In late October Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arraigned in New York City on charges of conspiracy to funnel foreign money into American elections. A reporter asked Parnas, “What was the nature of your relationship with Rudy Giuliani?” Parnas didn’t answer, he turned and fled. That was then and last week on Rachel Maddow’s show is now, when Parnas revealed what the whistle blower was talking about when he referred to Giuliani as a “central figure” in Donald Trump’s effort to “solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 election.” Now Giuliani is attempting to do damage control, appearing Monday night on Fox News, attempting to distance himself from Parnas. Axios:
“Lev is someone I’m — I was close to. Obviously, I was misled by him. I feel very bad. I was godfather to his child and spent a lot of time … I still feel sorry for him.”
“I’m not going to respond to him for each and every one of the misrepresentations he’s made, because there are so many. If I’m called as a witness, I’m prepared to do it.”
“I will not be sucked into a point-by-point response — which I am ready to give in great detail in front of Congress or a court, in which it will turn out that he lied multiple times.”
Giuliani has always been gutsy and publicity-driven, but inserting himself into American diplomatic affairs without constitutional authority to do so is a bridge too far. The New York Times ran a lengthy feature piece last week on Giuliani, “The Fog Of Rudy,” and it contains everything you ever wanted to know about the former mayor, his relationship to Donald Trump and his relationships to a great many people.
Giuliani was retained by two Soviet-born businessmen in South Florida, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, the founders of Global Energy Producers, which was seeking to sell liquefied natural gas to several foreign countries, including Ukraine.
Technically speaking, Giuliani wasn’t working for Global Energy Producers. He was hired by another Parnas company called, remarkably, Fraud Guarantee. According to its website, the company’s purpose was to protect ‘‘other investors from losses due to fraud.’’ But as The Wall Street Journal later reported, Fraud Guarantee had no identifiable customers and in fact seemed to have been incorporated in order to clean up Parnas’s Google search by pushing down other mentions of ‘‘Parnas’’ and ‘‘fraud.’’ There was much in Parnas’s background that might have given someone pause: The Hollywood action movie that he tried to produce, ‘‘Anatomy of an Assassin,’’ was never made, and one of his investors was still chasing him for more than $500,000. Parnas worked for brokerages that were subsequently shut down by regulators, got evicted once from one of his homes and had been sued repeatedly for unpaid debts. But Giuliani, who says that he was unaware of Parnas’s background at the time, made no secret of his budding relationship with him. In late 2018, he even took Parnas to the memorial for George H. W. Bush at the National Cathedral, and over the subsequent months, they were often seen together at the bar of the Trump Hotel. By the summer of 2019, Parnas was deeply enmeshed in Giuliani’s new assignment for the president, the single most brazen act in a 50-year-long career filled with them.
I won’t rehash all of the details of Giuliani’s shambolic Ukraine campaign: how he attached himself to a debunked conspiracy theory,11“This is biggest lie of all. The Biden bribe/extortion has never been de-bunked. Experts? You must be kidding.”and then assembled a ragtag group of collaborators — including Parnas; Fruman; two corrupt former Ukrainian prosecutors, Yuri Lutsenko and Viktor Shokin; and the fugitive Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash, who is now under investigation by the Justice Department — to help President Trump blackmail a sovereign nation, withholding $400 million in United States military aid from Ukraine unless it announced an investigation of the Bidens. When the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, asked Trump about the money in the infamous phone call of July 25, 2019, Trump encouraged him to speak directly to his personal lawyer: ‘‘Rudy very much knows what’s happening, and he is a very capable guy.’’
Giuliani had crossed a whole new threshold, inserting himself into America’s diplomatic affairs without any constitutional authority. It’s not hyperbole to say the stakes were life and death. Not only was Ukraine a key geopolitical ally, a bulwark against the influence of the Kremlin in the region, but the military aid was necessary to arm and defend Ukrainian soldiers battling Russian aggression in the country’s eastern provinces. Giuliani had finally gone too far for at least one anonymous whistle-blower, who sent an ‘‘urgent concern’’ letter to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, warning that Trump was ‘‘using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.’’ Giuliani, the letter continued, ‘‘is a central figure in this effort.’’
We have a political narrative in this country that favors the most outrageous voices, and over-the-top claims due to Fox News polluting the airwaves with disinformation, and the uncertainly of legitimate media on how to cope with the fire hose of falsehood which has become a feature of everyday life in the Trump era. Both Trump and Giuliani were creatures of the tabloids in New York City. That’s the style they know and that’s what we’re going to see more of until the book is closed on this shameless and corrupt chapter of American history.