuliani had joined Trump’s legal team, leading the public effort to discredit Robert Mueller’s investigation. Giuliani saw that Ukraine could be a key to that effort.

Giuliani ended up working with a pair of émigré business partners, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, to make contacts in Ukraine with corrupt and questionable prosecutors , in an effort to turn up “dirt” on Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, who had served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company. Giuliani also worked to sow doubt about the ledger that had revealed the secret payments to Manafort, meeting with his buddies in a literally smoke-filled room .

Parnas and Fruman told the president at a donor dinner in 2018 that the U.S. ambassador in Kyiv was a liability to his administration.

Trump recalled Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who had been a vocal opponent of corruption in Ukraine, from Kyiv in May 2019.

Two months later, Trump had his infamous call with Ukraine’s new President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Zelenskyy asked Trump for anti-tank Javelin missiles. You know what happened next. Trump said he needed Zelenskyy to first “ do us a favor ” and initiate investigations that would be damaging to Joe Biden. He also pressed Zelenskyy to meet with Giuliani, according to the official readout of the call:

These events became publicly known in September 2019, when a whistleblower complaint was leaked.

“In the course of my official duties, I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election,” the whistleblower wrote.

In December 2019, as an impeachment inquiry was at full tilt, Giuliani flew to Ukraine and met with a member of Ukraine’s parliament, Andrii Derkach, in an apparent effort to discredit the investigation of Trump’s actions. Derkach, a former member of the Party of Regions, went on to release a trove of dubious audio “recordings” that seemed to be aimed at showing Biden’s actions in Ukraine, when he was vice president, in a negative light.

Within months, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Derkach, describing him as “an active Russian agent for over a decade” who tried to undermine U.S. elections. Derkach has called that idea “nonsense.”

In a statement, Giuliani said , “there is nothing I saw that said he was a Russian agent. There is nothing he gave me that seemed to come from Russia at all.” Giuliani has consistently maintained that his actions in Ukraine were proper and lawful. His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Where They Are Now...

Many of Trump’s allies have been charged or investigated for their work in and around Ukraine:

Paul Manafort: convicted of financial fraud — then pardoned by Trump

Rick Gates: a Manafort aide who pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI

Sam Patten: another Manafort associate convicted for acting as a straw donor to the Trump inaugural committee on behalf of a Ukrainian oligarch

Rudy Giuliani: reportedly under criminal investigation over his dealings in Ukraine; his lawyer called an FBI search of his home and seizure of electronic devices “legal thuggery”

ACLU Sues Maine for Providing Ineffective Defense Counsel

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman: convicted for funneling foreign money into U.S. elections; Parnas’ attorney said he would appeal

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica