Lev Parnas’ Gamble: The Three Nested Investigations
As I noted the other day, Lev Parnas has inserted himself, along with his co-defendants, in the middle of the presumed Special Master review of Rudy Giuliani and Victoria Toensing’s seized devices. He’s doing so as part of a strategy he has pursued since shortly after he was arrested to either make his prosecution unsustainable for Donald Trump (that strategy has presumably failed) or to bring a whole lot of powerful people — possibly up to and including Trump — down with him. The Special Master review will be critical to this strategy, because it will determine whether material that might otherwise be deemed privileged can be reviewed by the Southern District of New York as evidence of a cover-up of crimes that Donald Trump committed.
In this post, I will lay out how there are two — and if Lev is successful, three — sets of crimes in question, each leading to the next.
1a, Conspiracy to donate money: 18 USC 371, 52 USC 30122, 18 USC 1001, 18 USC 1519 and 2, and 18 USC 371, 52 USC 30121.
The first set of crimes pertain to efforts by Parnas, Igor Fruman, and two co-defendants, to gain access to the Republican Party with donations prohibited by campaign finance law. They were first charged — as Parnas and Fruman were about to fly to Vienna to meet with Victor Shokin — on October 9, 2019. The charges relate to allegations that they used their company, Global Energy Partners, to launder money, including money provided by a foreigner, to donate to Trump-associated and other Republican candidates.
These charges almost certainly arose out of a complaint and then a follow-up by Campaign Legal Center.
The overall motive of these crimes, as described, was basically grift: to improve their connections to facilitate a fairly dodgy business proposition. One prong of the business, explicitly funded by a Russian businessman, involved funding recreational marijuana efforts.
But along the way, one of their alleged acts was to give Pete Sessions $20,000 in a way that associated that donation with an effort to get rid of Marie Yovanovitch, possibly on behalf of Yuri Lutsenko.
[T]hese contributions were made for the purpose of gaining influence with politicians so as to advance their own personal financial interests and the political interests of Ukrainian government officials, including at least one Ukranian government official with whom they were working. For example, in or about May and June 2018, PARNAS and FRUMAN committed to raise $20,000 or more for a then-sitting U.S. Congressman [Sessions],
At and around the same time PARNAS and FREEMAN committed to raising those funds for [Sessions], PARNAS met with [Sessions] and sought [his] assistance in causing the U.S. Government to remove or recall the then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.
1b, Conspiracy to donate money: 18 USC 371, 52 USC 30122, 18 USC 1001, 18 USC 1519 and 2, and 18 USC 371, 52 USC 30121, 18 USC 1349.
The campaign finance indictment was superseded on September 17, 2020 to add a fraud charge associated with Parnas and David Correia’s Fraud Guarantee, which literally was a fraud claiming to insure people against losses from fraud. They got a bunch of investors to invest in the business based on false representations, which Parnas (and to a lesser degree, David Correia) allegedly spent on his personal expenses. The superseding indictment took out the charge related to Yovanovitch.
Shortly after this superseding indictment, Correia flipped, entering into a plea agreement.
2, Foreign influence peddling: 22 USC §§612 and 618, 18 USC §951, 18 USC §2, and 18 USC §371
As you can see already, the first indictment against Parnas and Fruman pertained to an effort — to get Yovanovitch fired — that they were undertaking with Rudy Giuliani. And the superseding indictment adds fraud associated with the Fraud Guarantee they used Rudy’s name to help sell. So Rudy was bound to get dragged into this.
According to a letter submitted by Rudy Giuliani’s lawyer, he is being investigated for a bunch of influence-peddling crimes: FARA, acting as an unregistered Foreign Agent, abetting, and conspiracy.
This investigation may have come out of the way that the whistleblower complaint that launched Trump’s first impeachment magnified an OCCRP profile of Parnas and Fruman’s influence-peddling (which incorporated the profile), and the way that impeachment magnified the influence-peddling that Rudy and the grifters were involved with. The letter that failed to redact the targets of the warrants associated with Rudy listed two of the key players in the OCCRP profile, Yuri Lutsenko and Alexander Levin (Roman Nasirov is the one other person, in addition to Rudy and Victoria Toensing, who was targeted).
Indeed, even as impeachment was rolling out, during the period where Parnas was discussing cooperating with SDNY, he was refusing to admit that some foreigner — likely Lutsenko — was behind all this.
And it seems pretty clear that Parnas and Fruman are subjects of this investigation, too. The government’s response to Parnas’ request for discovery describes that he was notified of search warrants targeting him in January of this year (shortly after Joe Biden’s inauguration).
