The hunt by President Trump’s attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani for material in Ukraine damaging to Democrats has put a spotlight on business ties he has had in the former Soviet republic for at least a decade, work that has introduced him to high-level Ukrainian financial and political circles.
However, House investigators are now seeking records about Giuliani’s past clientele in Ukraine, including Pavel Fuks, a wealthy developer who financed consulting work Giuliani did in 2017 for the city of Kharkiv. That same year, according to court filings, Fuks said he was banned from entering the United States for five years. The documents do not specify a reason.
House committees have also requested documents and depositions from two of Giuliani’s current clients, Florida-based business executives who have been pursuing opportunities in Ukraine for a new liquefied-natural-gas venture.
The men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, have been assisting Giuliani’s push to get Ukrainian officials to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, as well as Giuliani’s claim that Democrats conspired with Ukrainians in the 2016 campaign.
The drama roiling Washington has intensified scrutiny of Giuliani’s private work as a lawyer and consultant around the globe and his unorthodox decision to continue to represent clients with foreign interests while serving as the president’s personal lawyer.
How Giuliani navigates between the needs of his foreign clients and those of the president is unclear. The former New York mayor, whose private security and consulting firm does not disclose its clients, has never registered as a foreign lobbyist, saying he does not do work that would require such filings.
He has accepted work from a number of foreign interests whose policy goals have been at odds with U.S. policy, including the Mujahideen-e Khalq, or MEK, an Iranian resistance group operating in exile that was previously listed as a terrorist group by the State Department, a designation removed in 2012.
This week, Giuliani was scheduled to speak at a Kremlin-sponsored conference in Armenia, hours before appearances there by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. He abruptly pulled out of the event Friday after it was disclosed by The Washington Post.
Giuliani defended his foreign work, arguing that the identities and interests of his clients are “irrelevant” to his uncompensated efforts for Trump, which he said are permitted and at times assisted by State Department officials.
“My other clients are paying me for the work I do for them. Nobody is paying me for a single thing I’m doing for Donald J. Trump,” he said in interviews.
Giuliani said questions about his foreign clients are “diversions by Democrats hoping to shoot the messenger” and stop him from pursuing significant cases of corruption and foreign interference.
Giuliani said he has had no clients in Ukraine since 2017. But he would not say whether he is now being paid by Parnas and Fruman, emigres from the former Soviet Union who Parnas said have been pursuing opportunities in Ukraine for their natural gas venture.
The two men have little history of political involvement but emerged suddenly in a circle of elite Trump donors after Parnas gave $50,000 to support Trump’s election in 2016 and a pro-Trump super PAC reported receiving $325,000 last year from a company the two men incorporated. The House committees have asked them to turn over all documents and communications related to the donations.
Parnas said that Giuliani is an attorney for the two men but declined to say whether Giuliani is being paid or what services he is providing them. Fruman did not respond to requests for comment.
National security experts said Giuliani’s simultaneous work for Trump and other parties makes it unclear whose interests he is representing.
“It is problematic that the same person is one day portrayed as a private individual and the next day as someone working on behalf of the U.S. government and the next day working on behalf of Donald Trump personally,” said Michael McFaul, an ambassador to Russia during the Obama administration.
“He has every right to represent private clients,” McFaul added, but Giuliani’s activity in the former Soviet Union, he said, “muddies the waters and creates dangerous confusion” in an already unsettled region of the world.
'A big friend of Ukraine'
In the past decade and a half, Giuliani has built an international consulting practice with government and private-sector clients in South America, the Middle East and Europe.
His work in Ukraine dates to at least 2008, when he said he was hired as a political consultant to Vitali Klitschko, a former boxing champion who was making a then-unsuccessful bid to become mayor of Kiev.
In a statement to The Post, Klitschko, who won the Kiev mayor’s office in 2014, said he first met Giuliani in 2006 during a visit the former New York mayor made to Ukraine. Since then, they have met many times in New York and Kiev, Klitschko said. He said he “does not recall” any formal consultation relationship with Giuliani and said that no money changed hands.
“I know Rudolfo Giuliani as a big friend of Ukraine and one of the most successful mayors of the world,” he wrote to The Post. “And considering our good personal relationship sometimes I ask for his advice on municipal issues.”
