Barr Time 1: “Conjuring up criminal conspiracies about political opponents”

June 6 of last year was the official publication date for Bill Barr’s book. In it, he claimed — at least three different times — that under him, DOJ did not investigate Joe Biden’s role in pushing Petro Poroshenko to fire Viktor Shokin. “[T]he facts about this episode were out in the open and didn’t warrant a criminal investigation,” Barr said in one instance.

The day after release of a book making that assertion, on June 7, 2023, Bill Barr went on the record with Margot Cleveland insisting that investigation into an allegation that we now know came from Alexander Smirnov, claiming that Mykola Zlochevsky had bribed Joe Biden, not only hadn’t been shut down in August 2020, but had been sent to Delaware “for further investigation.”

“It’s not true. It wasn’t closed down,” William Barr told The Federalist on Tuesday in response to Democrat Rep. Jamie Raskin’s claim that the former attorney general and his “handpicked prosecutor” had ended an investigation into a confidential human source’s allegation that Joe Biden had agreed to a $5 million bribe. “On the contrary,” Barr stressed, “it was sent to Delaware for further investigation.”

On June 6, Bill Barr claimed his DOJ didn’t investigate Biden’s ties to Burisma because all the facts were out in the open. On June 7, he insisted DOJ had sustained a secret investigation into an allegation that Burisma bribed Joe Biden.

Barr’s book mentions Ukraine almost 70 times. He mentions the Bidens, in an investigative context, over 56 times. Virtually everything he says on the topic conflicts as dramatically with known events as that claim on June 7 did.

It was always clear these claims were an attempt to spin the events, Barr’s CYA about fairly damning events in which he was involved. Given the subsequent disclosures of the the SDNY warrants, claims Lev Parnas’ has made since this book came out, Brady’s testimony about the side channel, and Smirnov’s indictment, I want to look at how Barr describes his involvement in efforts to investigate Joe Biden and his son.

At best, they show that Bill Barr was an easy mark for Russian disinformation.

Barr needed a bribery allegation and an informant fabricated it for him

Here’s how Barr describes the Brady side channel, which we now know resulted in an FBI informant with ties to Russian spies fabricating a claim about Joe Biden that right wingers successfully demanded be used to renege on a plea deal for Hunter Biden during the 2024 election season, a claim that — had Brady done the vetting he and Barr claimed he did — would have been identified as a fabrication in 2020.

With impeachment still pending, Giuliani embarked on yet another round of grandstanding. He went about claiming he had compiled significant evidence relating to the Bidens that he wanted to present to the Justice Department. While anyone is free to present evidence to the DOJ, the fact Giuliani was making such a public display obviously made his motives suspect. It looked to me that Rudy was trying to run the same play against Biden that I thought the Clinton campaign had tried to run against Trump in 2016: giving just enough evidence to law enforcement to have some allegation investigated, then claiming one’s adversary was “being investigated.” This presented a quandary. On the one hand, I wasn’t going to let the department be drawn into Giuliani’s game, and I wasn’t about to allow the work of other prosecutors on other, potentially related matters be tainted by commingling their evidence with whatever Giuliani had pulled together. On the other hand, the department has an obligation to be open to all comers who believe they possess relevant evidence; we could not merely dismiss his information out of hand without looking at it. Yet merely receiving information does not imply the department believes opening an investigation is warranted. My solution to Giuliani’s posturing was to create an intake system for evidence originating in Ukraine—including but not limited to Giuliani’s—that dispelled any suggestion that, by accepting the information, the department was signaling it considered the allegations credible.

I set up a screening process whereby an office outside of Washington—in this case, the US Attorney’s Office in Pittsburgh— would vet the information provided by Giuliani, working with the FBI and intelligence experts on Ukraine. That office, which was run by a trusted US attorney, Scott Brady, who was well known to me and my staff, would not be responsible for deciding whether to open any investigation, just for assessing the credibility of the information. This would be an intermediary step before any information was forwarded to an office responsible for making any investigative determinations. Employing such a “taint team” is a well-established procedure within the department for screening potentially suspect evidence. These precautions were especially apt in the case of Giuliani, whose political passions and previous associations in Ukraine possibly affected his own critical faculties.

At an unrelated press conference in early February 2020, I made clear I was skeptical of information coming out of Ukraine. “We have to be very careful with respect to any information coming from the Ukraine,” I said. “There are a lot of agendas in the Ukraine, a lot of crosscurrents. And we can’t take anything we received from Ukraine at face value.” My usual critics on the Hill and in the media, as always getting the point exactly backward, screamed that I was giving Giuliani special access to the department. Wrong. It was an exercise in caution and an effort to protect other investigations that the DOJ had going on at the time.

