Photos of the May cigar bar huddle provided to The Washington Post capture a new moment in Giuliani’s operation to procure information from Ukrainian sources to bolster his presidential client. That effort, which played out in various European cities last spring and summer, led Giuliani to seek information from Firtash’s network and other controversial figures with much to gain from helping Trump’s private lawyer.
The previously untold story of how Giuliani and his associates reached out to the Ukrainian tycoon — whom the former New York mayor had previously blasted publicly for alleged ties to organized crime — shows the lengths Giuliani went to in his campaign to defend Trump in the Russia investigation and undermine former vice president Joe Biden. And it highlights how details about his activities are still coming to light, even after weeks of testimony in the House impeachment proceedings.
The Firtash executive who met with Giuliani in Paris was an aspiring Ukrainian politician named Dmitry Torner, later accused by Ukrainian authorities of escaping incarceration in Moldova and living under a new name. The following month, Giuliani sat down in London with other Firtash representatives, according to Otto Dietrich, an attorney for Firtash. Later that summer, Firtash’s attorneys filed a court document that Giuliani touted publicly as support for his claims about Biden.
In a statement, Giuliani said he did not remember meeting Torner or details of his meetings in Paris and London and had limited interest in Firtash. “I never met him. I never did business with him,” he said of Firtash. He did not respond to follow-up questions after The Post obtained photos of the Paris gathering.
On Tuesday, in advance of the Senate trial to consider the articles of impeachment against Trump, House leaders released a cache of text messages and documents turned over by Parnas that contain new revelations of how the president’s lawyer sought to extract information from Ukrainian sources.
Among them: handwritten notes Parnas took during a conversation with Giuliani, according to his attorney, that refer to discussions about Firtash as part of the Ukraine pressure campaign.
In an interview Wednesday with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Parnas said they had an explicit deal with Firtash to get information damaging to Biden in exchange for help with his U.S. extradition. “For us to receive information from Firtash we had to give Firtash something,” Parnas said.
Parnas’s attorney, Joseph A. Bondy, also provided The Post with photos of the Paris meeting. They were not included in the trove of materials released by the House, indicating that there is still more to be gleaned from Parnas’s records.
In the past year, Giuliani and his associates sought information from an assortment of Ukrainians with checkered reputations, including several current and former prosecutors.
None were more high-profile than Firtash, a backer of pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine who has been accused by U.S. prosecutors of having ties to organized crime. Firtash, who has been living in Vienna under travel restrictions since U.S. federal bribery charges were unsealed against him in 2014, has denied such connections and the allegations against him.
Giuliani has acknowledged that he sought information from Firtash associates, but downplayed his efforts, saying that he quickly learned the wealthy Ukrainian had no useful material and moved on. In an interview in October, he said that while he had never met Firtash himself, he “met with people who knew him.”
In a statement this week, Giuliani said he spoke with a Chicago-based attorney who is handling Firtash’s federal case to see if he had “evidence of corruption in Ukraine in 2016” to bolster his defense of Trump.
“I asked some questions about him because I thought he might have some relevant information,” Giuliani told The Post. “I determined that he didn’t.”
He said that Parnas urged him to keep reaching out to Firtash associates, but that he rejected the idea because he did not believe the tycoon had any pertinent information.
But Bondy, who has been urging Congress to call his client as a witness, said Parnas would be prepared to describe Giuliani’s outreach to Firtash.
“If called upon to testify, Mr. Parnas would say that Mr. Giuliani never rejected efforts to establish a line of communication with Mr. Firtash, and that, to the contrary, he did everything possible to secure that channel,” Bondy said.
A member of Firtash’s legal team has said the Ukrainian energy mogul played no role in Giuliani’s efforts to obtain material on Democrats.
A powerful Russian ally
In interviews, Giuliani has said he cast a wide net as he sought information to bolster his claims that Ukrainians worked with Democrats in the 2016 campaign and about Biden and his son, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company, Burisma.
With the help of Parnas and Fruman, he coordinated with sources such as Yuri Lutsenko, then Ukraine’s top prosecutor, as well as his predecessor, Viktor Shokin, to gather material to support his theories and seek public statements by Ukrainian officials that would damage Biden. U.S. officials have criticized both former prosecutors for allowing corruption to fester.
Firtash, however, was a far more fraught source to cultivate — particularly for the personal attorney to the U.S. president.
His fortune was largely derived from his ownership of a company that distributed gas from Russia’s state energy giant in Ukraine. He used his resources to fund pro-Russian political and media interests in Ukraine.
The role required him to maintain close ties to both the Kremlin and in Ukraine, where he was a close ally of Ukraine’s Russia-leaning president at the time, Viktor Yanukovych.
The U.S. case alleges that Firtash helped orchestrate a scheme to bribe Indian officials for licenses to mine titanium intended for sale to a U.S. company. In a 2017 court filing, prosecutors argued to a judge that Firtash had ties to the “upper echelons” of Russian organized crime.
