When Rudy Giuliani’s friends, clients, tour guides, and assistants were picked up at Dulles Airport on Oct. 10, it was clear that federal attorneys weren’t really prepared to arrest the pair. It was the idea that the two were getting ready to head out of the country again—and that Giuliani was planning to follow them to Vienna that evening—that forced the government’s hand and had them bring Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman in on charges related to making illegal foreign contributions to numerous Republicans, including Donald Trump.
But now that there’s been more time to develop the case against Parnas and Fruman, it’s clear that the count of charges against them has nowhere to go but up. And up. Not only does Parnas have a starring role in the House Intelligence Committee impeachment report as the man who was talking to everyone—including ranking Republican committee member Devin Nunes—assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Zolkind appeared at a pretrial hearing on Monday and flat-out told the judge that more charges were likely. And, according to Politico, those additional charges might not all be aimed at Parnas and his partner in thuggery, Fruman. There are possible “additional defendants” in the works.
In fact, Parnas and Fruman don’t appear to be at the center of this case at all. Their arrest was required just because they had those tickets to ride to Vienna, where their friend, employer, and also already indicted oligarch Dmytro Firtash has been cooling his heels in luxury for years. This case, which includes at a minimum charges of violations of election law, perjury, falsifying records, conspiracy against the United States, appears to be “part of a broader probe that is looking at numerous people in Giuliani’s orbit.”
While it’s clear that Giuliani’s orbit revolves around the Oval Office, it’s not certain just who else might be caught up in the obvious and clumsy schemes to feed foreign contributions to Republican candidates. But we might soon know. Not only has Parnas’ lawyer been avidly signaling his client’s willingness to talk to anyone about his connections to Giuliani, Trump, and company—the judge also ruled on Monday that Parnas can turn over documents to the House impeachment inquiry.
The House Intelligence Committee had already directed a subpoena in Parnas’ direction, but complying with the request was on hold until Monday’s hearing. Now Parnas is ready to start explaining his role—one in which he has been listed as Giuliani’s client, his assistant, his guide, and his translator while in Ukraine.
On Monday, Judge J. Paul Oetken declared that it would be in the “public interest” for Parnas to ship his documents to Congress. It’s unclear just what these documents contain, but seeing that phone records included in the House report show Parnas chatting frequently with Nunes, Giuliani, and The Hill editor John Solomon, it seems certain that Parnas has information both about the scheme to oust Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as well as Giuliani’s efforts to find someone in Ukraine willing to support Trump’s conspiracy theories against Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.
Parnas’ next day in court will not be until Feb 3. But long before that, his documents will be in the hands of the House investigators. And Parnas may get his chance to tell his side of the scheme … which promises to be vastly entertaining. For everyone except Trump, Giuliani, and Nunes.
When Rudy Giuliani’s partners in crime, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested in October on their way out of the country, they were carrying one-way tickets to Vienna. Giuliani was supposedly booked on another flight to Vienna that same evening. And no matter how many times Devin Nunes may give conflicting answers on Fox News about his own dealings with Parnas, one thing is absolutely clear: When Nunes went to look for “proof” concerning Donald Trump’s Ukraine-centric conspiracy theories, he did not fly to Kyiv. He went to Vienna, on a $14,000 first-class ticket.
Kyiv has a perfectly good international airport. So why do so many of those interested in protecting Donald Trump keep going to Vienna, which is over 1,000 miles off-target? There are a number of possibilities. Because while Vienna may not be in Ukraine, Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash is in Vienna. And, mysteriously enough, so is an organization called TriGlobal Strategic Ventures, a group that’s been funding Giuliani’s international jaunts for over a decade. It’s also home to the European Privatization Investment Corporation (EPIC), an equally little-known group that plotted with Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to rig a $2 billion privatization of Ukrainian media.
All of which makes it seem that, while Vienna is not Ukraine, it’s the go-to gathering point where East meets West in efforts to rip Ukraine apart. It also suggests that all these separate organizations and individuals may not really be so separate after all.