While the effort to push the Ukrainians to investigate Biden was foolish, I do not believe it was criminal. Not all censurable conduct is criminal. The current tendency to conflate the foolish with the legally culpable causes more harm than good. Trying to apply the criminal law to diplomatic give-and-take is especially dangerous. A quid pro quo is inherent in almost all diplomacy, and Presidents frequently ask foreign countries to do things that are politically beneficial to the Presidents. A President might, for example, make a large, secret concession to a foreign country in order to expedite release of a hostage or win some other timely agreement the President expects will yield substantial political benefits prior to an election. The fact that the action sought from the foreign government will yield political benefit should not make the request criminal. It may have been in the national interest. Nor should it be criminal because the concession made by a President seems disproportionate or even reckless. Nor should it make a difference that the President was subjectively motivated by the expectation of political benefit.

The fact is that diplomatic transactions frequently involve “mixed motives.” The quo being sought will provide a political benefit and will likely satisfy a legitimate policy purpose of the government. In any particular case, the political motive may loom much larger than the governmental purpose, but as long as the latter is present, it would be hazardous to criminalize diplomacy by attempting to assess the balance of subjective motivations. Of course, if the quo being sought objectively has no governmental purpose at all and is purely a private benefit—say, a payment of cash for private use—then we are in the realm of bribery. But so long as the quo arguably advances a public policy objective, then policing the propriety of diplomatic transactions should be left to the political, not the criminal, realm.

To this extent, I viewed Vice President Biden’s pushing for Shokin’s termination as similar to President Trump’s pushing for an investigation of Biden’s role. The quo sought by Biden—the firing of Shokin—held a potential political benefit for Biden: avoiding the embarrassment of having his son’s company investigated for corruption. It also, ostensibly, had a legitimate public policy purpose: advancing the US anticorruption agenda. Similarly, Trump would benefit politically from an investigation into Shokin’s termination, but bringing transparency to that episode would also arguably advance America’s anticorruption agenda.

Biden supporters would say that, in his case, his policy purpose was overarching and supervened any possible political agenda. Trump supporters would say the same about his aims. My point is that the criminal justice process cannot legitimately be used to investigate politicians’ motivations when those politicians are asking for some rational and lawful policy concession. What Biden was demanding in Ukraine, quite apart from whether it would benefit his son, technically had a legitimate governmental purpose. And what Trump was demanding, quite apart from whether it would benefit his reelection, had the same. (309-312)

Regarding the side channel itself, Barr claims it was simply a taint team for information offered up by the public — by anyone — from Ukraine. That’s inconsistent with Brady’s still unexplained effort to go look for information on Hunter Biden and Burisma in the Burisma investigation that had just been shut down. It’s inconsistent with Brady’s concessions of all the things he didn’t consult — such as materials released as part of impeachment and contemporaneous reporting — before passing on tips.

And consider the euphemism Barr uses to describe Rudy’s motives. In addition to a specific concern about the “crosscurrents” in Ukraine, Barr cited Rudy’s “political passions and previous associations in Ukraine” to explain the need for such vetting.

There’s no mention of Russian spies.

There’s no mention of the fact that both the White House and DOJ recognized that Andrii Derkach was a Russian agent before Rudy boarded a plane to go solicit dirt from him.

There’s no mention of the fact that Barr set up a way for Rudy to share tips from known Russian agents.

And that’s one of several reasons why Barr’s complaint about the criticism he got — his claim that he was merely exercising caution — is bullshit. The side channel was one part of a larger scheme that had the effect of protecting Rudy (and therefore Trump) and framing Joe Biden. The scheme included:

  • Constraining the ongoing investigation into Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman in SDNY so it could not include Dmitry Firtash, much less Derkach
  • Moving the Derkach investigation to EDNY
  • Prohibiting anyone from opening an investigation into a Presidential candidate without his approval
  • Allowing Rudy to share information with Scott Brady
  • Permitting Brady to intervene in SDNY investigation (as well as that of Hunter Biden, Dmitry Firtash, and Ihor Kolomoyskyi)

These steps did more than vet Rudy’s tips. Taken together, they used the entire weight of DOJ to protect Rudy (and Trump) from any consequences for soliciting dirt from known Russian spies — a separate possible crime than merely sharing false information with the FBI.

Perhaps that’s why, having misrepresented the nature of the side channel, Barr opined that “I do not believe it was criminal” to solicit dirt on the Bidens from known Russian spies. Perhaps that’s why Barr followed that opinion with two paragraphs equating Joe Biden’s effort to rein in corruption in Ukraine with Rudy’s effort to solicit dirt from known Russian spies for Trump.

Barr’s explanation never made sense. The expectation was always that by firing Shokin, Burisma would get more scrutiny, not less. Barr’s explanation makes far less sense given that he launched this side channel just days after his DOJ shut down a four year investigation into Zlochevsky started while Biden was Vice President.

