In recent weeks, the remarkable scope of the interplay of these two groups has become more apparent, thanks to news reports about their interactions and a willingness of one Giuliani associate to begin hinting about what he knows. That associate, Lev Parnas, has good reason to make clear how much he knows: Facing federal campaign-finance charges, he’s eager to give prosecutors justification for cutting a deal.
The upshot, though, is that we now have a much better sense of what Giuliani and his associates were alleged to be doing during a period in which the former mayor was also helping effect Trump's pressure campaign on the Ukrainian government. We've compiled recent reports to give a sense of how Giuliani and his allies were quietly working with those Ukrainian officials.
Last December, Parnas connected Giuliani with a man named Viktor Shokin. Shokin served as Ukraine’s prosecutor general under then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko until he was relieved of his position in early 2016. His firing was in part a function of pressure put on Poroshenko by former vice president Joe Biden, who joined other U.S. and international officials in suggesting that Shokin wasn’t effectively combating corruption.
Parnas connected Giuliani to Shokin as part of Giuliani’s effort to call into question the investigation of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, his formal mandate as a lawyer for Trump. Shokin, however, pointed Giuliani in a different direction, alleging that Biden targeted him because the former vice president wanted to protect his son Hunter Biden, then serving on the board of a gas company in Ukraine that was under investigation. There’s no evidence that this is true besides Shokin’s constant assertions, nor was it entirely a new theory, having been broached to some extent in the book “Secret Empires,” by conservative author Peter Schweizer. It nonetheless quickly became a central focus of Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine.
According to Parnas, Shokin also reportedly met with another powerful U.S. official in the same time period: Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. Nunes has generally declined to answer questions about the allegation, although he did deny meeting Shokin in an interview with Breitbart News. Nunes is one of Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill. Parnas also claimed that he served as a liaison between Ukrainian officials and Nunes’s staff and joined Nunes’s staff at meetings focused on Ukraine held at Trump’s hotel in Washington. (A later trip by Nunes’s staff to Ukraine to continue its investigation was reportedly scrapped once they realized that the Democratic leadership of the committee would have to be informed.)
In January, Giuliani, Parnas and a man named Igor Fruman conducted an interview with Shokin by phone (after Shokin was denied a visa to come to the United States.). During that interview, Shokin reiterated his claims about Biden. He also criticized then-Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, whom Parnas and Fruman had reportedly disparaged directly to Trump at an event in April 2018.
Two days later, Giuliani, Parnas and Fruman interviewed Yuri Lutsenko, the man who replaced Shokin as Ukraine’s prosecutor general. Lutsenko made slightly different accusations against Biden. In that interview and one the following day, Lutsenko expressed frustration about competing anti-corruption organizations supported by Yovanovitch.
During those conversations and a meeting in February in Warsaw, Lutsenko asked Giuliani for assistance in recovering money he claimed had been stolen from Ukraine and routed through the United States. To recover the money, he sought a meeting with Attorney General William P. Barr, something that Giuliani said he could make happen, according to Lutsenko.
Giuliani and Lutsenko discussed agreements involving hundreds of thousands of dollars in retainers, either from Lutsenko or the Ministry of Justice, that would leverage either Giuliani’s firm or the services of two lawyers close to Giuliani, Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova.
Parnas and Fruman, meanwhile, traveled to Ukraine with the goal of pressing Poroshenko (then still president) into investigating Biden and the 2016 presidential election. They promised Poroshenko a state visit in return, validating the offer by indicating that they were acting at Giuliani’s direction — and therefore Trump’s behalf.
Parnas and Fruman also did work for Toensing and diGenova, assisting them with some clients. Among the clients the pair represented was another figure who became important in this time period: writer John Solomon.
In March, with presidential elections looming in Ukraine — threatening Lutsenko’s position — Lutsenko spoke with Solomon, leading to columns in which Solomon reported that Yovanovitch had given Lutsenko a list of people he couldn’t prosecute (which Lutsenko later retracted) and that Biden had acted inappropriately in advocating for Shokin’s ouster. (He later denied any wrongdoing by the Bidens.) Lutsenko argued that he wanted to present his evidence to Barr directly (no agreement with Giuliani to facilitate such a meeting was reached), although it seems that he didn’t get that opportunity.
Yovanovitch was recalled from Ukraine in late April, following a pressure campaign that included being targeted publicly by Giuliani and by Fox News host Sean Hannity.
Fruman and Parnas, meanwhile, were dispatched to Ukraine to meet with government officials, including ones working for the newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Parnas told the New Yorker’s Adam Entous that the pair mixed dirt-digging on behalf of Trump with their own efforts to find energy-related business. In March, before Zelensky took office, the pair reportedly tried to engineer a takeover of a state-run energy company.
Zelensky took office in May. Days later, Trump told several senior government officials to work with Giuliani on Ukraine, beginning an effort to leverage a meeting at the White House to get Zelensky to announce investigations of Biden as well as a conspiracy theory related to Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. That effort by Trump became explicit in late July, when he directly asked Zelensky to open the investigations — promising he’d connect the Ukrainian president with Giuliani.
Parnas’s attorney claimed earlier this month that Parnas had delivered a similar message to Zelensky before his inauguration, threatening, at Giuliani’s instruction, a withholding of military aid and the attendance of Vice President Pence at the inauguration unless Zelensky investigated Biden. Giuliani and Fruman, who was at the meeting, deny the account. (Although Zelensky made clear to Trump that he wanted a senior official at his inauguration, Trump decided against sending Pence.)
About the same time Trump was talking to Zelensky, Parnas was lining up a new client for diGenova and Toensing, a Ukrainian oligarch named Dmitry Firtash. Firtash had been indicted on a charge of bribery and was trying to get the charges tossed. Parnas recommended he hire the two lawyers, which Firtash did. (Giuliani had previously disparaged Firtash as linked to organized crime when the oligarch was represented by the same attorney who represented former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.) According to Bloomberg News’s Stephanie Baker and Irina Reznik, that Toensing’s son worked for the Justice Department was a plus. In August, Toensing and diGenova met with Barr on Firtash’s behalf.
According to Baker and Reznik, Firtash soon deployed his own associates to aid the effort to dig up dirt on Biden, perhaps recognizing the value in delivering it to the Trump team. His associates obtained a sworn statement from Shokin alleging wrongdoing by Biden. In short order, the statement was published by Solomon and used as a prop by Giuliani in cable news interviews.
Over the summer, Giuliani was also aiding the effort to pressure Zelensky through official government channels. After Trump told his team to work with Giuliani, they did, seeking his input and connecting him to a senior Zelensky aide, Andriy Yermak, with whom Giuliani met in Madrid in early August. Over the next few weeks, Giuliani was also involved in the effort to draft a public statement Zelensky's team could release to announce the new probes.
Within weeks, those behind-the-scenes efforts to find damaging information on Biden came to light as the campaign to pressure Ukraine was made public. House investigators requested information from Parnas and Fruman, who declined through their attorney. (The attorney, John Dowd, had previously worked for Trump.) The reason for rejecting the request? In part, their work for Giuliani on Trump’s behalf. They also claimed to have hired Giuliani as their attorney for their work, including a company with the unintentionally ironic name of Fraud Guarantee.
Last month, the New York Times reported on another possible criminal investigation: one targeting Giuliani himself. One focus of the investigation is apparently his efforts to undermine Yovanovitch. That push, it’s worth noting, was seemingly encouraged by his interactions with the Ukrainian officials who were also central to Giuliani’s theories about Biden and, therefore, his work for his primary client, the president of the United States.