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Liz ('s teenagers) made a flowchart!

Sometimes you just need a picture. Not for the impeachment, which is a dead simple exchange of hundreds of millions in US aid for a public announcement that Ukraine would investigate Joe Biden and Trump's brainfarts about the DNC server. The fact that they got caught and abandoned the conspiracy, like a bank robber who runs out the back door without the money when the sirens start wailing, changes nothing.

But the backstory keeps getting weirder, with a new shady character being added to the mix every week. We've got Trump, an oligarch, a bunch of batshit lawyers, a couple of former Soviet chucklefucks, and now a shady-ass reporter -- with the whole gang trying to wrap themselves in a protective cocoon of attorney-client, executive, and journalist privilege to stop anyone ever finding out what they did. It's a hot mess!

So please forgive our pathetic graphics, but we wrangled our teenagers to help us make a chart to 'splain this conspiracy and why we think that low-rent hustler Lev Parnas is the key to all of it.

Forget the Money, Focus On Who's Calling the Shots


Donald Trump is a greedy sumbitch, but just this once, it's not about the money. What he wants right now is to take out Joe Biden. Similarly, Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash would like the US government to drop its bribery case against him, so he can stop hiding out in Vienna and get back to parasitizing his country's natural gas market for hundreds of millions of dollars. So, in the short term, these guys have primary goals that aren't entirely about cash.

Firtash produced false documents framing Joe Biden and tried to trade them for leniency from the Trump administration. Hell, his own lawyers bragged in June that, "This will be very tough against the previous Administration ... With the current Administration, I think they will like it." Joe Biden has nothing to do with the charges against Firtash for paying bribes for Indian mining contracts. And yet Firtash's fixers rounded up the phony affidavits saying that Biden corruptly interfered with a Ukrainian prosecution that would harm his son's business interests. Said documents have zero value to Firtash, except insofar as Donald Trump really wants them and might be willing to pay for them by ordering the DOJ to stand down on the extradition order.

Or he might have been willing to entertain that particular quid pro quo, except these assholes couldn't keep their mouths shut and the whole thing blew up in their faces.

Rudy Giuliani, The World's Most Expensive Pro Bono Lawyer

In theory, Rudy is rendering his exquisite lawyering services to Donald Trump gratis. In reality, he's milking his role as the president's lawyer for all it's worth, scooping up cash from foreign governments anxious for an in with the US president. But Donald Trump controls that relationship, so the arrow goes in one direction.

Except Rudy is wildly incompetent, so, instead of quietly compiling a dossier of all the foreign companies that threw money at Hunter Biden in the vain hope that it might help affect US policy -- something Rudy would know about, since that's his job, too -- he spent most of 2019 wandering around Ukraine with his buddy Lev Parnas shouting HEY, ANYONE WANT TO GET A BIG WET KISS FROM DONALD TRUMP? BRING US SEXXXXXXY BIDEN DIRTS, AND WE'LL MAKE IT HAPPEN! Allegedly.

And unsurprisingly, Dmitry Firtash answered the call.

Wait, How Did A Two-Bit Lowlife Like Lev Parnas Wind Up in the Middle of This?

Yes, that stumped us for a long time, too! It only started to make sense when we stopped trying to follow the money.

Lev Parnas and his associate Igor Fruman have been trying to leverage their friendship with Rudy Giuliani to break into GOP power circles for several years. Anthony Scaramucci described them as "name-dropping Rudy like a machine gunner" in 2018, the same year the pair kicked their donations to Republican politicians into high gear. But these guys were always shady as shit, with a trail of debts and lawsuits behind them and allegations that Parnas stuck a gun in his landlord's face after threatening, "If you call the cops, they are not going to find you ever."

Or as one GOP operative told CNN, "They seemed like hustlers -- but not in a bad way. In a good way."

These awesome hustlers paid Rudy $500,000 last summer for, ahem, "security advice," hence Rudy's claim that his communications with them are privileged. But their friendship seems to have really taken off when Parnas offered his services as a fixer for Giuliani's "investigations" in Ukraine. You'll note that the arrow in the graphic above goes both ways, as do the claims of "privilege" for their communications.