But his explanation does clarify something. The side channel assessment — based off material from Rudy, Chuck Grassley says — was a bribery assessment. It was started as a bribery assessment months before (if we can believe the indictment, which given the way it obfuscates other known details, we cannot) Smirnov first started pitching his false claims of bribery. It was started as a bribery assessment because that, in Barr’s mind, distinguished an inappropriate use of DOJ to investigate a politician’s motive and a fair use of DOJ’s authorities in an election year.

And in the year before an election last year, Barr doubled down on the bribery allegation allegedly fabricated by an informant with ties to Russian spies. In the process, Barr helped ensure that Joe Biden’s kid will face two trials and six felony charges as opposed to a settlement David Weiss had already offered.

An Attorney General dedicated to killing an investigation into Russian interference

That’s where Barr’s tenure as AG ended: setting up a side channel via which Joe Biden was framed by an informant with ties to Russian spies, which in turn led directly to felony charges against Biden’s kid.

That makes Barr’s single-minded focus on killing the Mueller investigation look quite different. Everything stemmed from that effort, according to Barr.

Russiagate dominated the first two years of President Trump’s term, looming over every aspect of the administration. I was on the outside as a private citizen during this time, and so my early reaction to the collusion claims was based on public reporting and my own informed speculation. Only in early 2019, when I joined the administration as Attorney General, did I begin to get a fuller picture of this manufactured scandal. From that time forward, it became increasingly clear to me that there were never any legitimate grounds for accusing Trump or his campaign of colluding with the Russians. This was not only my conclusion. Every investigation into the matter—including those of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Senate and House Intelligence Committees—also found no evidence of collusion.

I would soon make the difficult decision to go back into government in large part because I saw the way the President’s adversaries had enmeshed the Department of Justice in this phony scandal and were using it to hobble his administration. Once in office, it occupied much of my time for the first six months of my tenure. It was at the heart of my most controversial decisions. Even after dealing with the Mueller report, I still had to launch US Attorney John Durham’s investigation into the genesis of this bogus scandal. At the end of my first year in office, the President was impeached over a harebrained effort, involving Rudy Giuliani, to push back on the Russia collusion canard by digging up an alleged counter-scandal in Ukraine implicating the Clinton campaign or Vice President Biden and his son Hunter.

The fallout from Russiagate continued during my last year in office. My relationship with the President frayed as he became frustrated by my failure to bring charges against those who had ginned up Russiagate and the failure of Durham’s investigation to produce more rapid results. (180-181)

Of course Barr’s “Russiagate” claims are riddled with lies. We’re used to that.

The HPSCI investigation did ask every Trump-friendly witness if they had evidence of “collusion,” and they all said no (though it’s clear that Devin Nunes worked directly with the White House to craft at least one of these scripts). Senators split on partisan lines regarding whether the SSCI investigation showed “collusion.” The Mueller investigation did not make a conclusion about “collusion.” And not only did the report itself imply there was evidence of conspiracy — just not enough to charge — but a footnote Barr hid until right before the 2020 election revealed that an investigation into whether Trump’s rat-fucker joined a CFAA conspiracy with Russia continued after Mueller finished. Perhaps because of that, the declinations section on conspiracy actually didn’t make a conclusion, one way or another, about whether Trump’s people conspired with Russia on the hack-and-leak itself; that section addresses Section II and IV of the first volume, but not Section III, where the hack-and-leak was described.

Like I said, we’re used to those lies. I’m interested in this passage, which repeats Barr’s tired old lies about the Russian investigation, because of the relationship Barr sets up between those lies and what came before and after. Barr admits that he made a conclusion about the merit of “Russiagate” based on “public reporting” (presumably of the kind a right winger would see) and what Barr describes as his “own informed speculation.” Based on that conclusion, he decided to return to government to kill the investigation.

Barr built his justification to investigate Democrats from there.

Barr’s description of the Durham investigation — something he “had” to launch and something that he expected, in 2020 and presumably even in 2023 (his book came out just weeks after Durham gave up the ghost), would have “results” in the form of prosecutions — ties directly to his false claims (which may or may not be beliefs) about the Russian investigation. The Durham investigation had to produce results because Barr needed it to be true that the Russian investigation had no merit.

That imperative may explain Barr’s inconsistent claims. On page 180, describing that he had to open the Durham investigation, Barr made clear he believed an imagined Hillary effort to set up an investigation against Trump was criminal. On page 310, Barr explained that he didn’t believe an effort to push Ukraine [including known Russian assets, but Barr doesn’t mention that part] to investigate the Bidens was criminal. Rudy’s effort to solicit dirt from known Russian spies was not criminal, but Russian injection of disinformation into Hillary’s oppo research was.