The Kiev mayor has been in a dispute with newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who wants to restrain Klitschko’s powers. Giuliani tweeted in September that “reducing the power of Mayor Klitschko of Kiev was a very bad sign” from the new Zelensky administration.
Giuliani told The Post that he has been advising Klitschko recently “only as a friend” and not for compensation.
In 2017, Giuliani took on another Ukrainian client with a rising profile: real estate and energy tycoon Pavel Fuks.
Fuks has said that he hosted Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. in Moscow in 2006 when he was negotiating with their father about the possibility of licensing Trump branding for a development in Moscow, a deal that didn’t pan out.
He returned to Ukraine after the 2014 uprising in Kiev’s Independence Square that brought Western-leaning President Petro Poroshenko to power. Russia included him on its list of Ukrainians it placed under sanctions in 2018.
Fuks also has interests in the Ukrainian gas industry, according to Ukrainian news accounts. That puts him in the same sector as former ecology minister Mykola Zlochevsky, who owns one of the country’s largest gas producers and brought then-Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter onto his board.
In 2017, Fuks sought to attend Trump’s inauguration. According to a lawsuit he filed in federal court in California in June, the wealthy Ukrainian paid a California Republican fundraiser $200,000 for access to elite inaugural events.
In the suit, Fuks alleged that the fundraiser had failed to deliver and that he had to watch the inauguration at a hotel bar. After he sought a refund from the fundraiser, Fuks said that his visa was revoked and that the United States instituted a five-year travel ban against him, according to court filings. The fundraiser has denied Fuks’s allegations or having any role in the ban.
That same year, Fuks hired Giuliani’s company to help his hometown of Kharkiv update its emergency response system, Giuliani said in an interview.
Giuliani said that the work was similar to work he has performed for other international cities and that Fuks had funded it essentially as a “donation.”
“He thought it was good for his business and for the Holocaust museum he was preparing at the time,” Giuliani said.
Fuks did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman said he hired Giuliani’s firm because the former mayor is “well known in Ukraine and he’s well respected for the work he did in New York City to fight corruption and to build infrastructure.”
Giuliani said he met with then-President Poroshenko in late 2017, on his most recent trip to Ukraine, to explain the emergency management plan he developed for Fuks’s hometown.
“They were very impressed,” Giuliani said. “You could write that it was brilliant.”
The project in Kharkiv, funded by Fuks, was his most recent contract in the former Soviet republic, Giuliani said.
“I don’t have a client in that region of the world right now,” he said.
A tip in 2018
According to Giuliani, his unpaid Ukrainian work for Trump began in November 2018, when he said he was approached by an American investigator who claimed to have evidence that Ukrainians had quietly pushed the idea that Russia coordinated its 2016 election interference with the Trump campaign.
Parnas said in an interview that he was eating lunch with Giuliani when the investigator approached Giuliani with the tip.
He described Giuliani as a “very good friend” whom he got to know while fundraising for Trump’s 2016 campaign. “The relationship bonded and built over time. We’re just very close,” he said.
Parnas, a 47-year-old former stockbroker who was born in Ukraine, said that he and Fruman began to serve as conduits for people in the country who had information to share with Giuliani. He said Fruman, who was born in Belarus and runs an import-export business in the United States and a luxury goods and services company in Odessa, is particularly well connected there.
“We took it upon ourselves as our patriotic duty, basically, whatever information we could get, to pass it on and to basically validate it as best as we could,” Parnas said.
It remains unclear what work Giuliani has been doing for the two men. In a tweet in May, Giuliani described the duo as “clients.” Giuliani and Parnas were seen together as recently as Sept. 20, when reporters for Reuters spotted them at Trump International Hotel in Washington.
Giuliani declined to describe the two men’s role in his Ukrainian investigation, in which he has met with current and former Ukrainian officials in the United States and Europe, aiming to collect proof for his theory that Ukraine colluded with Democrats to undermine Trump.
Parnas said he and Fruman helped set up a Skype call for Giuliani in late 2018 with Viktor Shokin, the ousted prosecutor general, and an in-person meeting in New York in January 2019 with Yuri Lutsenko, then Ukraine’s prosecutor general. (Lutsenko said in an interview that he met Fruman and Parnas in New York and that the pair “sometimes helped with translations,” but he said that “prosecutors” whom he did not identify set up his meetings with Giuliani.)
