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2020-02-17 21:44:521 Oct 2018 01:53 AM EST
While it may seem that with the end of the Senate impeachment trial that there was no damage done and that everything will remain status quo, that's certainly not true for Donald Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. He's still staring down the barrel at trouble, and the Justice Department can't seem to decide whether they want to punish him or accept his help.
The trial over whether Trump abused his power and eventually obstructed Congress when he discussed investigating 2020 Democratic candidate Joe Biden and his son with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is over. But it's not settled by any stretch of the imagination. Republicans wanted a swift end to the trial and got it, but without allowing witnesses, evidence, and testimony, it's left all these loose ends, and one of those loose ends is Giuliani.
Just last week there was an interview of a witness that shows that investigation into Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, which also involves Giuliani, is still very much on and isn't ending because of the impeachment trial swiftly ending.
Yet, at the same time, embattled Attorney General William Barr said the DOJ is going through Giuliani's claims about the Bidens and alleged wrongdoing in Ukraine and is setting up a process to evaluate his claims. Officials have confirmed his tips are being sent through the U.S. attorney's office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Information relating to former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch being pushed out of office by Giuliani, Fruman, and Parnas is being sought by prosecutors. They're also looking into two companies with ties to Parnas. Shortly after his and Fruman's connection to Giuliani and the Ukraine scandal was learned, the two businessmen were arrested at the airport after having lunch with Giuliani and then trying to leave the country. They were charged with campaign finance violations.
It's not coming at a good time for Barr who is feeling the heat after seeking a lower sentencing recommendation for Trump ally Roger Stone. He told ABC News last week, however, that he is "not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody." He asked Trump to stay out of that and other DOJ cases, but Trump refused and said he has a "legal right" to involve himself.
People familiar with the situation have said the attorney general was briefed on the Manhattan investigation into Parnas and Fruman shortly after he took office last year. Late last year he advised Trump that Giuliani was a liability and a problem for the administration.
Giuliani sent a text message on Friday night stating he had not been contacted by investigators. "They have asked me for not a single thing, and I didn't do anything remotely illegal and can demonstrate that if they ever care to ask," wrote the former mayor of New York City. "I do believe it's unfair if they are investigating, but I have no indication they are."
Joseph Bondy, Parnas's attorney, said, "It comes as no surprise to us at all that the Southern District is continuing its investigation, whether into the activities of Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Parnas, or others," adding, "As prosecutors have consistently said, they may well bring additional charges against additional people, as well as Mr. Parnas, and as always, we're prepared to defend ourselves on any new allegations."
A trial date of October has been set by a federal judge in New York for Parnas and Fruman and two business partners. They're being charged with routing illegal foreign contributions to U.S. political campaigns. Prosecutors have said the investigation is ongoing. All four have pleaded not guilty.
The prosecutors are looking into various potential crimes, including wire fraud and failure to register as a foreign agent. After Parnas and Fruman were arrested in October, investigators sought information about Giuliani's international consulting business.
The three were known to implore Trump to remove Yovanovitch from office. She testified in Congress that she believed they saw her as standing in their way of their business interests in Ukraine. Parnas apologized to her in an interview last month, saying he believes now that he was wrong about her.
There are also continuing questions regarding two former Ukrainian prosecutors, Victor Shokin and Yuri Lutsenko, who Giuliani said gave him the information about the Bidens. Hunter Biden was previously on the board of the Ukrainian gas company, Burisma, that was under investigation. Investigators are also inquiring about Naftogaz, a state-owned gas company Parnas and Fruman sought to do business with last year.
Parnas's financial practices are also being scrutinized. Prosecutors said in court last year that Parnas appeared to have access to "seemingly limitless sources of foreign funding" and received a $1 million loan in September from a lawyer for a Ukrainian gas tycoon who was indicted in Chicago.
Giuliani said he was paid $500,000 in 2018 to advise a business that was co-founded by Parnas. Fraud Guarantee offered insurance to protect investors from losing money because of fraud. New York attorney Charles Gucciardo paid the money to Giuliani by investing in the company, according to his attorney Randy Zelin.
Gucciardo "believed that Mr. Giuliani — the former mayor of New York City, former United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, and the first name in cybersecurity — was in front of, behind, and alongside the company," Zelin explained back in November. Parnas used Giuliani's involvement to get others to invest.
Another Parnas enterprise, Clickagy, is being investigated as well. Both companies share a major investor, according to those familiar with the businesses. Clickagy used Parnas's Republican connections to try to get a contract with the primary pro-Trump super PAC, America First, according to people familiar with the company.
The anonymous investor told The Washington Post he bought $250,000 of shares in Fraud Guarantee in 2016. The investor said he has not received any returns on the investment and that it's not clear whether Fraud Guarantee is even a real business.
He was convinced to invest by Parnas who said he could use his connections to pitch the investor's idea of building a temple in Jerusalem on a platform high above the city to Trump. He believed it could bring Judaism, Christianity, and Islam together and bring peace to the Middle East.
After being shown a painting of his idea for the temple, "Parnas said that Trump was the type of person who might be interested in building something like this," said Artem Mirolevich, the painter, who was present at the time.
Parnas became difficult to reach after the investor paid him, but months later the investor was invited to the Jewish circumcision ceremony of Parnas's son in Boca Raton in October 2018. He was surprised to see Giuliani as a guest at the same event. Around that same time, the investor received a letter stating Giuliani had joined Fraud Guarantee as an adviser.
Within the last few months, Parnas has been speaking out, releasing documents, videos, etc., all relating to his ties to Trump and Giuliani. He said he is doing so because he believes the criminal investigation against him is an effort by Trump to undercut his account of what happened.
Bondy has suggested Barr should recuse himself from the investigation and instead appoint a special prosecutor to handle the case.
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