It’s in that framework where Barr describes his personal involvement in Ukraine dirt — which the available record shows started no later than August 2019 and continued through at least October 2020, which an unreliable Parnas claims started far earlier, and which in paragraphs following Barr’s description of the side channel he improbably claims he first learned from a warning John Bolton gave him in early August. Rather than an impeachment focused on Trump, it focused on Rudy, and rather than an attempt to cheat in an election, it was an attempt to create a “counter-scandal.” In this passage, it is all portrayed as a ham-handed but, in Barr’s mind, justified effort to respond to the Russian investigation. In this passage, there’s no mention of Barr’s involvement in it at all. Only later would Barr refashion it (in the side channel passage above) as an effort to get transparency about Biden’s role in firing Shokin, transparency that multiple direct witnesses had already provided as part of the impeachment.

But in this passage, everything — the Durham investigation, the Ukraine response, and a bunch of things Barr conflates with the two, including the Brady side channel — arise out of Barr’s imperative to kill the investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia. That’s what justifies it all. Barr’s attempt to sustain false claims about the Russian investigation. Barr turned those false claims into license to retaliate.

That’s the before (the need to investigate Hillary as part of the imperative to kill the Russian investigation) and after (the side channel that protected Rudy from consequences for soliciting dirt from Russian spies and had the result of framing Joe Biden).

The AG doth protest too much, methinks

With those in mind, consider how Barr denials about the Durham investigation serve as a way to disclaim any involvement with Ukraine, where [3], “Conjuring up criminal conspiracies about political opponents had been honed into a fine art form.” This long passage, full of prevarications and word games, denies Trump asked him to open the kind of Biden investigation Barr opened up with the side channel.

As I was launching John Durham’s investigation in the spring of 2019, I was aware of the claims that the Ukrainians had interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Clinton. Because these allegations were relevant to the origins of the Russia collusion narrative, they legitimately fell within the ambit of Durham’s inquiry. I put little stock in them and suggested to Durham that he defer any Ukraine-related work, and so these claims weren’t being pursued actively at that point. I was dubious of the idea that the Ukrainians, not the Russians, had been responsible for hacking into the DNC. [1] It had the hallmarks of Russian disinformation and seemed contrary to the evidence developed by the intelligence community and by Mueller’s investigation. Moreover, contrary to the President’s claims, CrowdStrike did not appear to be controlled by Ukrainians and seemed to be a reputable company. I doubted the firm had any reason to fabricate its analysis of the hack. In any event, I wanted Durham to hold back from engaging with Ukraine because I considered it [2] a land of smoke and mirrors, where disinformation was everywhere and reliable evidence extremely difficult to find. There were so many different actors with varying agendas—pro-Western politicians, pro-Russian politicians, countless oligarchs, each with his own aim—that it was hard to determine the provenance and motivations behind any information collected there. [3] Conjuring up criminal conspiracies about political opponents had been honed into a fine art form. I was especially concerned that Ukrainian actors could act as channels for Russian disinformation. I didn’t want Durham to get bogged down in that morass.

Consequently, in the spring and early summer of 2019, when John [Durham] and I discussed the international dimensions of his work, [4] we agreed to engage with the three countries we felt would be most helpful to the investigation: the United Kingdom, Australia, and Italy. I started by making contact with the ambassadors of these countries, and later had discussions with senior officials in each. I traveled to both Italy and the UK to explain Durham’s investigation and ask for any assistance or information they could provide. I alerted the President that we would be making these contacts and asked him to mention Durham’s investigation to the prime ministers of the three countries, stressing the importance of their help. In contrast, [5] I never talked with the Ukrainians or asked President Trump to talk to the Ukrainians. The President never asked me to talk to the Ukrainians. Nor had I talked with Rudy Giuliani about Ukraine. I was also not aware of anyone at the department requesting the Ukrainians to open up an investigation. As far as I was concerned, if Durham ever found a reason to look into Ukrainian activities, he would do the investigation, not leave it to the Ukrainians.

What really fueled the impeachment drive was the attempt to sic the Ukrainians on allegations about Vice President Biden. It was one thing to argue, as the President’s private defense attorneys did, that Ukrainians had interfered with the 2016 election. That would have had a bearing on collusion allegations against the President. It was something else to argue, as the President’s defense also did, that Joe Biden’s son Hunter had traded on his surname and engaged in un- ethical deal making in Ukraine. That looked less like defensive work and more like an offensive thrust against President Trump’s likely opponent in the 2020 election. Moreover, although the Department of Justice was investigating election interference, [6] DOJ was not investigating Joe Biden, and I didn’t think there was a legitimate basis to do so. The conflict-of-interest laws do not apply to the President or Vice President.

