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Rudy Giuliani tried to score big bucks in Ukraine as scandal unfolded

New reports reveal that Giuliani sought payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars from Ukrainian sources.

Rudy Giuliani
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

When Rudy Giuliani talked with top Ukrainian officials about getting dirt on Joe Biden earlier this year, he also wanted something else: lots of money.

That’s the upshot of two new reports from the New York Times and the Washington Post, both of which are based on draft documents and legal agreements apparently drawn up by President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and his allies.

At one point in early 2019, Giuliani reportedly wanted Yuri Lutsenko, Ukraine’s then-prosecutor general, to pay his consulting firm $200,000 — purportedly to help the Ukrainian government recover illegally embezzled assets. At another point, Giuliani drew up papers calling for a $300,000 payment, this time from Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice.

Future draft agreements dropped Giuliani’s name and instead proposed that various Ukrainians hire two conservative attorneys he worked with closely: Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova.

To be sure, there’s no evidence any of the above deals were ever completed.

But diGenova and Toensing eventually ended up scoring some Ukrainian cash. At Giuliani’s suggestion, the Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash hired them for help in a legal proceeding, in exchange for which he’d aid in the dirt-digging effort, according to the New York Times. (Firtash faces bribery charges from the US Department of Justice and is currently in Austria fighting extradition.)

The revelation that Giuliani was seeking Ukrainian money could be of significance to the active investigation into him by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (SDNY). Prosecutors there, who have already indicted two of Giuliani’s associates, have been seeking information on Giuliani’s business and finances.

What the Times and the Post revealed

At about the same time on Wednesday, the New York Times’ Ben Protess, William Rashbaum, Michael Rothfeld and the Washington Post’s Rosalind Helderman, Tom Hamburger, and Matt Zapotosky published extensive new reports on Giuliani’s efforts to get Ukrainian clients.

The key figures in all this, among Giuliani’s crew, are:

  • Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s (unpaid) personal lawyer and founder of the consulting firm Giuliani Partners.
  • Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, two conservative lawyers who worked with Giuliani to some extent in the Ukrainian dirt-digging effort. Trump considered hiring them for his defense team in the Robert Mueller investigation, but decided not to. They are fierce Trump defenders who frequently appear on Fox News.
  • Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Giuliani’s Soviet-born, Florida-based fixers who helped him make connections with top Ukrainian officials. They paid Giuliani half a million dollars in late 2018. The two were arrested in October and charged with campaign finance violations; Parnas has recently been threatening to turn on his former friends.
  • John Solomon, a conservative journalist who, until recently, worked at the Hill. A friend of diGenova and Toensing, Solomon wrote articles based on information they helped provide him. (Toensing and diGenova are also lawyers for Solomon, a relationship he didn’t disclose in those relevant Hill articles.)

At the beginning of 2019, this crew also had extensive discussions with Lutsenko.

As has been previously reported, Lutsenko had made claims that could have been quite helpful to Trump: He said he was investigating Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, as well as the Ukrainian gas company Burisma (which Hunter Biden sat on the board of). Lutsenko also had his own grudge against the US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, and claimed she was corrupt. (He eventually admitted those claims were false.) Lutsenko made many of his allegations in articles Solomon wrote back in March.

We knew all that. What we did not know, however, was that in February, Giuliani had begun negotiating with Lutsenko for a potentially lucrative business arrangement.

The documents described by the Times and Post are various drafts of legal agreements in which Lutsenko or other Ukrainians would retain some combination of Giuliani, diGenova, and Toensing for services. The proposals included:

  • Lutsenko paying a $200,000 retainer to Giuliani Partners in exchange for work from Giuliani, diGenova, and Toensing.
  • Ukraine’s government and Ministry of Justice paying $300,000 to Giuliani Partners for the work of diGenova and Toensing.
  • Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice paying diGenova and Toensing only, without any mention of Giuliani.
  • Lutsenko and one of his deputies paying diGenova and Toensing.
  • Viktor Shokin (Lutsenko’s predecessor as prosecutor general, who has made unsupported claims that Joe Biden forced him out for corrupt reasons) paying diGenova and Toensing.

Most of these proposals claimed Giuliani Partners, diGenova, and Toensing were being retained to help recover assets supposedly stolen from the Ukrainian government. However, some also mentioned finding information on Ukrainian election interference or the Bidens.

Again, there’s no indication any of these deals were ever completed, or that any of these proposed payments were ever made.

But diGenova and Toensing did eventually find some Ukrainian money — from Dmitry Firtash. A Ukrainian oligarch with gas interests, Firtash was indicted by the US Department of Justice for alleged bribery back in 2014, and has been stuck in Austria fighting extradition ever since. (US prosecutors have claimed he’s tied to the Russian mob.)

This summer, Firtash hired diGenova and Toensing to help with his case. According to an earlier New York Times report, he did so at Giuliani’s suggestion, and this arrangement was tied into the political dirt-digging effort.

Firtash’s legal team then helped get Solomon an affidavit from Shokin, in which the former prosecutor general claimed he was investigating Burisma and blamed the Bidens for his ouster. DiGenova and Toensing, meanwhile, met with US Attorney General Bill Barr about Firtash’s case. Firtash has paid the pair $1.2 million , though some of that money went to Parnas.

Giuliani’s exact involvement with Firtash isn’t clear. He has claimed to have “nothing to do” with Firtash — but CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski reported on Wednesday that Giuliani had, in fact, met with a lawyer for Firtash this summer.

Overall, there seems to be a lot we still don’t know about what happened here. But the new revelations published in the Times and the Post suggest Giuliani and his crew weren’t just interested in Ukrainian dirt — they also wanted Ukrainian money. And diGenova and Toensing, at least, eventually got it.

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