Lazy Caturday Reads: The Mushrooming Ukraine Scandal

Three Kittens Sitting & Watching by Jean-Louis Klein & Marie-Luce Hubert, Cyclades, Greece

Good Afternoon!!

The Ukraine scandal is unwinding into a massive conspiracy. Rudy Giuliani is in big trouble and the mob boss in the White House is on the verge of throwing him under the bus. The White House is struggling to deal with the tsunami of bad news–they once again sent out their Ukraine talking points to Democrats, according to The Hill.

Here’s what’s happening.

The New York Times: Giuliani Is Said to Be Under Investigation for Ukraine Work.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani broke lobbying laws in his dealings in Ukraine, according to two people familiar with the inquiry.

The investigators are examining Mr. Giuliani’s efforts to undermine the American ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, one of the people said. She was recalled in the spring as part of Mr. Trump’s broader campaign to pressure Ukraine into helping his political prospects.

The investigation into Mr. Giuliani is tied to the case against two of his associates who were arrested this week on campaign finance-related charges, the people familiar with the inquiry said. The associates were charged with funneling illegal contributions to a congressman whose help they sought in removing Ms. Yovanovitch.

Mr. Giuliani has denied wrongdoing, but he acknowledged that he and the associates worked with Ukrainian prosecutors to collect potentially damaging information about Ms. Yovanovitch and other targets of Mr. Trump and his allies, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his younger son, Hunter Biden. Mr. Giuliani shared that material this year with American government officials and a Trump-friendly columnist in an effort to undermine the ambassador and other Trump targets.

Trump advisers are pushing him to throw Rudy overboard, according to Politico.

Black Cat on a Windowsill, Korovin Konstantin

For weeks, prominent Republican advisers have been privately imploring President Donald Trump to sideline Rudy Giuliani after a barrage of inconsistent, combative and occasionally cringe-inducing media interviews, according to three people familiar with the conversations.

And that was before the arrest of two foreign-born businessmen who reportedly helped Giuliani try to discredit former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading Democrat to take on Trump in next year’s election. Several reports have indicated Giuliani himself may be caught up in the probe.

Yet Trump remains linked to Giuliani, who was initially hired to help fend of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigators, but who now may have pulled the president into another investigation — one that might lead to impeachment. While the president has long appreciated Giuliani’s pugnacious and never-back-down attitude, Trump allies fear Giuliani will damage Trump with his long-winded monologues and free-wheeling accusations.

The constant sniping from staff could ultimately force Trump to dump his long-valued fixer, as he has done with former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and countless other ousted officials, like ex-Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former chief strategist Steve Bannon.

“Rudy Giuliani needs to stop talking,” said a former campaign official who remains close to Trump’s team.

Trump claims he doesn’t know Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, the two Ukrainian “businessmen” who were arrested on Wednesday night as they tried to flee to Vienna on one way tickets. Unfortunately for Trump, he has been photographed with the two thugs; and Parnas actually attended Trump’s private party celebrating his 2016 election.

Politico: Indicted Giuliani associate attended private ‘16 election night party for ‘friend’ Trump.

Buster Keaton in Electric House, 1922

Lev Parnas described himself to a foreign correspondent at the cash-bar event in midtown Manhattan as a friend of the president-elect who didn’t live far from his South Florida winter home.

Parnas arrived at Trump’s November 2016 election night party, which was held in a ballroom at the Midtown Hilton, with two other men in suits and their heavily made-up wives, according to a forgotten but newly relevant dispatch from the event published at the time in Le Figaro, France’s oldest daily newspaper.

The Ukrainian-born businessman told the paper that a friend from his hometown of Boca Raton, Fla., had hosted several fundraising events for Trump and that his daughter had traveled around the state singing on the candidate’s behalf. It is not clear what friend Parnas was referring to.

“We are confident,” Parnas, told the newspaper, “America wants a change.” The newspaper described Parnas as an insurer. (Parnas co-founded a company, Fraud Guarantee, that at some point retained Giuliani as a lawyer.)

I posted this one in the comments yesterday, but it bears repeating. Reuters: Indicted Giuliani associate worked on behalf of Ukrainian oligarch Firtash.

One of the two Florida businessmen who helped U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal attorney investigate his political rival, Democrat Joe Biden, also has been working for the legal team of a Ukrainian oligarch who faces bribery charges in the United States, according to attorneys for the businessmen and the oligarch.