In March, Giuliani used the allegations about Firtash to take a swipe at Lanny Davis, a longtime friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton who then served as a lawyer for both the Ukrainian gas mogul and Trump’s former personal counsel Michael Cohen.
“Lanny Davis represents a gentleman named Firtash,” Giuliani told the Hill at the time. “He is considered to be one of the close associates of [Semion] Mogilevich, who is the head of Russian organized crime, who is [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s best friend.”
Firtash was “considered to be one of the high-level Russian organized crime members or associates,” added Giuliani, a former U.S. attorney who has cast himself as an enemy of corruption and mobsters.
Nicknamed the “boss of bosses,” Mogilevich was indicted in Pennsylvania in 2003 on more than 40 counts of racketeering, fraud and money laundering. The FBI named him to its “most wanted” list, with an agent declaring that law enforcement believed he had been involved with “weapons trafficking, contract murders, extortion, drug trafficking, and prostitution on an international scale.” Born in Ukraine, Mogilevich is now believed to be living in Moscow.
Firtash has said he has no ties to Russian organized crime and did not do business with Mogilevich. “Half the country knows him. So what?” Firtash told Time magazine in 2017. “Knowing him doesn’t mean answering for him.”
Victoria Toensing, an attorney for Firtash, called the claims that Firtash has ties to organized crime “false.” She and other members of his legal team have complained that the Justice Department has not presented evidence to support the allegation.
While Giuliani expressed distaste for Firtash, the energy tycoon was a potentially valuable connection for his two associates, Parnas and Fruman, who at the time were seeking to secure deals in the gas sector, according to people familiar with their efforts, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.
In 2018, they incorporated a new company in Delaware called Global Energy Producers, public records show. By March 2019, the two were seeking a deal with the Ukrainian state-owned gas company, which has done billions in business with Firtash but has recently been locked in a financial dispute with him, the people said.
Giuliani’s introduction to Firtash’s network began in May. That’s when Fruman told a person familiar with his account that he happened to run into a friend in the lobby of a Kyiv hotel who could get to Firtash.
Torner worked as the head of the analytics department at an electricity and gas distribution company in Ukraine owned by Firtash, according to public records and information he later provided election officials in Ukraine when he launched a bid for the parliament as part of a pro-Russian political party.
Representatives of Firtash declined to comment on Torner’s role.
On the eve of parliamentary elections in July, Ukrainian authorities announced that Torner had been disqualified because officials had discovered that he held multiple fraudulent Ukrainian passports under various names.
According to Ukraine’s Security Service, Torner is a citizen of Moldova named Dmitry Nekrasov who was wanted for escaping incarceration in his home country and changed his name to start a new life in Ukraine.
The Moldovan Ministry of Internal Affairs did not respond to requests for information.
Torner could not be reached for comment.
Andrei Tsygankov, an attorney for Torner, said he does not have any information indicating that Torner is facing prosecution in Ukraine or any restrictions on his movement in and out of the country. He declined to comment on matters beyond Ukrainian legal issues. In a statement, Ukraine’s Security Service said there is no wanted notice for Torner in that country.
Torner’s wife, Olga, who has worked as an anchor for a Ukrainian news channel, said in a series of text messages that the accusations leveled by Ukraine’s election commission and intelligence agency ahead of the country’s parliamentary election in July were “completely fabricated” to keep him off the ballot.
She said he changed his name legally and is not wanted for any crimes in any country. She sent an image of what she said was a certificate from Moldova vouching for his clean record.
“How is it even possible to escape prison?” she wrote.
A string of meetings
In late May, a few weeks after Fruman told an associate that he encountered Torner in Kyiv, Giuliani met with the Firtash executive in the private cigar bar of the luxury hotel Le Royal Monceau Raffles Paris, according to people familiar with the encounter.
Photos show the president’s attorney clasping Torner in a firm handshake and the Firtash executive beaming as his hand rests on Giuliani’s shoulder.
In a text message, Giuliani said he did not remember Torner’s name and had no notes from his Paris meeting. “Don’t recollect him. He didn’t make an impression,” he wrote, adding that if Torner has any information that could assist his investigations, “I wouldn’t mind hearing it.”
In June, a few weeks after the Torner meeting, Fruman and Parnas secured a meeting with Firtash himself, traveling to Vienna to discuss whether the powerful Ukrainian could assist Giuliani, a person familiar with the meeting said.
Firtash told the New York Times last fall that a mutual acquaintance had vouched for the two Americans, but he declined to name that person. People familiar with the meeting identified Torner as the acquaintance to whom Firtash was referring.
Looming over Firtash at the time was the prospect of extradition to the United States. During the meeting, he told the duo that he was considering replacing Davis as his attorney in the United States and asked about engaging Toensing and her husband, Joe diGenova, two longtime Giuliani allies, as The Post previously reported. Parnas vouched for the couple, who had provided informal advice to Trump’s legal team, and urged Firtash to hire them.
Firtash told the Times that Parnas and Fruman assured him they could help him find “good lawyers in D.C.” who could make his case to the Justice Department.
Giuliani said in a statement to The Post earlier this week that he did not recommend that Firtash retain Toensing and diGenova.