The key facts regarding Biden’s role in the ouster of the Ukrainian anticorruption prosecutor were largely a matter of public record. In 2014 the Vice President’s son Hunter, with virtually no relevant experience, had received a lucrative position on the board of Burisma at a time when the Vice President had the “lead” in the Obama administration’s push to get Ukraine to step up anticorruption efforts. In late 2015 Vice President Biden, by his own account, used the threat of withholding loan guarantees to pressure the Ukrainian government to fire Viktor Shokin, the lead Ukrainian anticorruption prosecutor. The public record is fairly clear that there was frustration in US and European policy circles with Shokin’s failure to pursue corruption cases aggressively, and his removal was widely favored by key US figures. It also appears he was not actively pursuing Burisma at the time of his dismissal, although he claimed later that he was planning to investigate the company. In my view, while the whole situation was [7] shameful and unethical, the facts did not provide a basis for criminally investigating Vice President Biden.

[8] By the spring of 2019, I had noticed news stories stating that Giuliani was pushing the Ukrainians to investigate Biden’s role in Shokin’s dismissal. But other than what I glimpsed in the media, I had no knowledge of the former mayor’s activities. During the spring, I expressed my concern about Giuliani with the President. As I was leaving an Oval Office meeting on another topic, I paused briefly to raise the matter.

“Mr. President,” I said, “I don’t think you are being well served by Giuliani at this point. Mueller is over, and Russiagate is dying. Why is Giuliani thrashing about in Ukraine? It is going to blow up—”
“Yeah,” the President said, cutting me off. “I told him not to go over there. It was a trap.” President Trump gave the impression Giuliani had a degree of independence and was going to pull back. I did not press the point.

Unfortunately, the President’s careless statement to Zelensky erroneously implied some connection between me and Giuliani. Early in the conversation, the President asked Zelensky to “get to the bottom” of CrowdStrike and the server allegations, and said he was going to have the Attorney General talk to him about this. If the President had stopped there, I wouldn’t have been especially upset, because at least these particular allegations were within Durham’s purview, albeit on the back burner. However, later in the conversation, the President asked Zelensky to investigate Biden’s role in Shokin’s removal and said he should work with the Attorney General and Giuliani. When I read this, I hit the ceiling. When the transcript was released, I had the department put out a categorical statement:

[9] The President has not spoken with the Attorney General about having Ukraine investigate anything relating to former Vice President Biden or his son. The President has not asked the Attorney General to contact Ukraine—on this or any other matter. The Attorney General has not communicated with Ukraine—on this or any other subject. Nor has the Attorney General discussed this matter, or anything relating to Ukraine, with Rudy Giuliani.

Although this seemed to be largely accepted by journalists covering the department, some commentators still speculated that the President might have been pressing me to have the DOJ investigate Biden’s role.

This didn’t happen. The President had not asked that the Justice Department investigate the former Vice President, and it would not have made a difference if he had. [10] As far as I was concerned, the facts about this episode were out in the open and didn’t warrant a criminal investigation. Although Hunter Biden’s position was obviously a sordid instance of monetizing his father’s office, the Vice President did not violate the law because federal conflict-of-interest laws do not apply to Vice Presidents. Moreover, given the evidence that Biden was acting in line with US policy, and the absence of good evidence that Shokin was actively pursuing Burisma and that his removal would inhibit future action against the company, it would be impossible to prove that the Vice President acted with corrupt intent in pressing the Ukrainians to dismiss Shokin. And if there ever were a reason to pursue the matter, we would do it ourselves and certainly not pressure the Ukrainians to do it. (annotated numbering my own) (300 -304)

Three times, here, Barr claims he didn’t think the facts behind the Burisma allegations merited the kind of criminal investigation he would later set up.

[6] DOJ was not investigating Joe Biden, and I didn’t think there was a legitimate basis to do so.

the whole situation was [7] shameful and unethical, the facts did not provide a basis for criminally investigating Vice President Biden.

[10] As far as I was concerned, the facts about this episode were out in the open and didn’t warrant a criminal investigation.

He does so in a passage that claims to have avoided Ukrainian dirt because of the very same “smoke and mirrors” [2] Barr used to justify the side channel in January 2020. Those smoke and mirrors and Ukraine’s fine art form of conjuring up criminal conspiracies were the reason (Barr claims) he kept Durham out of Ukraine; but those very same smoke and mirrors are what Barr used to rationalize a side channel assessing dirt from known Russian spies that conjured up a criminal conspiracy against Joe Biden!

In other words, this disavowal of Ukranian involvement as part of the Durham investigation — which is transparently misleading in any case — serves as a proxy denial of the Ukrainian involvement we know Barr undertook elsewhere.

Barr’s discussion of the Durham investigation attempts to disclaim chasing Ukrainian dirt in three different ways.

First, he claims he didn’t know about any of Rudy’s efforts until … he doesn’t say precisely when. Barr claims at [8] that, “other than what I glimpsed in the media, I had no knowledge of the former mayor’s activities.” He situates the claim, vaguely, in “the spring of 2019,” far earlier than the warning he describes that Bolton gave him in early August pages later.