A ProPublic investigation from 2018 shows how TriGlobal was shipping Giuliani around the world, including to locations that baffled local observers, well before Trump took office. The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project network detailed Manafort’s involvement in efforts to cheat Ukraine out of its own broadcast and telephone systems in 2010. And the recent charges against Parnas and Fruman show that they were funneling millions from overseas sources into the campaign coffers of Republican candidates—including a big deposit made for Donald Trump. In all of these separate events, a handful of names keep repeating.
In the 2016 campaign, the Russian military, at the direction of Vladimir Putin, engaged in a multi-million-dollar campaign of theft, collusion, and disinformation by every possible means. Republicans, including Nunes, keep making claims that other countries were also interfering. None of those claims has proven truthful. But there does seem to be something in common between the Russia investigation and the Ukraine investigation: Republicans have had plenty of outside help in trying to derail those investigations. And that help might really be from a conspiracy that’s more than a theory.
Could all of it—Giuliani’s TriGlobal funders, Manafort’s EPIC ventures, Parnas’ mystery donors, Nunes’ source for Trump-saving information, and the secret mission launched by Trump and Giuliani—be aspects of the same thing? It seems as ludicrous at first glance as something that Nunes cobbled up between shouting Chalupa! and asking people if they knew Nellie Ohr. But if the Vienna-centered groups aren’t really one and the same, they certainly do seem to have a few names in common.
One of those is certainly Firtash. But just because Firtash is a Ukrainian-born oligarch, that doesn’t mean that his presence in this whole thing suggests that there really was some kind of Ukrainian force involved in 2016. Firtash is stuck in Vienna and is the subject of a—now strangely lax—effort at U.S. extradition because he’s in Vladimir Putin’s inner circle and thought to be a major player in Russia’s international crime ring.
William Taylor may have only just become familiar to most Americans for his testimony in the House impeachment inquiry, but in a 2010 cable, Firtash made it clear to then-Ambassador to Ukraine Taylor that anyone wanting to do business in Ukraine needed permission from a Russian crime boss working with Firtash to unify Russian and Ukrainian state-owned companies. Firtash’s extortion efforts in Ukraine were made visible, ironically enough, because stolen U.S. diplomatic exchanges were published at the time by WikiLeaks.
Firtash also happens to be the actual owner of Cambridge Analytica. Remember them?
In their own January 2019 investigation, Mother Jones described TriGlobal as “a New York-based firm that has advised Russian oligarchs and others with Kremlin ties.” But ProPublica found that TriGlobal’s New York office was a closet-sized space in a work-sharing building that hadn’t seen a human presence in months. Which still puts that office ahead of several of TriGlobal’s supposed international offices, because those are completely nonexistent. However, the Vienna office does seem to exist—at least to the extent that someone answers the phone.
Despite the lack of a real New York office, the listed head of TriGlobal is New York businessman Vitaly Pruss. NBC identifies Pruss as Giuliani’s “longtime go-between for Ukrainian deals,” but it wasn’t Ukraine where Pruss and Giuliani made their first connection. It was Russia. Pruss is also the man to whom Giuliani turned when he was “desperate for more information about Hunter Biden's work in Ukraine.” Whatever other role he played, Pruss seems to have often served as Giuliani’s travel broker and switchboard, arranging trips that included visits to pro-Russian officials in Ukraine and pro-Russian officials in … Russia. Pruss also seems to have arranged trips in which Giuliani was paired with Parnas, and may have made the initial contact between Giuliani and yet another Russian Ukrainian oligarch who hired Giuliani for his “security” expertise in defending a city on the border of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. That oligarch claims he actually hired Giuliani to lobby in the United States, which Giuliani has denied.
Finally, that EPIC investment from Paul Manafort appears to be a venture gone badly wrong. It ended up folding after a series of fumbles in which it seemed that Manafort misrepresented his funding and the value of the company. But after it collapsed, the whole Ukrainian telecommunications infrastructure ended up going for a song to Firtash. Who also managed to accumulate most of the the broadcasting and internet service in Ukraine. Firtash, who claimed to be angry at Manafort for “stealing” $17 million from him, now has nothing but good things to say about him.
