While the exact degree of effect is still up for debate, there is no serious person who can argue with the fact that if it were not for Russia interfering in the 2016 election under the orders of their gangsterish president Vladimir Putin, Trump would not occupy the Oval Office today. The Russian Federation implemented a highly complex and organized cyber campaign to tilt the election towards the former reality star and their efforts were rewarded with the ascension of the worst president in American history.
Not surprisingly, given his egomania and ruthless pursuit of his own self-interest, Trump has refused to take a strong stand against Russia going into 2020. American efforts to prevent a repeat of 2016’s interference have been handicapped by an administration which has a vested interest in letting Russia run wild again.
Now, it appears that Trump’s team intends to rely not only on help from Russia but Ukraine as well. BuzzFeed News reports that Rudy Giuliani, personal attorney to Trump and one of his most unhinged attack dogs, sent envoys to open a secret backchannel with Ukrainian government officials — some of whom are embroiled in corruption scandals — as part of an effort to derail Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and help with 2020.
The two envoys, Leva Parnas and Igor Fruman, met numerous times with high-ranking officials in Ukraine and even set up personal meetings for Giuliani himself as they worked to accumulate intel that could be exploited for the president’s 2020 reelection bid.
Parnas and Fruman also pushed Ukrainian prosecutors to focus on conspiracy allegations against former Vice President and top contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, Joe Biden. On top of that, they successfully convinced prosecutors to probe Ukrainian officials accused of trying to help get Hillary Clinton elected.
Parnas and Fruman paralleled their activities in Eastern Europe back in Washington D.C., where they privately lobbied members of Congress to support the firing of an ambassador to Ukraine who had gotten on the wrong side of their Ukrainian contacts.
Simultaneously, the two men saw their fortunes and influence rise as they networked in powerful Republican cliques, donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to GOP causes and candidates while organizing a new natural gas business for themselves in Ukraine. Over the course of their operations, money flooded their coffers and has now shown up in a watchdog complaint currently in front of the FEC.
“In one transaction in 2018, more than $1 million was wired to a bank account belonging to Parnas from the client trust account of a Florida lawyer specializing in real estate and foreign investments. Parnas and Fruman then redirected $325,000 to a Trump-supporting super PAC — without declaring the original source of the funds, records and interviews show,” write Michael Sallah, Tanya Kozyreva, and Aubrey Belford for BuzzFeed.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Parnas claimed that the Ukrainian officials were the ones who originally instigated the communications and that he and his associate were not paid for their work setting up the backchannel for Giuliani. Fruman did not respond to BuzzFeed’s request for answers.
“All we were doing was passing along information. Information was coming to us — either I bury it or I pass it on. I felt it was my duty to pass it on,” insisted Parnas.
Kenneth McCallion, who used to serve as a federal prosecutor and who worked with former Ukrainian Priem Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, told BuzzFeed that what Parnas and Fruman did was far more serious than perhaps they’d like to let on. He said the two were “playing with fire” because they failed to register as foreign agents.
“Trump has either authorized Giuliani to engage in private diplomacy and deal-making or, even worse, remains silent while Giuliani and his dodgy band of soldiers of fortune engage in activities that severely undermine US credibility and are contrary to fundamental US interests,” said McCallion, not mincing words.
The full, original story by Michael Sallah, Tanya Kozyreva, and Aubrey Belford for BuzzFeed is full of all kinds of additional seedy details about the steps Parnas and Fruman took.
What’s clear is that the Trump team has no qualms about colluding with foreign officials if it means a second term for this odious president. Giuliani and his henchmen’s actions must be condemned and fully investigated immediately. Democracy cannot be allowed to be manipulated and distorted like this.