Did Giuliani Give Parnas The Referral Of Turkey To Ballard Partners As Payment For Trump Defense Work In Ukraine?

Jim here.

With so much attention focused on the dramatic impeachment hearings this week, it would be easy to overlook the announcement of an interesting set of subpoenas in the ongoing case against Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. As the New York Times informed us on Wednesday:

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan issued subpoenas in recent weeks to several players in President Trump’s fund-raising apparatus as part of an investigation into two associates of Rudolph W. Giuliani who have been charged with violating campaign finance laws, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The subpoenas went to a lobbying firm run by a top fund-raiser for Mr. Trump, Brian Ballard, and to two people who have helped raise money for America First Action, a super PAC created to support the president and allied candidates, the people said.

Mr. Ballard and the America First fund-raisers worked to varying extents with Mr. Giuliani’s associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, American citizens who helped Mr. Giuliani wage a pressure campaign on Ukraine that is now at the center of the impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump.

Let’s focus on the Ballard Partners part of the story. Further down in the article:

Mr. Giuliani met Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman as they became involved in the Republican major-donor circuit, and the recent activity by prosecutors suggests that they are interested in learning more about how the men gained entree into that world.

Mr. Parnas also developed a relationship through Republican donor politics with Mr. Ballard, whose firm, Ballard Partners, paid Mr. Parnas at least $22,500 for referring business from the Turkish government.

The Turkish government agreed to pay Ballard Partners $1.5 million over a year in May 2017, and renewed its contract for $750,000 a year later, according to lobbying records.

Isn’t that interesting? The Times says that Giuliani and the Ukrainian grifters met through meetings of big Republican donors, but doesn’t put a date on when they first got together. As you might recall, the curiously transferred funds from Charles Gucciardo on behalf of Parnas’ Fraud Guarantee company to Giuliani Partners took place in September and October of 2018. But note that the contract for Ballard Partners that earned Parnas the finders’ fee was signed in May of 2017.

This Tampa Bay Times article increases the payoff to $45,000, but puts Parnas in touch with Ballard back in 2016:

Ballard, who was introduced to Parnas at a South Florida Trump fundraiser in 2016, is one of the top lobbyists in Tallahassee and Washington and a prominent fundraiser for Trump. Ballard Partners paid Parnas a total of $45,000 for the referral of an international client, which Taylor now identifies as the Turkish government.

It’s hard to see how Parnas and Fruman, as Ukrainian “businessmen” would have the contacts to refer the Turkish government to one of the most powerful lobbying firms in the world. It seems much more likely that the referral really came from Giuliani, who had been representing the Turkish government while he was at Greenberg Traurig:

Since 2014, Greenberg Traurig has registered as an agent of the Turkish government, and its former partner Rudy Giuliani represented gold trader Reza Zarrab, who spearheaded the Halkbank conspiracy. The firm insisted that it maintained an “ethical wall” between its legal representation and its lobbying, but critics found it difficult to discern a distinction between Giuliani’s representation of Zarrab and political advocacy.

Never appearing in court, Giuliani shuttled between Washington and Turkey’s capital of Ankara on Zarrab’s behalf. He disclosed his meetings with Erdoğan and top U.S. and Turkish diplomats in court filings. Giuliani’s Oval Office meeting with Trump to try to trade Zarrab for Brunson would come to light two years later, in news reports broken by Bloomberg and matched by The New York Times and Washington Post.

Giuliani officially severed his ties with Greenberg Traurig in May of 2018 to work solely for Trump, but actually began working for Trump a month earlier. So if Giuliani did hand Parnas the referral of the Turkish government to Ballard Partners, we have to wonder if he was already suspecting in the fall of 2017 that he would be leaving Greenberg Traurig to head to work for Trump.

But did Giuliani know Parnas and Fruman that long ago? This New Yorker article, based on interviews with Parnas and his son Aaron, says yes:

“I was really never heavy into politics, never really contributed,” he said. Then, in June, 2015, Parnas’s teen-age son, Aaron, called his father. “Dad, I think one of your friends is running for President,” he joked. Aaron told me that, after Trump announced his candidacy, he called the Trump campaign to get passes to go with his father to a Trump rally in Florida.