Maybe it is all coincidence. Maybe the string of one-degree-of-separation connections that link EPIC to Firtash, to Parnas, to TriGlobal, and to Russian crime overlords isn’t some vast conspiracy. Maybe all those tickets to Vienna are just because everyone wants a chance for a night at the opera. Maybe, in a world where a few hundred people control almost all the wealth and power, it shouldn’t be surprising that the same names come up again and again when you look at any set of political events and business deals.
But Giuliani and Parnas seem to be everywhere in this story. And it’s definitely time that someone genuinely interested in finding out what happened goes to Vienna.
After this week’s testimony in the impeachment hearings, the contours of President Donald Trump’s abuse of power for personal advantage have become crystal clear. Trump violated U.S. law when he solicited the interference of a foreign power in an American election. Looking ahead to 2020, Trump demanded the new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, a former board member of energy company Burisma. The “favor” Trump sought also featured a backward-looking conspiracy, one which would clear Russia of 2016 election tampering by magically locating the hacked DNC server in Ukraine. And to extort the cooperation of a desperate front-line American ally fighting Russian-backed forces, Trump threatened to withhold roughly $400 million in U.S. military assistance supported by both parties in Washington. The president’s scheme to put his personal gain over U.S. national security interests failed only because he got caught.
But there may be another area of Trump’s Kyiv corruption in which American interests provided air cover for the skullduggery of his syndicate. It was suggested by a little-noticed July 7, 2019 headline from the UAWire, “Ukrainian President Zelensky: only Trump can stop Nord Stream 2 pipeline.” As the Kyiv Post reported the next day, “Zelensky believes Trump can solve issue of Nord Stream 2 in favor of Ukraine.” As the new Ukrainian president explained:
“The only solution to this issue is that I will have a meeting with the U.S. president. This is the only person who, I am sure, will resolve this issue in the interests of Ukraine.”
As we’ll see below, Ukrainian and American policy makers have compelling strategic reasons for opposing the new Russian pipeline that will double Moscow’s capacity to deliver natural gas to markets across central and western Europe without paying transit fees to Kyiv. But stopping Nord Stream 2 in favor of American exports of liquified natural gas (LNG) to Ukraine and developing new sources there could enable some people in both countries to become very, very rich. People, that is, with names like Igor Fruman, Lev Parnas, Dmytro Firtash and others associated with President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and his Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
To be sure, American presidents of both parties have worried for decades about Europe’s growing dependence on Russian oil and natural gas. Germany’s desires for a lower cost, reliable alternative to coal, oil and, later, nuclear power have prompted Berlin to push for pipeline deals with the Moscow dating back to the late 1970s. While the Carter and Reagan administrations fretted then about the prospect of Soviet leverage over Bonn, Presidents Bush and Obama worried about a Russian economic stranglehold over Germany with the building of the first Nord Stream pipeline project which became operational in 2011. As the New York Times reported on October 7, 2019, consternation in Washington, Warsaw, and Kyiv only increased as Nord Stream 2 progressed toward completion:
President Trump said “it really makes Germany a hostage to Russia.” Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said it would encourage Russian “military adventurism.” Radoslaw Sikorski, the former Polish defense minister, compared it to the infamous 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that allied the Nazis with Stalin’s Soviet Union. [...]
The pipelines run from Russia directly under the Baltic Sea to Germany, bypassing Poland and Ukraine and denying those countries some transit fees. Gazprom, which is majority owned by the Russian government, owns 51 percent of Nord Stream 1 and all of Nord Stream 2 AG, which is developing and will operate the new pipelines.
Critics, including those from the United States, which would like to sell Europe more liquefied natural gas, say they are not simply concerned that Germany will become too dependent on Russian gas as it weans itself from nuclear power and coal. They also fear that Russia’s larger intention is to starve Ukraine of an important chunk of income. Russia is waging a kind of war in the eastern part of Ukraine after annexing Crimea in 2014.