Lev Parnas, one of the two associates of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, served as a translator for lawyers representing oligarch Dmytro Firtash. Parnas was arrested on Thursday along with the other Florida businessman, Igor Fruman, on unrelated charges that included illegally funneling $325,000 to a political action committee supporting pro-Trump candidates.

The Barn Cat by Ron McGinnnis

Both men had worked in an unspecified capacity for Firtash before Parnas joined the Ukrainian’s legal team, according to a person familiar with the Florida men’s business dealings with Firtash….

Firtash, one of Ukraine’s wealthiest businessmen, is battling extradition by U.S. authorities on bribery charges from Vienna, where he has lived for five years.

Federal prosecutors in Illinois said in court papers in 2017 that Firtash was an “upper-echelon” associate of Russian organized crime. He was indicted in 2013 and charged with bribing Indian officials for access to titanium mines. Firtash has denied any wrongdoing.

Firtash was “financing” the activities of Parnas and Fruman, the source familiar with their business dealings said. The source did not detail their specific work for the oligarch or how much money he had paid them and over what period.

Firtash’s attorneys are Joe DiGenova and Victoria Toensing, who also have been working for Trump. Parnas and Fruman are being represented by former Trump attorney John Dowd.

I’ll be honest, I’m still trying to sort all these stories out. It’s kind of like reading a Russian novel–it’s difficult to keep all the names straight. I’m just sharing the latest news I’ve read.

CBS San Francisco reports on another arrest in the SDNY Ukraine/Giuliani investigation: Ukrainian Andrey Kukushkin, Linked To Giuliani Associates, Arrested In San Francisco On Campaign Finance Violations.

Andrey Kukushkin, 46, is one of four people named in a grand jury indictment announced Thursday by U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman of the Southern District of New York.

The others, all Florida residents, include two associates of presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Ukrainian-born Lev Parnas, 47, and Belarus-born Igor Fruman, 54, and a fourth defendant, David Correia, who was born in the United States. The four men are all U.S. citizens….

From The Circus, Merna Kennedy and Charlie Chaplin, 1928

Kukushkin was arrested in San Francisco Thursday morning, according to William Sweeney, assistant chief of the FBI’s New York field office. He made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Jacqueline Scott Corley in San Francisco and was ordered to be held in custody until a detention hearing on Friday, according to court records.

He is expected to be transferred to New York at a later date to face the charges there.

All four defendants are accused of conspiring in a scheme to disguise contributions of $10,000 each to two Nevada state office candidates from an unnamed Russian businessman who wanted to obtain licenses for marijuana businesses. Federal law prohibits campaign contributions from foreign nationals.

Everyone is trying to find out who the unnamed “Russian businessman” in the SNDY indictment is. David Corn speculates at Mother Jones: Who’s the Secret Russian in the Indictment of Giuliani’s Pals? We Found Some Clues.

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman—who had been helping Giuliani search for dirt on Joe Biden and the Democrats in Ukraine—and David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, who were each identified as businessmen, were charged in what seems to be overlapping capers. Parnas and Fruman allegedly made secret donations to Republicans in an effort to advance their business interests and promote the agenda of one or more Ukrainian officials (which included firing the US ambassador to Ukraine). And these two Giuliani confederates also teamed up with Correia, a business partner of Parnas, and Kukushkin and allegedly made donations secretly financed by a Russian national to Republican candidates for state offices in Nevada to buy influence they could use to set up a cannabis business there. This Russian, who would be part of their legal marijuana venture, sent $1 million from overseas accounts to Fruman that was to be used for contributions to federal and state candidates in Nevada and other states, according to the indictment. It’s illegal for a foreigner to funnel donations to US candidates.

Painting by Mischa Askenazy, 1888-1961

The mystery: Who is this wealthy Russian who allegedly tried to make illegal contributions to US politicians in pursuit of launching a cannabis venture?

The indictment does not say. It refers to this individual only as “Foreign National-1.” And the question cannot be yet answered definitively. But California state records and emails obtained by Mother Jones indicate that a Russian businessman named Andrey Muraviev had previously worked with Kukushkin to develop a cannabis enterprise.

It’s complicated so if you’re interested, head over to Mother Jones and read all about it.

NBC News has a scoop on the ousting of former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch: Lutsenko is the Ukrainian official who prosecutors say urged 2 Giuliani associates to push for the ouster of Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador.

The unnamed Ukrainian official referenced in a federal indictment as directing a plot to oust the then-U.S. ambassador is Ukraine’s former chief prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, according to a U.S. official familiar with the events.