Parnas soon became a regular at Trump’s rallies and other gatherings. “I started donating. We started to help raise money,” he said. Gradually, Parnas said that he got to know other Trump donors, including Tommy Hicks, Jr., a private-equity investor in Texas who is close to Donald Trump, Jr. (Hicks has since become the co-chair of the Republican National Committee.)“We became one big family,” Parnas said. “You got to understand, he didn’t have a real campaign, a traditional campaign. It was make-it-up, you know. Like him or not, you understand what it is. It was more, like, you know, we’d bump into each other constantly because it was all the same people, there were not that many of us.” Parnas told me that he “bumped into” Trump “plenty of times” at events in New York over the years, but that they didn’t get to know each other until the 2016 campaign.

The article continues:

On Election Night, Parnas, along with other donors, including the Blackwater founder Erik Prince, were invited to attend a gathering with Trump and his family. “We were all there,” he recalled. “I will never forget that.”

Wow, that’s interesting. But just a bit farther along, we come to Giuliani:

Parnas said that he grew closer to Giuliani after the election. “We were good friends, he’s also my counsel,” he said. “We were looking to do business together.” When Giuliani wanted to gather information in Ukraine to counter the findings of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, Parnas volunteered to help. “Because of my Ukrainian background and my contacts there, I became like Rudy’s assistant, his investigator,” he said. “I don’t do anything on my own. I don’t lobby people. I go get information. I set up a meeting. I make sure that the call went right. I make sure the translation is done right.” Parnas echoed the claims of Trump and Giuliani that the Democrats had worked with Ukrainians to dig up dirt on Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, ahead of the 2016 vote, seeming to imply that what he and Giuliani were doing now was little different.

Note this timeline: Rod Rosenstein took over the Russia investigation on April 26, 2017. James Comey was fired on May 9. This article places the signing of the contract Ballard Partners and Turkey on May 11, 2017. Robert Mueller was appointed on May 17.  We can’t help wondering if Giuliani handed Parnas the Ballard Partners referral so that the $45,000 finders’ fee would act as payment for the work in Ukraine that Trump’s defense would require. Also note that reports state Parnas didn’t get his payoff from Ballard Partners until 2018, so we are also left to wonder if, in typical Rudy fashion, the finders’ fee was arranged long after the client was found.

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43 replies
  1. dwfreeman says:

    The Democrats are going to let this slip away by going for a smaller case than they are willing to pursue. And these choices have always been dictated by a political calculus they argued were always out of their control, either because of no political majority or because they are afraid of expending themselves in the effort to make the truth matter. They are really full of shit. Because Americans are suckers for the truth. They believe in it. And the Democrats think small while the Republicans think big, power first and explanation later. They don’t give a shit about how they are perceived so long as they win.

    The most dangerous Democrat in my lifetime was Lyndon Johnson, a Texas Democrat who in his day beats the shit out of any politician alive now. He did more for this country and the rights of US citizens as a Senator from Texas and majority leader than McConnell can ever claim. And he may have been more corrupt than Trump. Talk about shooting someone on Fifth Avenue, LBJ has been linked to a variety of political murder plots.

    And today, of all days, is a day that lives in my personal infamy as an American because it is the day that Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, and I was just a little kid in elementary school when the news broke. And since that day, that announcement of his death and murder, still haunts me. I have never lost interest in finding out why he was killed and who behind the US government conspiracy that killed him and covered it up.

    Trump is such a nothing by comparison. And the fact that a party, a large slice of the Republican Party would sell out themselves to protect this lost person, let alone defend his narcissistic intentions as a leader, shames my upbringing and appreciation of being American celebrating the values that I was raised to cherish.

    • Bri2k says:

      Your post was a good read but I think you missed that the Democratic House does not have unlimited resources to pursue this. Their focus is dictated by this limitation and they need to use what they’ve got in what they think is the most effective manner.