While the 9.5 billion-euro project which will double Nord Stream 1’s capacity to 110 billion cubic meters, Vladimir Putin will be starving Ukraine’s coffers even as he fills his own. “European exports represent the bulk of Gazprom’s profits, and those are vital for the Russian state,” the Times explained. “Oil and gas production accounts for 40 percent of Russia’s budget.” At the same time, Mikhail Korchemkin warned in Foreign Policy last month, “It will actually concentrate Russian gas exports into a single pipeline corridor in the Baltic Sea, where it will bypass Ukraine and reduce that country’s gas load to 10 percent of current capacity.” Given Russia’s past shutting of the spigots, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Moldova, and other former Soviet satellites now integrated into NATO fear becoming hostage to Moscow, too. As the Atlantic Council reported on Wednesday, Poland’s former Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki warned two years ago:
“Once Nord Stream 2 is built, Putin can do with Ukraine whatever he wants, and then we have potentially his army on the eastern border of the EU.”
With the Danish government having given its blessing to the section of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline to be built in its territorial waters, the project stands only a few months from completion. Meanwhile, committees in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate have passed bipartisan sanctions bills targeting companies working on the pipeline. President Trump is expected to sign both before the end of the year. The goal is to buy time for alternative sources of natural gas—shipped from the United States, unearthed in Ukraine and delivered via new pipelines from Turkey—to reduce Eastern Europe’s vulnerability to a Russian energy stranglehold.
Sadly, President Trump’s approach to German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been anything but diplomatic. As Josef Joffe suggested in a March Washington Post op-ed, Donald Trump is providing a textbook example of how to lose friends and alienate allies:
Trump has repeatedly insulted Berlin, levying punitive tariffs and threatening to choke off intelligence-sharing if Berlin allows Huawei to build Germany’s 5G network. And he has threatened sanctions over Nord Stream 2. With friends like Trump, who needs enemies?
Enemies, indeed. At the NATO Summit in July 2018, Trump claimed Germany is "captive to" and "totally controlled" by Russia because of the planned Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. But if “Trump wants Germany—an enormous gas purchaser—to buy American liquefied natural gas and is attempting to steal the market now held by Russia,” his inflammatory rhetoric is putting the close ties between Berlin and Washington at risk. The day Trump tweeted:
“What good is NATO if Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars for gas and energy? The U.S. is paying for Europe’s protection, then loses billions on Trade. Must pay 2% of GDP IMMEDIATELY, not by 2025.”
During a June 2019 White House appearance with Polish President Andrzej Duda, Trump complained that “We’re protecting Germany from Russia, and Russia is getting billions and billions of dollars in money from Germany.” The European firms partnering to build the pipeline (Germany's Wintershall and Uniper, Anglo-Dutch Shell, France's Engie and Austria's OMV) and some 600 other companies involved in the project could yet face those threatened U.S. sanctions. And as Bloomberg (“Trump Threatens Merkel With Pipeline Sanctions, U.S. Troop Cut”) recounted, that’s not all he said.
Donald Trump upped his criticism of Germany on Wednesday as he threatened sanctions over Angela Merkel’s continued support for a gas pipeline from Russia and warned that he could shift troops away from the NATO ally over its defense spending.
For its part, Russia has accused the Trump administration of “blackmail.”
All of which raises an interesting question. Given the dozens of circumstances in which Donald Trump has gone “soft” on Russia, why did the president focus only on Nord Stream 2 to oppose Vladimir Putin? What reasons could there be for Team Trump to actually act in support of American national interests in balking on the pipeline which largely cuts Ukraine out of Europe’s natural gas market?
Measured in dollars, there are billions of them for Trump’s associates. As the Brookings Institution recently detailed:
These new pipelines reflect a decision taken by Moscow more than a decade ago to find ways to get gas to Europe that circumvent Ukraine. The Russian government and Gazprom seek to eliminate Gazprom’s dependence on Ukrainian pipelines as well as to end the transit fees that last year generated $3 billion in revenue for Kyiv.
As Russia has reduced its dependence on Ukraine for transiting gas, Kyiv stopped importing gas directly from Russia for Ukrainian use in 2015, instead bringing gas in from Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia. That gas fills about one-third of Ukraine’s needs, with domestic production satisfying the remainder.