“I have no knowledge who Mr. Firtash considered hiring as his lawyer,” he said.
The cache of documents released by the House on Tuesday included handwritten notes Parnas scribbled on stationery from Vienna’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel in which he appears to describe the effort to persuade Firtash to replace Davis with Toensing and diGenova.
According to Bondy, Parnas wrote the notes in his Vienna hotel room while speaking by telephone to Giuliani during a June visit to the Austrian capital.
“Get rid of Lenny Davis (nicely!),” Parnas wrote. He added, “Victoria/Joe retained” and “$100,000-month.” He also wrote, “Firtash toxic,” a possible reference to allegations against the tycoon.
On another sheet, Parnas referred to the effort to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations related to Biden, writing: “get Zalenksy to Annouce that the Biden case will be Investigated.”
Later in June, Giuliani was in London for a whirlwind trip: He was photographed attending a special overseas Yankees baseball game with Parnas and a fundraiser for a charity that assists Ukrainian Jews displaced by the conflict with Russia-backed rebels in Ukraine’s east.
He also met with an Austrian lawyer for Firtash who is representing the mogul in the extradition proceedings. The lawyer, Dietrich, said the two met in a conference room of a London hotel, but he declined to offer further details.
People familiar with their encounter said it was also attended by Denis Gorbunenko, a former Ukrainian banker close to Firtash. Gorbunenko did not respond to requests for comment.
At the meeting, Giuliani inquired whether Firtash had information about his investigations into whether the Ukrainians had interfered in the 2016 election, as well as the Bidens and Burisma, according to the people.
“I have no recollection of any meeting with the Dmitry Firtash legal team in London or anywhere regarding asking for information about Joe Biden,” Giuliani said in his statement to The Post.
Five days after the London meeting, Parnas sent Giuliani a text message, according to the materials released by the House: “Going to Vienna.”
“Wow!” Giuliani responded.
Just a few weeks later, on July 23, Davis, who had been registered as a foreign agent to represent Firtash, filed paperwork indicating that his engagement had been terminated. In a statement at the time, he said he had been replaced by Toensing and diGenova.
Firtash told the Times that he agreed to pay the couple $1.2 million over four months. The legal duo then hired Parnas as a translator, paying him $200,000 for the same period, prosecutors have said.
Parnas and Fruman soon told friends that Firtash was paying for their highflying lifestyle, including private plane rides and luxury hotel stays. They also said they were pursuing a multimillion-dollar gas deal with Firtash. Firtash told the Times that he paid for the pair’s expenses for a period as they explored a possible side project to sell gas to Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Toensing and diGenova secured a meeting in late August with Attorney General William P. Barr to argue that Firtash had been unjustly pursued by the Justice Department.
Around the same time, Firtash’s lawyers soon found a new piece of evidence to argue that his 2014 arrest on the request of the Americans had been politically motivated and that the Austrians therefore should block his extradition.
It was a 12-page sworn affidavit from Shokin, the former Ukrainian prosecutor, that speculated that Biden had engineered Firtash’s arrest to prevent him from interfering with U.S. policy in Ukraine.
In the middle of the document, the affidavit included an unrelated claim from Shokin — that as vice president, Biden had engineered his ouster as Ukraine’s top prosecutor in 2016 because he was investigating Burisma, the gas company that placed Hunter Biden on its board.
It was the same claim Shokin had made months earlier to Giuliani, which Trump had cited in his request to the Ukrainian president for an investigation into the Bidens. Other Ukrainian and U.S. officials have said the Burisma investigation appeared stalled when Biden and other Western officials urged Shokin’s removal.
The Burisma claim was not directly related to Firtash’s case. But as part of Shokin’s affidavit, it was signed and notarized on Sept. 4 and filed under seal in the Austrian court case.
Not long after, an Austrian court announced it was reviewing the material and put Firtash’s extradition on hold. Three weeks later, it was obtained by conservative columnist John Solomon and published in the Hill.
Giuliani cited the affidavit from Shokin to bolster his claims about Biden, holding up a copy of the document during a September television appearance and accusing the media of overlooking its significance.
After Parnas and Fruman were arrested in October on charges of funneling foreign money into U.S. elections, federal prosecutors in New York said they discovered “suspicious” financial links between Parnas and a lawyer for Firtash. (Parnas and Fruman have pleaded not guilty.)
The lawyer, Ralph Oswald Isenegger, sent five wire transfers of $200,000 to Parnas’s wife in September, prosecutors said in court. In a statement, Isenegger said the funds were his personal money he had lent to Parnas and his wife and that Firtash was not aware of the arrangement.
Toensing and diGenova said in a statement that they had been unaware of the financial arrangement.
In early October, they were informed that their appeal to Barr on Firtash’s behalf had failed. The attorney general declined to intercede in the case, and the Justice Department released a statement indicating that the case against Firtash “has the support of department leadership.”
Ioana Moldovan in Bucharest, Romania; Natalia Gryvnyak in Kyiv; and Alice Crites and Matt Zapotosky in Washington contributed to this report.