        • Bri2k says:

          Sorry Mr Maz but this is not correct. There was a story a month ago that Rachel Maddow referenced that talked about how typically these types of investigations are handled by DOJ but since they’re not involved all this falls on the House committees. They do not have unlimited investigatory or legal resources. I believe Speaker Pelosi and Chairmain Schiff have spoken to this as well.

          However, if you’ve got more information, I welcome it. I want my opinions to be as fact-based as possible.

          • BobCon says:

            The House hired over 100 extra attorneys, investigators and support staff for Watergate. Pelosi intentionally kept the House to its current staffing levels, so that when the Ukraine mess hit, they were stuck.

            Some ramping up is still possible, although given the time left in this session, it will be hard to reach Watergate levels.

            Still, it may make sense to hedge against bad news next year. The Speaker directly controls a large chunk of the House budget and can also push through rules changes reallocating staff resources from other committees if she is willing to make the public case for it.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I don’t think the resources argument scans. It’s like Tiger Woods losing a round of golf because he ran out of golf balls. Possible, but improbable.

        • Bri2k says:

          And why does it not “scan”? Because someone else thinks so but forgets what has been said by the actual people in charge?

          At times like this, I find the George Harrison song “Think for Yourself” a comfort.

          • bmaz says:

            Maybe placing your faith that some Rachel Maddow run on monologue about DOJ is the limit of Congressional action is, well, misplaced. There are different branches of government you know.

  2. ernesto1581 says:

    I love this picture: Trump and His Team of Matched Yoked Oxen.
    Reminds me of the Tunbridge World’s Fair, the children’s pavilion.

    • Jim White says:

      It is a fun one. As I’m sure you know, that’s Pence on the left and Rudy on the right. I’ve played with some settings, but haven’t been able to bring them fully into view.

    • Jim White says:

      Yeah, I almost put that in the post. Interesting Rudy would be talking about wanting money from the GT guy running the Turkey work over a year after resigning. I had forgotten the Mukasey bit, though. Both generations were in this part of it around the 2017 events, weren’t they?

    • Eureka says:

      While coverage abounds, for irony kicks here’s Vogel’s thread with mentions of Solomon, then Nunes in the mix:

      Kenneth P. Vogel: “RUDY GIULIANI & @DevinNunes were also on @SecPompeo’s call lists on 3/29/19 & 4/1/19, respectively — around the time @RudyGiuliani provided POMPEO memos detailing interviews with Ukrainian prosecutors who made claims about the BIDENS, YOVANOVITCH & 2016. [screenshot, link]”
      https://twitter.com/kenvogel/status/1198090645447102464

      Kenneth P. Vogel: “NEW EMAILS: On 3/26/19, RUDY GIULIANI spoke with @SecPompeo. * The conversation came 6 days after @jsolomonReports published his 1st story claiming MARIE YOVANOVITCH was anti-TRUMP, echoing allegations in a memo provided to him by @RudyGiuliani. [screen shot]”

      Early reaction is that Pompeo is McScrewed, but I haven’t read enough yet to assess…

      • Eureka says:

        Also, someone send Vogel back to J-school, because later in the thread he talks about Rudy’s memos — called once in scare-quotes “302s” — then later Vogel just refers to ‘Rudy’s 302s’ sans quotes and like this is something real.

        UhhhhhhNO. Stop the reification, Ken. Truth sandwiches, Ken.

    • PR says:

      Thank you, so we should add Jo Ann Zofante to the subpoena list as she’d have a lot to testify on Giuliani’s actions, appointments, payments, communications, and bribes

  3. Eureka says:

    CNN Excl: Parnas’ atty Bondy says Parnas is willing to testify that Nunes met with Shokin in Vienna that Dec. 2018 trip, per Shokin to Parnas:

    Devin Nunes: Giuliani associate willing to tell Congress that Nunes met with ex-Ukrainian official to get dirt on Biden
    https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/22/politics/nunes-vienna-trip-ukrainian-prosecutor-biden/index.html

    According to Bondy, Parnas claims Nunes worked to push similar allegations of Democratic corruption.
    “Nunes had told Shokin of the urgent need to launch investigations into Burisma, Joe and Hunter Biden, and any purported Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election,” Bondy told CNN.