3. Parnas’ hoped for obstruction investigation
From the start, Parnas has been alleging — credibly — that at least the timing of his arrest was an effort to protect the President and maybe even to shut him up. From early on, he used impeachment as a way to share materials obtained in discovery showing Rudy’s central role in it all. In January 2020, Parnas filed a letter he sent to Billy Barr requesting his recusal, based in part off a claim that DOJ delayed production of discovery past the time he could share it with the impeachment inquiry (in reality, the delay was partly due to the time it took to crack the password to Parnas’ phone). In December, Parnas filed a motion to dismiss his indictment, alleging selective prosecution. He focused closely on the events leading up to impeachment (and falsely suggested these events started in 2019, not 2018). Amid a list of all the times Barr corruptly intervened to protect the President, Parnas described how, just as HPSCI was asking for his testimony, he and Fruman were arrested.
Later that day, Dowd wrote to HPSCI, 6 as he had indicated he would in his e-mail: Kindly refer to my letter of October 3, 2019. This is an update. We continue to meet with Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman to gather the facts and documents related to the many subjects and persons detailed in your September 30 letter and to evaluate all of that information in light of the privileges we raised in our last letter. This effort will take some additional time. Accordingly, Messrs. Parnas and Fruman will not be available for depositions scheduled for October 10, 2019. The following day, October 9, 2019, Mr. Parnas met with Mr. Giuliani at the BLT Steakhouse in the Trump Hotel, Washington DC. Mr. Parnas was scheduled to travel later that evening to Frankfurt, Germany, and then on to Vienna, Austria, to meet with the former Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Victor Shokin, to prepare him for an appearance on FOX News’ Shawn Hannity Show to discuss Joe Biden. Although Mr. Giuliani, along with Victoria Toensing and Joseph DiGenova, had originally been scheduled to travel to Vienna with Parnas, Toensing and DiGenova had cancelled several days earlier, and Mr. Giuliani cancelled that day.
After finishing meeting with Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman took a car to Dulles International Airport, where they waited in the Lufthansa lounge for approximately two hours before beginning to board their flight. Unbeknownst to Messrs. Parnas and Fruman, they had been indicted in the SDNY earlier that day.
Parnas also described others involved in his illegal campaign finance activities who were not indicted, including America First Action PAC and Kevin McCarthy.
Among the things Parnas asked for was evidence that was already being collected in the second, influence-peddling investigation.
All internal documents, including memoranda, notes, e-mails, and text messages that, in any way, reference the reasons why individuals and entities including but not limited to, America First Super PAC, [redacted], Rudy Giuliani, President Donald J. Trump, Victoria Toensing, Joseph DiGenova, and John Solomon, were not arrested or charged with Mssrs. Parnas and Igor Fruman;
The government dismissed Parnas’ claim as lacking evidence but also said that some of the materials he was asking for would be covered by various privileges.
Because Parnas’s claim is meritless, the Court need not consider the contours of his discovery request (Parnas Mot. 32-33), but multiple of his requests seek materials that, if they exist, appear to be attorney work product, covered by the deliberative process privilege, and/or are outside of the scope of what would be reasonably necessary to try to advance his asserted claims rather than to gain a strategic advantage at trial.
Judge Oetken has not yet ruled on Parnas’ selective prosecution claim (or a bunch of other pre-trial motions from all defendants).
But as I noted, just the other day, Gordon Sondland provided more evidence of a corrupt cover-up pertaining to impeachment.
In his redaction fail letter, Parnas addressed very specific things he believed to exist to show a cover-up just before the influence peddling warrants got sent out, including emails he deleted.
The seized evidence will also likely contain a number and variety of communications between Giuliani and Toensing and Parnas that are directly discoverable under Fed. R. Crim. P. 16, evidence of any conversations between Giuliani, Toensing, and others, including Parnas, that may have been deleted, communications between Giuliani, Toensing and others about the defendants and how to address their prior relationships, the arrests, and the unfolding investigation, communications between Giuliani and Toensing and others with potential Government witnesses, including communications about the defendants, the offenses charged, and the witnesses’ potential disclosures and characterizations of alleged fraud-loss computations.
If Rudy and Toensing didn’t delete these materials, then they are now in US government custody. And Parnas is doing all he can to make sure the government looks at them.
Does “privilege“ extend to “evidence of cover-up of crimes?“
Eh, I think a lot of folks are getting way ahead of themselves with thoughts of criminal charges against DOJ people, and most notably Barr. The odds of any of that playing out are remote, even if not zero.
I would agree that Parnas is making sure he doesn’t go down alone, and perhaps is angling for a future witness protection slot since I doubt he’s welcome back home. Fruman and Firtash haven’t been as loquacious and may theoretically not get shot going back to Ukraine. As noted, there are certainly grounds to dig deeper. The government’s motion was filed on 10 JAN 2021 (while DJT was still in office) and certainly looks like an attempt to seal off this loose end.
However, conspiracies like this have many moving parts with lots of slime oozing out. Sondland’s apparent independent corroboration of Parnas’ claim might sway Judge Oetken to rule selective prosecution since as far as I know Parnas and Sondland never were working together (except maybe on Yovanovitch’s ouster). Both Parnas and Sondland filed court motions about what they see as betrayals of their deals, but Parnas is in jail and Sondland, Rudy (so far), Toensing (so far), Flynn and Stone are not. People that feel slighted in this way generally do not play nice when given the opportunity to return the favor (like Michael Cohen has), and Parnas has a lot to talk about.
