Rudy Giuliani's Chucklef*ck Pals: It's A Gas Gas Gas!
Yesterday we gave you the rundown on Rudy and "The Crackpots," Victoria Toensing and her husband Joe diGenova, the legal team cahootsing (allegedly!) to keep Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash out of the clink by feeding the Justice Department phony evidence to frame Joe Biden. Now it's time to get down and dirty with Rudy's Ukraine fixers, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. The "Chucklefucks" recently found themselves guests of the US government when SDNY dropped an indictment alleging that the pair had accepted a million dollars from a Ukrainian national to donate to politicians who might help them launch a weed business. They'd also laundered a $325,000 donation to a Trump PAC through a shell company, because Making America Great Again doesn't always mean following all those stupid "laws."
During their alleged crime spree, the pair spent a lot of time palling around with Rudy and members of the Trump clan. Look, here's a fun film the Wall Street Journal's Shelby Holliday made using Parnas's Instagram feed.
What an American success story! Warms the heart, doesn't it?
Now, Victoria Toensing admits that she used some of her $1 million fee from Dmitry Firtash to pay Parnas as her ahem "translator" -- totally normal, lots of translators ride around in private jets and dump hundreds of thousands of dollars on political campaigns -- but calls it a "crock" that Parnas and Fruman were ever paid directly by the oligarch. And Rudy Giuliani swore on a case of Cuban cigars to Bloomberg that "I have nothing to do with Firtash case. Never met him and don't know him." Which might be technically true, even. Who knows!
But but but ... if Parnas and Fruman weren't getting paid directly by Dmitry Firtash, they were certainly advocating for his interests, including pressuring a member of the governing board of Ukraine's state-owned natural gas company Naftogaz to pay Firtash $200 million he thinks he's owed. Probably a coincidence, right Vicky?
Firtash made a fortune leveraging his ties to the previous pro-Russian Yanukovych regime to control Russian natural gas imports into Ukraine. NBC reports,
Firtash continues to profit from an extraordinary arrangement that no Ukrainian government has been willing to touch, despite repeated appeals from Naftogaz and Western officials. A decree from the Ukrainian government allows Firtash to buy gas at a cheap discount and then sell it through intermediaries for big profits.
Nice work if you can get it, and you can get it if you try ... to become Vladimir Putin's BFF and kick up a whole lotta cash!
This March, Parnas and Fruman approached Naftogaz board member Andrew Favorov at an energy conference in Houston with their super duper shake-up plan for the company. Mother Jones reports:
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.
MoJo says the Chucklefucks "gave the impression that they were working with Firtash," and it was at this meeting they pushed Favorov to pay Firtash the $200 million. There was only one problem, however, and her name was Marie Yovanovitch. America's Ambassador to Ukraine backed Andriy Kobolyev because of his strong anti-corruption stance. Luckily, the Chucklefucks had a plan for that -- they'd use their connections to Giuliani, Don Jr., and Texas Congressman Pete Sessions (lubricated by a $20,000 donation) to push Yovanovitch out. And then ... PROFIT.
Yovanovitch was a vocal supporter of Kobolyev due to his reputation for opposing corruption; her removal could have cleared a significant road block in the campaign to oust Kobolyev. Yovanovitch had also backed Kobolyev in a dispute pitting Naftogaz against Firtash, in which Kobolyev claimed Firtash's firms had illegally pocketed up to $2 billion since 2017 by stiffing the state-owned company on payments.
Wow, look at these two generous souls whose interests just so happen to line up perfectly with Dmitry Firtash's. Heckuva coincidence, huh?
And before Rick Perry gets the H-E-double-hockey-sticks outta Dodge, we have a few questions for him, too. Because some sort of way, he also wound up leaning on the Ukrainians to give Firtash everything his little heart desired. The AP reported last week that Perry, EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, and Special Representative Kurt Volker, the self-styled "Three Amigos," took a trip to Kyiv back in May to tell President Zelinskiy that he needed to swap out the board of Naftogaz, which would have been wildly inappropriate even without the list of suggested candidates that included both one of Perry's own donors -- a replacement for Biden ally Amos Hochstein, who was deemed too Democratic -- and Firtash allies from the old regime. According to NBC,
Among the names Perry suggested as advisers on energy were, Michael Bleyzer, a Ukrainian-American based in Texas who has extensive investments in Ukraine and has donated to Perry's campaign, and Robert Bensh, who had worked at various energy companies with interests in Ukraine. Bensh also worked as an advisor to a former Ukrainian energy minister, Yuri Boyko, in the pro-Russian government led by Viktor Yanukovych that was toppled after street demonstrations in 2014.
Boyko was a pro-Russian presidential candidate and has long been a political ally of Firtash.
What are the odds that Perry just happened to hit upon the name of Firtash's buddy as a candidate for the Naftogaz board? Particularly since he was getting his marching orders on Ukraine from Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. And, lest we forget, Giuliani was paid $500,000 this summer by Parnas and Fruman for "advising" them on their Ukrainian natural gas start up.
The best you can say about this one is it's a really bad look. The worst you can say is, well, stuff likely to get your Wonkette sued again. But apparently no one had to say it out loud, because the Ukrainians read the amigos loud and clear. According to NBC, "Bensh accompanied Zelenskiy's aide, Andriy Yermak, in mid-July when he held meetings with lawmakers in Washington, two sources familiar with the discussions said."
Look for Perry to assert the I'M A IDIOT defense, probably successfully since ... Rick Perry. As for the rest of these clowns, Giuliani assured the New York Times, "I really try very hard to be super-ethical and always legal."
Oh, okay then. Case closed.
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.