Now we're not saying that Rudy Giuliani is demented, but the man can't even pronounce Volodymyr Zelenskiy, much less tell the difference between corrupt former prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, who tells lies about Biden (later retracted) and Marie Yovanovitch (also retracted), and anti-corruption journalist Serhiy Leshchenko, who first published the secret ledger of payments to Paul Manafort. Clearly, Rudy needed a sherpa, and it looks like Parnas was his guy.

In fact, it looks like Parnas was EVERYBODY'S GUY.

Lev Parnas, Gangbanger

For a chucklefuck who basically sent an engraved invitation to the IRS to indict him for money laundering, this guy GETS AROUND!

Dirthair Fox News lawyer Victoria Toensing called it "a crock" that Parnas worked for Firtash. And yet Parnas did advocate for Firtash's business interests on multiple occasions and claimed to have the oligarch's financial backing. So, for the time being, we'll put "???" on the connection between them.

Despite that "???," Parnas was the one who fixed Firtash up with disheveled Fox News hairball lawyers Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova. Toensing referred to Parnas variously as her "translator" or as someone who "assisted" her law practice. Which ... okay, a former stockbroker who thinks he's going to take over the Ukrainian natural gas market moonlights as a paralegal. So, in our handy graphic, there are two red arrows between Parnas and the dirty armpits, and two very convenient claims of privilege. Sounds legit!

Hill "reporter" John Solomon, who published all those documents that someone on the ground in Ukraine dug up, also referred to Parnas as his "translator." That's how he explained Parnas's presence in The Hill's studio during an interview with Yuriy Lutsenko. ProPublica reports that "Solomon explained that he called in the businessman to act as a translator, but in the end his services were not needed." So Solomon, who claims that the hairballs are his lawyers, too, also claims that his communications with Parnas are KEEP OUT SEEKRIT JOURNALISMS. You bet!

Parnas arranged a Skype call for Giuliani with fired Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin, the one who gave Firtash the false affidavit about Biden. Parnas also accompanied Rudy to meetings with Lutsenko in New York and Warsaw, and to Madrid where Giuliani met President Zelenskiy's aide Andrey Yermak. So much privilege!

And lest we forget, Parnas and Fruman were arrested en route to Vienna -- current home of Dmitry Firtash -- where they were to meet Shokin for his televised interview with Sean Hannity. Although Fox will neither confirm nor deny this because "Sean Hannity takes the first amendment seriously."

Holy Shit, That Guy Is Smack In The Middle Of EVERYTHING!

He is! Check out this video from Wall Street Journal reporter Shelby Holliday.

WE THINK -- and this is just an educated guess, so please don't sue us -- that Parnas is the guy who wrangles documents of dubious credibility on the ground in Ukraine. He's not a translator, or a researcher, he's the source. Giuliani and Toensing wanted dirt on Biden, and Parnas went out and made it happen.

So What Went Wrong?

Well, you can't really trade top secret dirt to the Justice Department if Rudy is already screaming about it on television every night and dumping it on every desk at the State Department. Because, then it's not secret anymore, RUDY. Which is the disadvantage of hiring a low rent hood like Parnas, who's working for errrrybody at once.

Once Parnas handed the Shokin affidavit over to Giuliani and John Solomon, Firtash was in no position to trade it to Bill Barr. Not that his lawyers didn't try, at least once! The Post reports that Barr met face-to-face with Toensing and diGenova to discuss Firtash's extradition, a wildly inappropriate intercession in a case that was being handled by the US Attorney's Office in the Northern District of Illinois, even if Barr eventually declined to intervene. Giuliani and the hairballs snagged another meeting in the past few weeks with Brian Benczkowski, the head of the Justice Department's Criminal Division. The meeting was to discuss a foreign bribery case, although Giuliani pinky ring swears it wasn't about Firtash.

And what kind of cynical monster wouldn't believe that?

OMG What Now?

Now, your Wonkette takes a nap. And prays that no more characters get introduced before we wake up.

Oh, you mean with the Ukraine stuff? Well, the feds have Lev Parnas dead to rights on campaign finance violations. If he wants to make a deal, he's certainly got a lot to tell them and Congress. But spilling the beans on a Ukrainian oligarch with major ties to the Russian mob can be bad for your health so ... who the hell knows. Probably they all shout PRIVILEGE while claiming to be in the world's biggest joint defense agreement, and count on Bill Barr's Justice Department to let it slide. Which, knowing that shifty bastard, is likely a safe bet.

[NBC / NPR / ProPublica]

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