        • Eureka says:

          Agreed– that’s why I wondered where this week’s testimony was going next (i.e. just a cliff?). Then this pile of docs arrives and I think, ~well looks like the plans just made themselves.’ The FOIA dump made a mandate for more testimony, if nothing else.

  4. Molly Pitcher says:

    In a tangential issue accordng to Time as posted on Daily Beast:

    The CEO of Ukrainian state gas company Naftogaz told Time he is ready to give evidence to U.S. federal prosecutors probing the business dealings of President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. “I will with a high likelihood be invited to testify in this case,” Andriy Kobolyev said, adding that he “would be willing to come and testify” if he were summoned. Naftogaz is reportedly connected to Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Regarding the release of State Dept. records under FOIA, it appears that Devin the Cow may have traveled extensively looking for dirt on Bidens. I would x-ref. Nunes’s itineraries with Bill Barr and Kash Patel, who never seems far from the biggest lump of dirt under the carpet.

    It is mind boggling how much of other people’s money Donald Trump can spend on himself. His past might have been a clue that he would do that as president. He started doing that in the cradle, with daddy’s money, and he’s an old hound not given to learning new tricks.

    • dwfreeman says:

      Nunes has based his political rise in Congress on suppport and defense of Trump, first as a key member of his campaign and transition, then while head of the House Intel Committee running interference for Trump seeking to turn around the challenge of denying Russia’s influence in the 2016 election.

      This has not been a one-time effort. He’s been the subject of an ethics probe in which he briefly recused himself while the committee he chaired was reviewing Russian meddling and among all political and intelligence community investigation and oversight returned the lone verdict that largely exonerated Trump and his campaign of Russian election interference, mirroring Trump’s talking point mantra about the case.

      The fact that he would resume his role attempting to manipulate the record and seek outside help in Ukraine to support a tale that would further seek to legitimize Trump’s election by helping kill a unanimous IC finding about Russian intervention through hack and leak operations, is simply the way he sees himself benefitting himself and party, the country be damned. GOP does not see this as a battle for our country and constitution. They view this only through the prism of political power and survival of the fittest.

      The question is: What are the Dems prepared to do to regain the soul of our nation?

  6. Less Winning, Please says:

    I keep wondering who is paying Rudy. Unlikely he works for free and unlikely Trump is paying him out of his own pocket.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Tom Sullivan, at digby’s place, has many good things to say. Here’s his concluding paragraph to today’s comment (emphasis mine):

    By now, it is clear Trump has been duped into believing what Hill called a Russian “fictional narrative” on Ukraine. By now, members of Congress in both houses should know — or have been briefed — that it is just that: a fiction, a conspiracy theory. By now, after witness after witness has told the same story about how Trump, his personal attorney and his associates, leveraged presidential authority improperly for personal ends at odds with national security and in ways that advance Russian efforts to undermine U.S. interests. The unanswered question is why they persist.

    Now, the right prefers that its paladins be guilty of shameful ignorance rather than intentional conduct: the criminal penalties are lower. It is time to acknowledge, though, that while Trump can be duped about many things, whether Russia is his patron is not one of them.

  8. Matthew Harris says:

    There are two things I am not clear on. Well, there are many things that I am not clear on, but these two are the most relevant:

    1. As far as I understand it, Parnas and Fruman were arrested and indicted on charges about campaign finance violations, that didn’t mention anything about Trump, Giuliani, or the Ukrainian government investigating Hunter Biden. How closely related are the cases?

    2. Turkey has been an important player in this story for years, and for certain people (Michael Flynn) it seems to be a more important player than Russia. Are the different people who have had interactions with Turkey working together, or is it a matter of pigs feeding at the same trough, pardon the metaphor. Is there a line between Flynn’s work with Turkey, and Giuliani’s work with Turkey, or are the parallel developments?

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