Parnas claims that Barr knew of their scheme from the start, from February, which would also be Barr first started getting briefings on the SDNY investigation, though Parnas didn’t say whether Barr learned of the scheme via SDNY briefings or separately, from Rudy’s effort to broker meetings with Barr. It might be true that the briefings Barr was getting on the Parnas investigation didn’t emphasize the tie to Rudy by whenever in spring Barr means. The first warrant against Rudy’s grifters had just a passing mention of Rudy; Kevin McCarthy, Rick Scott, Ron DeSantis, and Trump himself were all a more central focus of that warrant. The second, dated May 16, which focused directly on Marie Yovanovitch (and Pete Sessions’ role in her ouster), took out a reference to Rudy. SDNY obtained that warrant days after one possible date for Barr’s expressed concern to Trump that Rudy was “thrashing about in Ukraine.” Ken Vogel reported on May 9 that Rudy would head to Ukraine for election year dirt, only to report two days later that Rudy was canceling the trip after Adam Schiff and others made a stink; both reports postdated Trump’s comments to Hannity that Barr would investigate all this. That probably would be around the time when, according to Barr, he knew and warned Trump about “Giuliani thrashing about in Ukraine,” but claimed only to know that from press coverage.

By making the timing of this so vague, Barr makes it impossible to tell whether this conversation happened before or after the decision — made as part of, “inter‐department discussions well above” Joseph Ziegler’s second-order supervisor and originally attributed by Ziegler to Barr himself — to put the Hunter Biden investigation in Delaware, which made no sense if Hunter were the target but made perfect sense if Joe were. (Elsewhere in the book, Barr boasts that the investigation preceded his tenure, which it did, but the grand jury investigation did not, and — as noted — Ziegler originally said Barr personally made choices about the grand jury investigation.)

In any case, it would have happened long before the Perfect Phone call in July and meetings with Victoria Toensing — allegedly witnessed by Lev Parnas — regarding Dmitry Firtash. Barr is not denying getting involved in all this. He’s saying that he didn’t know what he was in for until sometime in later spring or summer 2019. By August, in any case, briefings on the Parnas investigation would have made SDNY’s increased focus on Rudy’s search for dirt on Hunter Biden clear. Barr knew what Rudy was up to well before DOJ chose to review only the transcript of Trump’s call for possible crimes, rather than the full whistleblower complaint that invoked Parnas and Fruman. Barr knew that if DOJ reviewed the entire whistleblower complaint, it would tie Trump’s call to an ongoing criminal investigation into unlawful influence peddling.

In short, even if Barr is telling the truth, even if he and Trump hadn’t spoken about Rudy’s efforts by the time Trump told Hannity they had, Barr had internal knowledge of both the SDNY investigation and Trump’s enthusiasm for Rudy’s efforts well before DOJ ensured the full whistleblower complaint would not be reviewed.

Having fiddled with the timing but not denied he was involved in Rudy’s efforts before the Perfect Phone Call, Barr then made much of what he claims was an affirmative choice not to pursue Ukrainian leads. He claims  [1] that he didn’t send Durham to chase (what were, but which he didn’t identify as) Konstantin Kilimnik’s claims of Ukrainian tampering in the 2016 investigation because it felt like disinformation.

Remember: the foundational theory of the Durham investigation — what Durham imagined was a fully-blown “Clinton Plan” — was based on possible Russian disinformation, and from there Durham (and Barr) fabricated more. Durham’s pursuit of a conspiracy theory that Hillary made a plan to fabricate information implicating Trump in Russia’s attack was not only based on files that the intelligence community always warned might be Russian disinformation, but Durham — almost certainly with Barr’s help — fabricated an additional element to it: that Hillary would invent false evidence, rather than simply point to true evidence of Trump’s affinity for Russia.

That’s not the only disinformation Barr chased. He and Durham went on junkets around Europe chasing the ginned up conspiracy theories of George Papadopoulos, including at least one fostered by Joseph Mifsud’s attorney.

Which brings us to Barr’s claim at [4] that he and Durham, “agreed to engage with the three countries we felt would be most helpful to the investigation: the United Kingdom, Australia, and Italy,” Barr is referring, in the last case, to chasing the Coffee Boy’s Mifsud conspiracies, every bit as obvious disinformation as Kilimnik’s Ukraine conspiracies. And when Barr explains at [5] that “I never talked with the Ukrainians or asked President Trump to talk to the Ukrainians,” he’s limiting his comments to official contacts.

Barr is attempting to distinguish, “ask[ing Trump] to mention Durham’s investigation to the prime ministers of [the UK, Australia, and Italy], stressing the importance of their help,” from Trump’s mention of Barr’s efforts to Zelenskyy, in which he stressed the import of Ukraine’s help.

That’s why it’s so interesting what a big deal Barr makes of the statement at [9], what he describes as a categorical denial of Trump’s mention to Volodymyr Zelenskyy that he’d have Barr reach out.

