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Trump, Rudy, and the Russian oligarch: The intertwined branches of a poisoned tree

Attorney Scott Pilutik wrestles with the news of the day, from a lawyerly perspective…

[Regarding this CNN story: ‘I’m the best-paid interpreter in the world’: Indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas touted windfall from Ukrainian oligarch]

When the House eventually drafts the articles of impeachment, those articles will likely be tailored to a narrow set of issues: Trump’s attempted extortion of Ukraine’s President Zelensky, the subsequent attempted cover-up, and the obstruction relating to the resulting investigation.

While that package will be sufficient to impeach (irrespective of whether it’s successful), the House will be leaving a lot on the cutting room floor.


One branch of this poisonous tree that the media hasn’t entirely wrapped its head around is the role of Dmytro (a/k/a Dmitry) Firtash, which branch/branches is/are becoming hard to ignore. Precisely how he connects to the instant matter isn’t 100 percent clear, but given what’s known it’s hard to see how he isn’t somehow very connected.

And that could have been safely said before this CNN story, which reveals that it was Firtash who was the money behind Lev Parnas. Parnas, you’ll recall, is one third of the comedy trio, Parnas, Fruman, and Giuliani. Of the three, only Parnas and Fruman have yet been indicted. A company controlled by Parnas — “Fraud Guarantee” — paid Giuliani $500,000 in 2018.

Giuliani claims that that money didn’t originate from “overseas,” but it seems likely that Parnas’s dubious company was merely a marginally more legitimate appearing conduit (Parnas is a US citizen) used to disguise that Firtash was paying Giuliani.

It’s not hard to see why Firtash would want to pay Giuliani. He’s facing extradition to the US from Austria. Giuliani has Trump’s ear. Parnas and Fruman were holding tickets to Austria when they were arrested at the airport, and had eaten lunch with Giuliani only hours earlier, who also had tickets to Austria days later.

But here’s where the story comes full crazy circle. You may have seen Giuliani on Fox News angrily shaking an affidavit that supposedly documents Joe and Hunter Biden’s crimes. That affidavit was from Viktor Shokin, the former Ukrainian prosecutor general.

It was Shokin who Joe Biden, as vice-president, demanded (along with most of the western world) be fired as prosecutor general because he was ignoring corruption in Ukraine, including investigations into Burisma, the company on whose board Hunter Biden sat. (This is why the Corrupt Biden narrative has never made sense — Biden’s push to oust Shokin was bad for Burisma.) Shokin claims in his affidavit that then-President Poroshenko asked him to wind down the investigation into Burisma and that he refused, but Shokin had shelved the investigation a year before, and, importantly, that investigation concerned events prior to Hunter Biden joining Burisma.

Shokin had filed the aforementioned affidavit on behalf of Dmytro Firtash to argue against his extradition. And in that same affidavit Shokin concocted allegations about Joe and Hunter Biden. It’s not hard to see why Shokin and Giuliani would find a common enemy in Joe Biden — Biden had gotten Shokin fired from his job.

And it was Shokin with whom Giuliani, Parnas, Fruman, and Firtash, were scheduled to meet in Vienna before Parnas and Fruman were arrested. The idea was to conduct an interview between Shokin, Giuliani, and Sean Hannity from Vienna, but obviously that never happened.

Firtash has since retained Trump-supporting husband and wife legal team Victoria Toensing and Joe di Genova, paying them $1 million, an amount which would seem to greatly exceed conceivably reasonable legal fees pertaining to an extradition matter. Per this article, Toensing and di Genova have lobbied William Barr, himself utterly tainted by the present scandal, on Firtash’s behalf.

Firtash is a natural-gas billionaire closely connected to Putin (via Russian state-owned Gazprom), and he was a visible supporter of Viktor Yanukovych, the Putin-installed ex-president of Ukraine, who was ousted in a popular revolt. Firtash was also business partners with ex-Trump campaign manager and current convict awaiting-a-pardon Paul Manafort.

This post isn’t to allege a single conspiracy so much as paint a picture of a series of tightly overlapping Venn diagrams of shared, corrupt interests, fueled by natural gas money in Russia and Ukraine, and dire political necessity over here. Trump’s extortion of Zelensky didn’t occur in a vacuum, it occurred among fellow travelers whose interests are presently so in alignment that they’re all sharing the same lawyers.

It’s probably too reductive to say that his entire presidency can be explained as Trump being in continual debt to Russian oligarch money, because nothing is that simple. But it’s true that no US bank has been willing to lend him money for decades now. And it’s true that his campaign manager was in debt to Russian oligarch money, a big reason he’s in prison this moment. Trump’s lawyer-clown Giuliani may also be in debt to Russian oligarch money — his closest associates definitely were and they’re likely going to prison.

I’m hardly saying that Firtash bribed or extorted Trump. That doesn’t even seem likely. But given how every rock you turn over these days, you further reveal a crew so fantastically corrupt that impeaching Trump over a single phone call feels like painting a wall to hide the fact that it’s being eaten by termites. It may do the job, but only for awhile.

Here’s the chart…


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