That’s where Rudy Giuliani and his friends Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas come in. As you’ll recall, Fruman and Parnas were arrested and indicted on criminal charges for allegedly funneling foreign money into U.S. elections. As it turns out, they were on their way to Vienna on October 11, where Giuliani was supposed to join them the following day. Vienna also happens to be the current home of Dmytro Firtash, the Russian mob-linked criminal now trying to avoid extradition to the United States over bribery charges. Firtash, who like convicted Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort supported the massively corrupt pro-Russian former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, was worth some $500 million by 2014 courtesy of his lucrative business with Gazprom shipping natural gas from Russia to Ukraine. As Reuters reported on October 11, Firtash has employed Parnas and Fruman since at least early 2018. And that’s not all. As Dan Friedman reported in Mother Jones last month:
As Parnas and Fruman helped Giuliani do opposition research for Trump, they were also pursuing a lucrative natural gas deal involving Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state-run oil and gas company. At an energy conference in Houston in March, Parnas and Fruman—accompanied by Harry Sargeant III, a billionaire oil magnate who lives in Florida—met with Andrew Favorov, a top deputy to Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolyev. As the AP first reported, Parnas and Fruman pressed Favorov to agree to a plan in which they would help him replace Kobolyev as Naftogaz’s chief. Parnas and Fruman hoped to then partner with Favorov on a scheme to export up to 100 tankers per year of US liquified gas to Naftogaz, which is eager to reduce its reliance on Russian gas. Favorov reportedly rejected this proposal, which he perceived as “a shakedown,” the AP story said.
But the biggest impediment to their scheme was then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Maria Yovanovitch. Yovanovitch was at the forefront of American anti-corruption efforts in Kyiv. And CEO Kobolyev, as she testified to the House Intelligence Committee, had played a major role in cleaning up the systematic corruption within Naftogaz. As the Washington Post reported:
The gas giant’s financial performance has improved under Kobolyev. When he took over in March 2014, Naftogaz was losing billions of dollars a year. Last year it turned a profit and contributed 15 percent of the government’s revenue, through tax and dividend payments…
In her testimony to House impeachment investigators last month, Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, called Kobolyev “as clean as they come,” saying he had been “fearless and determined to sort of shake everything up.”
Which is why Fruman, Parnas, Rudy Giuliani and, apparently, Donald Trump needed to get Ambassador Yovanovitch out of the way. She was, after all, “bad news” when it came to extorting Ukrainian President Zelensky into announcing an investigation into Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, Burisma and CrowdStrike. And for Giuliani, she was going to be a problem if he hoped to turn his $500,000 for working with Parnas and Fruman into something much, much larger.
As it turns out, Rudy Giuliani now has bigger problems closer to home. Federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York (SDNY) are now investigating Giuliani himself for possible campaign finance violations and failing to register as a foreign agent. And that’s not all. As the Wall Street Journal revealed on November 15, “Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating whether Rudy Giuliani stood to profit personally from a Ukrainian natural-gas business pushed by two associates who also aided his efforts there to launch investigations that could benefit President Trump.” Among those to be interviewed is that Naftogaz deputy director, Andrew Favorov.
But Rudy Giuliani and his amigos Lev and Igor aren’t the only ones who may have stood to profit in the Ukrainian natural gas market if Nord Stream 2 was delayed or unfinished. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry had some friends—and donors—from his home state of Texas who stood to gain as well.
To be sure, Rick Perry’s role has seemed murky from the beginning. Back in early October, Trump suggested (falsely, we now know) to House Republicans that the fateful July 25 telephone call with President Zelensky was all Perry’s idea.
[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.
But if that was nonsense, Perry’s place among the “three amigos” had at least one vital objective. During his visits with President Zelensky following his inauguration, Perry made it clear that he wanted Naftogaz to replace American board members with people “reputable in Republican circles.” But Perry wasn’t just talking about Amos Hochstein, a former diplomat and energy representative who served in the Obama administration, who like Ambassador Yovanovitch had defended Naftogaz CEO Kobolyev. Instead, New York Magazine documented, Perry wanted all of the Obama-era people out:
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.