Barr doesn’t include another part of the statement that DOJ put out (or a follow-up sent out the same day), which described, “certain Ukrainians … volunteer[ing] information to Mr. Durham.”

A Department of Justice team led by U.S. Attorney John Durham is separately exploring the extent to which a number of countries, including Ukraine, played a role in the counterintelligence investigation directed at the Trump campaign during the 2016 election,” DOJ spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said Wednesday. “While the Attorney General has yet to contact Ukraine in connection with this investigation, certain Ukrainians who are not members of the government have volunteered information to Mr. Durham, which he is evaluating.

Nor does he mention a statement he referred to over and over in the weeks that followed, one he sent on his personal cell phone.

Barr did have contacts with Ukrainians; he even discussed how Durham could get information confidentially from him.

They just were not members of government, Barr claimed.

To this day, we don’t know who those Ukrainians are (and all this would be in addition to discussions with Victoria Toensing about Dmitry Firtash, discussions that Parnas claims involved a quid pro quo for a Hunter Biden laptop).

But as I laid out here (and as I’ll return to), there’s good reason to suspect they include one or more of the Derkach associates Treasury sanctioned in January 2021.

Bill Barr told on himself the day after his book came out: He did investigate Joe Biden. Worse, he set up a system via which an informant responded to Andrii Derkach’s election interference by framing Biden.

Bill Barr walked into the AG job determined to kill an investigation into Russian interference. Before he walked out, he set up a system that protected election interference from Russian agents in Ukraine, election interference that resulted in Joe Biden being framed.

As I said above, a comparison of Barr’s claims with everything we’ve learned in the year since then shows that, at a minimum, Bill Barr was an easy mark for Russian disinformation.

The Evolving Media Strategy of Lev Parnas

In advance of revisiting my work on the many ways Bill Barr intervened to protect — and participated in — Trump and Rudy Giuliani’s Ukraine capers, I want to first examine Lev Parnas’ recent media efforts, to include his House testimony and his recent book. After years of insinuating Barr had a role in Rudy’s capers, Parnas’ expanded story situates Barr more centrally in events, so I want to point out some gaps in his story and questions the fuller story raises.

Make of them what you will.

The limits of firsthand experience

First, note that Parnas’ book is not all based on firsthand experience. He has a co-author, Hells Angels chronicler Jerry Langton. That, plus sourcing choices about the book, make it difficult, at times, to understand where Parnas’ first-hand witness ends and where research begins.

One notable example is where Parnas and Langton tell an incomplete story about the Russian investigation. The purpose of the explanation is, at least in part, to explain why Parnas adopted Trump’s claims about the Russian investigation but no longer does; it is one of many attempts to disavow past beliefs.

Here’s one example of the uneven treatment that results.

Once the allegations of Russian interference became part of the national consciousness, Trump began to repeatedly and falsely claim that he had never done business in Russia, despite his many tweets to the contrary and the fact that his 2013 Miss Universe Pageant in Russia had been broadcast worldwide by NBC, Telemundo and Channel One, showing Trump sitting right beside Azerbaijani oligarch Aras Agalarov in the front row of the audience. Trump even told CBS News: “I have nothing to do with Russia. Nothing to do. I never met Putin. I have nothing to do with Russia whatsoever.” His lawyer, Michael Cohen, said that Trump called him right after that claim to check up on the status of Trump Tower Moscow.

Days later, the FBI would begin its own investigation into links between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Trump addressed the accusations again the same day at a news conference, saying: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” Not only did that indicate that he was indeed looking for dirt on Hillary, but he was widely accused of “urging a foreign adversary to conduct cyberespionage” on another American, which is a serious crime.

The passage puts Trump’s Russia “are you listening” quip at the beginning of the Russian investigation, albeit with a focus on Michael Cohen’s comments, with no acknowledgment of whether it relies on Cohen’s public comments, court records, or on personal comments from Cohen, with whom Parnas has developed a personal relationship.

But the construction suggests a temporal tie between the presser and the investigation.

There’s no mention of George Papadopoulos here, and therefore of a Coffee Boy who ran his mouth to a stranger. It hides the genesis of the investigation. One effect of that is that Parnas absolves himself of addressing a lot of the bullshit about the origin of the investigation offered by Republicans, bullshit that he was party to. Parnas focuses more on Barr’s bullshit about the Russian investigation than that of his one-time allies.

This lack of clarity on sourcing leaves the provenance of more interesting descriptions about events to which Parnas was not a witness, but of which he might have inside information, uncertain. For example, is this an obscure public reference, or something Parnas learned from his right wing buddies?

Meanwhile, [Jeff] Sessions had been asking staffers for disparaging information against Comey and told them that he expected to see at least one anti-Comey article in major media every day.