I would expect more of these kinds of revelations as the minions realize that DJT will not (and now cannot) help them out of their appointment with the bus.
Parnas and Fruman are both US citizens.
Firtash is pretty high up the mafiya food chain—nobody’s shooting him on a return to Ukrainian soil, unless I’m missing something about how the Russian mob works (a distinct possibility, to be sure).
What kind of exposure do Toensing and DiGenova have here?
These are two dirty tricksters I’ve loathed for a long time, never going to forgive Toensing for her sleazy justification in public of the exposure of CIA agent Valerie Wilson.
Also, it seems a little odd to me that Toensing and DiGenova backed out of the flight to Vienna days before Giuliani did. I know they’ve been floating around republican DC politics for decades, it seems to me like someone gave them a heads up about the Parnas/Fruman investigation well before the scheduled flight to Vienna and damn near left Rudy out to dry…
Is it possible for that to expose even more DOJ corruption?
Also, Rudy and the Grifters is a perfect garage band name!
“Rudy and the Grifters is a perfect garage band name!”
LOL. Indeed, it is.
More like a lounge band I would think. Over the hill gits eking out a living reprising their greatest hits.
I can see Rudy and the Grifters playing at Four Seasons Landscaping.
Sure, Huckabee on bass and Don McGahn on guitar.
Plus Billy Barr on bagpipes. Deathtongue was better.
Three shows a day and a matinee on Saturday
Oh, what a night.
Prosecutors Investigating Whether Ukrainians Meddled in 2020 Election The Brooklyn federal inquiry has examined whether former and current Ukrainian officials tried to interfere in the election, including funneling misleading information through Rudolph W. Giuliani.
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/27/nyregion/trump-ukraine-rudy-giuliani-2020-presidential-election.html May 27, 2021, 7:01 p.m. ET
Wendy Siegelman with a related thread:
7:22 PM · May 27, 2021
Scott Stedman says this is not a NYT scoop:
Ken Vogel on the byline!
I realize he’s not the lead, but a supposed expert in Ukraine hijinks like him is supposed to know whether or not this is new reporting. Shows how much attention he pays to information he’s not being spoonfed.
That was the NYT’s reaction, which dismissed him and claimed his scoop as theirs.
Stedman is a clown.
More so than NYT’s Vogel? LOL
They’re aspiring to Chris Cillizza or JudyJudyJudy status. Maggie Haberman is almost there.
“The following day, October 9, 2019, Mr. Parnas met with Mr. Giuliani . . . . Mr. Parnas was scheduled to travel later that evening . . . to meet with the former Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Victor Shokin, to prepare him for an appearance on FOX News’ Shawn Hannity Show to discuss Joe Biden.” Wednesday, October 9, is also the night Bill Barr flew to NY for a mystery meeting with Rupert Murdoch. Initial speculation was that it was to deliver Trumps’s message that he did not like Fox polling and/or negative editorializing about Trump. That did not make sense to me. If Trump wanted to yell at Murdoch, he’d pick up the phone.
I don’t believe Barr delivered messages like that for the Boss. My impression is that whatever he did to help Trump, Barr tended to stay in his Justice Department lane while saving Trump’s presidency from self-destruction. The common thread here is that Barr had associations with Toensing, diGenova, and Giuliani. They all coincidentally canceled their Ukraine trip for the appearance on Hannity’s Shulkin interview and Hannity also canceled the interview. I always thought Barr more likely visited Murdoch at his home to share information about these activities. The sequence is: Toensing and di Genova cancel several days before, Rudy cancels that morning though he spends the day with Parnav and Fruman, and Barr tells Murdoch, and Hannity cancels the Shulkin interview. Too many coincidences. I would be surprised and shocked like a gambler at Rick’s Cafe American if Barr was not sharing info about the indictments and arrests with others before they publicly engaged in their nefarious activities.
Interesting timeline, and good catch—the rationale for that Barr-Murdoch visit never fully made sense to me either. And I didn’t know that Barr had associations with Toensing, diGenova, and Giuliana—I thought Barr was wary of Rudy (sort of like John Bolton, “Rudy’s a hand grenade, who’ll blow us all up”)—but maybe that was for show too, all working towards the same end goal (protect Individual-1) and Barr just thought Rudy Colludy was too much of a clown show.
IF what you posit is accurate then Lev may have decided upon reflection on Rudy’s demenour during their last morning together, that Rudy and others were in on the plan to set Lev up as the patsy for the airport arrest scene. Such a conclusion could make a Lev into a very bitter man.
Is there any connection between Giuliani/Fruman/Parnas’s Russian businessman with the recreational marijuana interests and the Gaetz/Greenburg marijuana regulation and business interests?
It would be surprising if they hadn’t at least some discussion, what with Stone clearly showing up in both camps.