But while the Trump White House stenographers at Politico reported on October 5 that “Energy Secretary Rick Perry urged Ukraine's president to root out corruption and pushed the new government for changes at its state-run oil and gas company,” the truth was far more insidious. Bensh and Bleyzer were Texas-based investors with connections to Perry. Bleyzer had been appointed by Perry to the board of a Texas state technologies fund, and in 2010, Bleyzer donated $20,000 to Perry’s reelection campaign. And as it has turned out, Bleyzer ended up securing something more valuable than an adviser’s role.
As the AP reported on November 11, Bleyzer and another Perry crony Alex Cranberg won a contract for natural gas exploration in Ukraine. They were chosen by Kyiv over a subsidiary of Naftogaz despite coming in with a higher cost bid:
Two political supporters of U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry secured a potentially lucrative oil and gas exploration deal from the Ukrainian government soon after Perry proposed one of the men as an adviser to the country's new president…
Ukraine awarded the contract to Perry's supporters little more than a month after the U.S. energy secretary attended Zelenskiy's May inauguration. In a meeting during that trip, Perry handed the new president a list of people he recommended as energy advisers. One of the four names was his longtime political backer Michael Bleyzer.
A week later, Bleyzer and his partner Alex Cranberg submitted a bid to drill for oil and gas at a sprawling government-controlled site called Varvynska. They offered millions of dollars less to the Ukrainian government than their only competitor for the drilling rights, according to internal Ukrainian government documents obtained by The Associated Press. But their newly created joint venture, Ukrainian Energy, was awarded the 50-year contract because a government-appointed commission determined they had greater technical expertise and stronger financial backing, the documents show.
As the Associated Press also documented, Bleyzer had ties to Rudy Giuliani. In 2008, Bleyzer’s firm hired the law firm of Bracewell & Giuliani to help it acquire and consolidate cable holdings in 16 Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv. That same year, Michael Bleyzer contributed $2,300 to Giuliani’s failed presidential campaign.
Anti-corruption law professor Jessica Tillipman of George Washington University said Perry likely did nothing illegal even if he sought to influence foreign officials to award contracts to his friends. "My gut says it's no crime," she said. "It's just icky."
Icky, indeed. After all, President Donald Trump is facing impeachment for his failed attempt to bribe Ukraine into interfering in an U.S. election for his personal gain, not for American national interests. In justifiably opposing the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, an awful lot of people in Trump’s orbit stand to make an awful lot of money whether he succeeds or not.
On Thursday, the House impeachment inquiry completed its last scheduled hearings. However, following a revelation on Friday, it seems necessary that there be at least one more day of questioning. And there shouldn’t be any difficulty getting the witness to appear, because he’s been there every day of the hearings, slouching on the Republican side of the aisle, playing games on his phone. Devin Nunes is in this thing up to his bulging eyeballs.
On Friday, CNN reported that the ranking Republic member of the House Intelligence Committee traveled to Vienna in 2018 to meet with disgraced Ukrainian prosecutor Victor Shokin. Nunes made this trip for the express purpose of gathering manufactured dirt that could be used against Joe Biden in the upcoming election. In other words—even as Nunes has been sitting there talking about what a “farce” it is to suggest that Trump was soliciting foreign officials to intervene in the 2020 election, Nunes was doing precisely that on Trump’s behalf.
Which explains why the tags #DevinNunesIsCompromised, #DevinNunesGotCaught, and #DirtyDevin topped the charts on Twitter overnight.
Shokin is the same prosecutor who Biden demanded be removed from office in 2016; not because he was investigating the company where Hunter Biden was on the board, as Trump and Republicans keep stating, but precisely because he was not conducting an investigation. The reason Biden made Shokin’s removal a condition of U.S. aid was because he was not just a corrupt prosecutor protecting other corrupt officials, he was also refusing to cooperate with international investigations and making it impossible for either the U.S. or European allies to look into cases of money laundering originating in Ukraine. By asking for Shokin’s removal, Biden was not only following U.S. policy and supporting allies, but potentially placing his son’s job in peril by replacing the hands-off Shokin with someone who actually might conduct an investigation.
Devin Nunes went to talk to this corrupt prosecutor to gather lies about Joe Biden. And not only was Nunes going to talk to the same corrupt officials that Rudy Giuliani was soliciting to build his narrative against the Bidens, the news of his trip comes directly from one of Giuliani’s now-indicted partners in crime.
