A new report has revealed that the president’s indicted henchmen were working to get political dirt from Ukraine earlier than previously known, and their mission included soliciting a foreign election interference quid pro quo from not only the current Ukrainian president but also former President Petro Poroshenko.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Rudy Giuliani’s associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman held a meeting with former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko this past February at the offices of past Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko, where they solicited an investigation into the 2016 election in exchange for a meeting with President Trump.
Former President Poroshenko was locked in what would ultimately be an unsuccessful re-election contest and a state-visit to the White House could’ve significantly improved his prospects by showing that he had the ability to improve the relationship with America, led by Putin’s ally Donald Trump.
In exchange, at the tail end of the Mueller Special Counsel investigation, Giuliani’s associates Parnas and Fruman asked the Ukrainian head of state and top prosecutor Lutsenko—who isn’t a lawyer, something their legislature banned because of his job performance—to open an investigation into the 2016 election to help President Trump claim that Russia didn’t interfere in the election. The WSJ based their exclusive report on people familiar with the matter who remain anonymous:
Months before President Trump pressed Ukraine’s newly installed president to investigate Joe Biden’s son and alleged 2016 U.S. election interference, two associates of Rudy Giuliani urged Ukraine’s prior president to announce similar probes in exchange for a state visit to Washington, according to people familiar with the matter.
A late February meeting in Kyiv between Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman and then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko took place at the offices of Ukrainian general prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, the people said.
It came soon after Messrs. Parnas and Fruman met with Mr. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, and Mr. Lutsenko in New York in late January and again in Warsaw in mid-February, Mr. Giuliani has said. Mr. Lutsenko also attended the February meeting, the people said.
However, Lutsenko didn’t announce an investigation and Poroshenko didn’t get the White House visit that he wanted.
The House’s impeachment investigators are honing in on President Trump’s elaborate scheme to extort a payoff from Ukraine’s new President Volodymyr Zelensky. But tonight’s Journal exclusive firms up a key point in National Security Council Ukraine expert Col. Alexander Vindman’s testimony.
“Mr. Lutsenko, who was at that point in [time] for the purpose of self-preservation for himself and the President,” said Col. Vindman in a House impeachment deposition (p. 22), explaining the Ukrainian government’s supporting role in forcing out former Ambassador Marie Yovanovich because, “at the time, President Poroshenko, was advancing a narrative undermining the Ambassador in Ukraine, Ambassador Yovanovitch.” It also supports Vindman’s testimony that Trump’s demands for dirt expanded at some point from just an investigation into the 2016 election—advocated in the past, and actively by Trump’s convicted felon former campaign chairman Paul Manafort—to only later include an investigation into the Bidens.
We now know that Rudy Giuliani was intimately involved in the President’s efforts to get the career foreign service officer Yovanovich out of Kyiv as Ambassador; efforts which included the President’s son Don Jr and Fox News’ Sean Hannity.
Poroshenko probably felt acute pressure to accede to Trump’s demands earlier this year, after having made an earlier, controversial 2017 visit to the White House shortly after President Trump was inaugurated. Moreover, the former Ukrainian president is keenly aware that American military aid from Congress totaling $1.5 billion since 2014 alone, has been instrumental in helping fight off Russian advances in the wake of its 2014 invasion. The Journal reports:
Mr. Poroshenko was angling for a high-profile visit to Washington in April, the person said, which would have been after the first round of voting in late March, but before the runoff vote on April 21.
“He needed a Hail Mary and a state visit in Washington and was ready to become Trump’s best friend in order to secure support,” the person said.[Poroshenko] told the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington to prepare for a possible U.S. visit before the April 21 runoff, but an invitation never came from the White House, the person said.
Ultimately, Ukraine’s open presidential primary drew 62% voter turnout where Poroshenko finished second with only 16% of the vote, before the second round of voting, where reformer candidate and now-President Zelensky won in a landslide with over 73% of the vote.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent told House impeachment investigators that the United States has always promoted the rule of law in the former Soviet states and Ukraine as a cornerstone of our diplomacy, but Giuliani and Trump’s scheme “undermines [America’s] advocacy for the rule of law.” Kent is expected to testify next week in public at House impeachment hearings, where experienced commentators believe he will be a superstar witness.
Tonight’s report that Rudy Giuliani was running the exact same scam with former Ukrainian President Poroshenko underscores the deeply political nature of President Trump’s shadow “diplomacy efforts in eastern Europe. We can say for sure now, that when President Trump told ABC News this past summer that if foreigners offered him dirt on an opponent “I think I’d take it,” it is fair to conclude that he definitely was telling the truth then, because that is precisely what he has been trying since the start of this year.
Grant Stern is an Editor-At-Large for OccupyDemocrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report. Find out more at grantstern.com.