According to the source, Lutsenko is the Ukrainian official who prosecutors say urged two associates of Rudy Giuliani to push for the removal of Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was forced out in May.

The associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested Wednesday night as they prepared to board a one-way flight out of the country at Dulles Airport near Washington, D.C.

Painting by Peter Adderley

“They sought political influence not only to advance their own financial interests, but to advance the political interests of at least one foreign official ⁠— a Ukrainian government official who sought the dismissal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine,” Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a Thursday news conference.

The indictment says the efforts by Parnas and Fruman to remove then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, a respected diplomat with deep knowledge of Ukraine, were “conducted, at least in part, at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials.”

Read the rest at NBC News. Lutsenko is the prosecutor that Trump urged Ukraine’s President Zelinsky not to fire in the July 25th phone call.

One more from Foreign Policy: Pompeo’s State Department Reels as Impeachment Inquiry Sinks Morale.

The fast-moving impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump has dragged the State Department into the center of the scandal and further wrecked morale at Foggy Bottom, presenting a stress test for how Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will balance his relationship with America’s diplomats against his relationship with the president.

The ever-expanding probe into the Trump administration’s apparent efforts to coerce foreign governments into digging up dirt on political rivals has even lower-level State Department officials wondering if they, too, need to lawyer up, with the foreign service officers’ union starting a legal defense fund for career officials caught in the impeachment crossfire.

The latest State Department drama came on Friday as Marie Yovanovitch—a decorated career diplomat forced out of her job as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in May following a pressure campaign from Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and his now indicted associates—testified before Congress. The White House sought to ban her voluntary testimony, but she went ahead after a subpoena from the House of Representatives.

Some nine current and former officials said many in the State Department are shocked and angry that Pompeo did little to shield her. No senior State Department official, including Pompeo, defended Yovanovitch as she was thrust into the spotlight amid the impeachment scandal. The State Department, again at the behest of the White House, also blocked the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, from testifying before Congress on Tuesday, though his lawyer said Friday that he will testify next week.

“You don’t get credit for saying something about swagger, then caving the first time you get heat,” said Daniel Fried, who served as assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs under former President George W. Bush, referring to Pompeo’s promise last year to restore the State Department’s “swagger.”

Read more at FP.

I have no doubt there will be more news breaking this weekend and I can’t wait! What do you think?

32 Comments on “Lazy Caturday Reads: The Mushrooming Ukraine Scandal”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a nice long weekend Sky Dancers!

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Great essay by Rebecca Solnit at Literary Hub: Anyone But the People: Rebecca Solnit on the Party of Trump’s Attack on Democracy.

    One of the failures of journalism is the way that news appears in fragments, though understanding comes from putting the pieces together. Reading of the arrest of two of Rudolf Giuliani’s associates for conspiring “to circumvent the federal laws against foreign influence by engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and state office so that the defendants could buy potential influence with the candidates, campaigns, and the candidates’ governments” made me think, especially since it took place during the preliminary impeachment hearings against Donald J. Trump for soliciting aid from a foreign government for his own election advantage against a rival (and the withholding of foreign aid—aka your money and mine—to compel that aid).

    Those federal laws exist as part of the idea of representative government: that elected officials will be accountable to the people of this nation, and only those people, and not any others. (It’s also behind the emoluments clause of the Constitution Trump has been violating regularly, which is why there are two emoluments lawsuits against him working their way through the courts.) That ideal that has been much eroded by the unequal wealth that, particularly since Citizens United, has given ever-more unequal power to the wealthy of this country. But that in the 2016 presidential election the winning candidate’s team solicited foreign aid and is back doing it again says volumes about what the Republican Party has become.

  3. dakinikat says:

    From Down here …

  4. Pat Johnson says:

    One thing for certain is that the Oval Office and a large part of DC are swarming with Russians.

    Why is that? How is it that a foreign adversary is welcomed in the nation’s capital, attending parties, dining in the WH, paling around with Trump and his functionaries?

    Especially in light of the fact that their government has been identified as having a disastrous effect on the 2016 election.

    Collusion maybe? Corruption perhaps? Money laundering? I am open to all three.

    And yet, judging by the crowds still showing up at those horrible rallies, they simply do not care that their government is being sold out and handed over to an evil empire.

    Traitor and treachery are taking place under their noses and it does not seem to have an impact on these morons.