Parnas told BuzzFeed, which has reported extensively on the two men, that he and Fruman were not paid for their efforts to connect Giuliani to Ukrainian officials.
But Parnas acknowledged to The Post that their work with Giuliani came during the same months that he and Fruman were “coincidentally” traveling back and forth to Ukraine to try to land contracts for a new liquefied natural gas company they incorporated in Delaware last year.
At one point, the duo pitched the idea to the Ukrainian state oil and gas giant Naftogaz, a proposal that did not result in a deal, according to people familiar with the meeting.
Parnas did not respond to a question about Naftogaz. But he said their company has so far not secured business in Ukraine, in part because of the publicity over their involvement with Giuliani. He said they continue to pursue opportunities in other countries.
Support for Trump
Parnas made his first large political contribution in 2016, when he gave $50,000 to Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee for the Republican National Committee, the Trump campaign and GOP state parties, campaign finance records show.
Parnas told The Post that he decided to get involved politically because he was a passionate supporter of Trump’s candidacy after growing up in New York and selling Trump condos in the city when Trump’s late father, Fred, was still running the Trump Organization.
In May 2018, about six months before the men began working with Giuliani on his Biden investigation, a Florida business established by Parnas received a $1.26 million wire transfer from an account whose owner was represented by a real estate lawyer who specializes in assisting foreign buyers of U.S. property, court documents and corporate filings show.
Two days later, America First, the main pro-Trump super PAC, reported receiving $325,000 from a company Parnas and Fruman had incorporated the previous month called Global Energy Producers.
Last year, the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center filed a still-pending complaint with the Federal Election Commission over the donation, alleging that it appeared to be a straw donation that masked the identity of the original contributor.
Parnas told the Miami Herald last week that the money for the super PAC donation was from proceeds from the sale of a Miami-area condominium. Kelly Sadler, a spokeswoman for the super PAC, declined to comment on “ongoing legal matters.”
“I can tell you that we scrupulously adhere to all laws and regulations,” she said.
The real estate lawyer involved in the transfer, Russell S. Jacobs, did not respond to requests for comment.
Meanwhile, public filings suggest that the two men had financial challenges during the same period.
In March, a Russian American energy executive who used to run a Kazakh mining company filed a lawsuit against both Parnas and Fruman in Florida, claiming they had failed to repay $100,000 he lent them last year, court filings show.
In the suit, the executive, Felix Vulis, alleged that the men had told him that their close relationship with Giuliani and their recent campaign contributions would help their new energy company become the “largest exporter of liquid natural gas in the United States.”
Vulis told The Post that the suit had been settled, declining to comment further.
In 2016, a federal judge in New York ordered Parnas to pay more than $500,000 to an investor in a failed project to produce a Hollywood film called “Anatomy of an Assassin.” Parnas has still not repaid the money and is being pursued over the debt in Florida courts, according to court records.
“I’ve pored over Mr. Parnas’s finances for almost two years, and I’ve seen nothing to suggest that he could afford a lawyer of Mr. Giuliani’s caliber,” said Tony Andre, a Miami attorney who represents the film investor.
Parnas did not respond to requests for comments on his financial difficulties. But he told the Miami Herald last week that he didn’t know “anybody that has only good in their business.”
“I’ve never done anything illegal, I’ve never been charged, I’ve never been near anything like that,” he added.
In the past few years, Parnas and Fruman have posted photos on social media of themselves meeting with the president and his son Donald Trump Jr. and attending events at the Trump Organization’s Mar-a-Lago Club and at the White House.
In June 2018, they attended a two-day “leadership summit” for the America First super PAC held at the Trump hotel in Washington, according to a VIP list distributed by hotel management and obtained by The Post.
Both men were listed as members of the “Trump Card” loyalty program and as repeat customers of the hotel.
According to the records, Giuliani — a “gold level” Trump Card member — was expected to arrive on the day the two men checked out.
David Fahrenthold and Alice Crites in Washington and Michael Birnbaum, Natalie Gryvnyak and David L. Stern in Kiev contributed to this report.