On Thursday Nunes fluttered his very own Russia report in the face of Fiona Hill, a renowned Russia expert who has not only served as the NSC’s top resource on Eastern Europe but written a book on the psychology of Vladimir Putin. Nunes was just one of a series of Republicans who engaged in a epic, tag-team man-splaining effort designed to shield the fact that, yes, absolutely, Republicans on the committee have been working to support a conspiracy theory explicitly designed to exonerate Russia of involvement in the 2016 campaign.
Republicans have certainly done their share to uphold the other conspiracy theory that Trump pushed by repeatedly bringing up Joe or Hunter Biden as if there was some misdeed to be investigated. But now it’s apparent that Nunes did more than just bring talking points for his CT game. Nunes was actually on the ground a whole year ago, working to provide Trump with precisely the false attacks he wanted to hurt Biden’s potential as a candidate.
On Friday, an attorney for Lev Parnas—one of two now indicted partners of Giuliani who illegally funneled money from foreign sources into Republican campaigns—reported that Parnas would testify that Nunes went to Vienna in December 2018 to meet with Shokin.
And that’s not the end of it. Parnas, whose role in the Ukraine scheme was helping Giuliani make contact with Ukrainians willing to play along with the schemes to finger Biden and Hillary Clinton, apparently served the same role for Nunes. His attorney states that he put Nunes in touch with multiple sources, not just Shokin. It’s unclear at this point just how many trips Nunes made, or how many sources he tapped in an effort to support these disproven claims.
All the time Nunes has been sitting in the inquiry, pretending to disbelief about Trump soliciting foreign officials to interfere in the upcoming election, Nunes knew that he had done the same thing, with the same people. It wasn’t just Rudy Giuliani acting as Trump’s agent in Ukraine to disrupt policy and collect disinformation that could be used to upset a U.S. election — it was Devin Nunes.
Maybe it’s time to remember that those Russia reports Nunes was waving around on Thursday aren’t really valuable for the whitewash they provide when it comes to Russian interference, but they are valuable as reminders that the tactics he used in authoring that Trump-exoneration forced Nunes to step down from his role heading the Russia investigation in the House and face an ethics investigation.
In that case, a Republican majority Ethics Committee eventually slapped a hasty approval on Nunes’ actions, even though Nunes was lying to the press, and to other members of the committee, about the secret sources of supposed information. The truth was that Nunes was working directly with the Trump team to undermine and sideline the investigation, resulting in a report whose purpose had nothing to do with finding the truth.
The House inquiry needs to convene for another day of hearings, where Nunes can diddle with his phone on the other side of the table for a change, and explain how he was pretending to only investigate something he was actively engaged in doing personally. Then he can go back to the ethics committee — and it won’t be a cake walk this time.
Ed MacMahon, the attorney for Lev Parnas—the indicted pal of Rudy Giuliani—says Parnas helped Rep. Devin Nunes in his "investigations" in 2018 intended to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election-meddling. Parnas helped Nunes, the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee now conducting impeachment hearings, arrange meetings and calls in Europe.
That includes a four-day trip Nunes and three of his aides—Derek Harvey, Scott Glabe, and George Pappas—took at the end of November 2018. A four-day trip that cost the American taxpayers just over $63,000. This trip, and Nunes’ work, has been focused on trying to kick up enough dirt to suggest that the Mueller investigation wasn't spurred by Russia's interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign, but by some nefarious global Deep State effort to make nude photos of Donald Trump public. Or something. MacMahon did not tell the Daily Beast, which broke the story, what precisely Nunes was after and what the "investigation" entailed.
Parnas has been a busy guy on behalf of Trump. You'll remember he's the one, along with colleague and other friend of Rudy Igor Fruman, who was given a secret "James Bond mission" from Trump at last year's White House Hanukkah party, designed to pressure Ukraine into an investigation of Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
If Nunes or his Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had a single shred of integrity, Nunes would be recused from the impeachment proceedings. Instead, he is there on behalf of Trump to try to derail the process.