    • Enheduanna says:

      Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine – Disaster Capitalism” explains a lot about what happened to Russia and what it has become. It was inevitable that the oligarchs would become enmeshed with American mob underground and easy targets like Dump. Dump in his greed happily playing along and is now in it up to his neck. And so, apparently, are a huge number of GOP congresscritters. Follow the money.

  5. Delphyne49 says:

    Marie Yavonovitch was magnificent yesterday – I want to read her entire statement; heard some of it on Rachel’s show. And Rachel was positively in awe of her walking across the street and into the building with confidence and fearlessness…

    Before this is over, these Russian oligarchs and mobsters will be easily recognized, their names will be as easy to pronounce as Trump, Pence and Giuliani and their relationships with American politicians, businesses and some folks from religious communities will be well known. I look forward to that day.

    Love the 3 Kitten and Barn Cat paintings!

  6. bostonboomer says:

    I highly recommend this long read by Ronan Farrow’s producer at NBC about how NBC execs tried to shut down the Harvey Weinstein story. They should all be fired.


    • Pat Johnson says:

      Amazing isn’t it what money and power can buy? The cover up of sexual predators executing their dirty deeds and getting away with it for years as they continue to assault women because they can.

      You would think that once caught and having to pay out big bucks would have been enough to make them end that behavior. But no, they continued as multiple complaints came forward and the perps just moved on to the next victim. No shame. No remorse. No guilt.

      Lauer at NBC. Charlie Rose at PBS and ABC. Ailes, O’Reilly at Fox. Halperin at MSNBC. Weinstein all over the globe. A culture of “good ole boys” permitted to behave as egregiously as possible while the women were treated like objects and sworn to secrecy less these “power brokers” be exposed.

      Women must be on guard at all times. Unfortunately this stuff, in one form or another, goes on day after day in every industry across the nation.

      It’s still a sorry state of affairs.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    This is what Trump is supporting in Turkey in our name.

    Haaretz: Destroying Books and Jailing Dissidents: Erdogan’s Cultural Purge Is in Full Swing

    In August the Turkish Education Ministry reported that since 2016, the year of the attempted coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, more than 300,000 books have been confiscated and destroyed, including textbooks that include the word “Pennsylvania,” the state where Gulen lives, as well as books that even contain a hint of Gulen, down to his initials.

    It’s not only people suspected of contact or support for Gulen who have been put in detention or prison or fired in their tens of thousands from their jobs in government and at universities, the courts, the media and even kindergartens. “The forces of the internal enemy,” as the Kurds in Turkey are known, suffer frequently for using their own language.

    Eight Kurdish singers, members of two bands that appear at weddings, were arrested last week for singing in Kurdish. They are suspected of supporting the Kurdistan Workers Party, the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization. In Turkey it is still against the law to study the Kurdish language as part of the official curriculum. It can be studied in private schools, which are very expensive and only the wealthy can afford to send their children there.

  8. bostonboomer says:

  9. bostonboomer says:

    Trump’s handiwork:

    • bostonboomer says:

    • dakinikat says:

      • NW Luna says:

        Hideous. It’s awful knowing people are being killed because the American president* broke faith with an ally.

  10. bostonboomer says:

    Mattis finally speaks.

  11. bostonboomer says:

  12. dakinikat says:

    • quixote says:

      Hello? The more time you give a crook to destroy the evidence, the more evidence will be destroyed.

      They don’t need me to tell them that.

      It’s probably a feature, not a bug.

  13. NW Luna says:

    “didn’t seem so clear in real time.” Oh really.

    The U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, intends to tell Congress this week that the content of a text message he wrote denying a quid pro quo with Ukraine was relayed to him directly by President Trump in a phone call, according to a person familiar with his testimony.

    Sondland plans to tell lawmakers he has no knowledge of whether the president was telling him the truth at that moment. “It’s only true that the president said it, not that it was the truth,” said the person familiar with Sondland’s planned testimony, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic matters.

    “the incredulity is hindsight bias,” said the person familiar with Sondland’s testimony. “The things that seem so clear to people now didn’t seem so clear in real time.”

    • quixote says:

      “didn’t seem so clear in real time”

      Someone who is so performatively naive as to say there’s no reason to see quid pro quo in “Gosh, the Prznit will be holding up your aid, but if you’re nice to him…” is too naive to hold a job.

  14. Joanelle says:

    Marie Yananovich, bless her heart is my new hero! Hopefully the ‘boyz’ will notice what hero’s do!