Similarly, in critically describing John Solomon’s false claims about Yuriy Lutsenko, Parnas provides a claim that Lutsenko had grown close to Paul Manafort.

Solomon then portrays Lutsenko as an anti-corruption hero, as he had been instructed. Although along with letting Kilimnik sneak away, Lutsenko had been fired, dismissed, suspended, jailed (he was pardoned, officially for health reasons) and gotten chummy with Manafort.

This is a really important detail I had not known: but where does it come from? Parnas does not say. And it matters.

Everyone’s mob past

One thing Parnas does attribute to firsthand knowledge, however, is familiarity with the mob (in both senses of the word). Indeed, he offers himself up as a native of the same Brooklyn (and Queens) world that Michael Cohen, Felix Sater, Rudy Giuliani, and Donald Trump all arose from and unashamedly suggests growing up in such a place means you have mob ties.

Parnas lays all this out in matter-of-fact terms.

Parnas describes the mob ties of his ex-wife.

The girl that I was dating (who I would later marry and have a daughter, Zarina, with) had an uncle named Arkady Seifer. He was a very important man in our community. Seifer had been in prison four times and was connected to the Franchese, the Colombo and the Genovese families — among others. And everybody knew exactly how he made his money — the gas tax.

Seifer and I became quite close very quickly and I found myself referring to the old gangster as my uncle. After I gained his confidence and trust, Seifer let me in on his gas scam.

He describes how he came to call neighborhood boss Butch Montevecchi his uncle.

I translated what he said into English for a neighborhood boss, Ernest “Butch” Montevecchi. At the time, everybody knew Butch. He was strikingly handsome with dark hair and green eyes. He ran Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay, and Little Odessa, for the Italians. Later, he’d become so close to me and my family that he served as something of a surrogate father for me, and I started to call him my uncle.

He describes how, during the collapse of the Soviet Union, Parnas used his legally sound US citizenship as a means to ferry stuff into the collapsing Russian empire.

All of the clients were over-the-top excited that I could actually go back to whichever old Soviet republic they had come from. Not only could I import products and perhaps make them rich, but I could also get in touch with friends and relatives they hadn’t heard from in decades.

All of them had gifts for me to give to their loved ones overseas. I limited the haul to two suitcases, not only because I couldn’t carry any more, I didn’t want to arouse too much suspicion. They rapidly filled up with things like jeans, watches and other Western items that would be status symbols over there.


Some of the people ultimately became my partners because we saw that it was obvious that our individual skills and contacts could benefit all of us. The people who had entrusted me to visit their contacts came from a variety of places, and an itinerary for me was quickly put together. First, I’d go to Moscow and St. Petersburg (officially Petrograd, but nobody ever called it that). Then it was on to Ukraine, where I’d stop at Odessa (now Odesa) and Kiev (now Kyiv). Finally, I would go to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. I was fluent in Russian, so I was confident that I’d be understood in all of those places.

Parnas described how this business venture put him in the service of a number of mobsters and oligarchs, including some he helped enter the US. Buy the book!

That story continues seamlessly to Parnas’ gradual insinuation in Trump world, in which the owner of Lique had a role.

Later on that week, I was talking with my friend, Alex Podolnyy, on his boat. It was moored behind his restaurant, Lique. It was nighttime and I was smoking a joint on deck. Before long, I was approached by two excited-looking, well-dressed men who were Alex’s friends. They introduced themselves as Ted and Robert and joined me on the boat. They seemed friendly and they knew Alex, so I didn’t mind sharing a joint with them.

As I’ve noted, SDNY’s affidavit for Parnas’ Instagram inexplicably excluded a picture of Parnas and Ivana Trump at Lique from the scope of their review.

And from there, Parnas got access through Brian Ballard. Over a long passage, he tells the story of how he pitched former head of Ukrainian’s Fiscal Service, Roman Nasirov (who awaits trial on corruption charges), to Brian Ballard and then got Nasirov and another foreigner into the Inauguration.

Later that day, I set up a meeting for Ballard and Nasirov. The Ukrainians were eager. When Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko found out that Nasirov had an opening into Trump’s future administration with Ballard through me, he pressed Nasirov to make it happen. At the time, Ukraine had almost no relationship with the U.S. and even that was in danger of being erased as the Ukrainians were seen as being pro-Hillary. I explained the situation to Ballard. I told him that it wasn’t the president who was in favor of Hillary, just some loud members of his administration. Besides, Ukraine was a sovereign nation and they needed to have some relationship with the U.S. If they hire you, I told Ballard, they could get it done.


The first person in the new power structure I sought out was prominent lobbyist Brian Ballard. Right after the win, I set up a meeting with Ballard — and his right-hand-man, Lukis. Although we talked on the phone, I preferred face-to-face meetings and would always see Ballard when he was in Florida.

Ballard was no dummy, he wanted to talk with me about what I knew and where I had contacts. Ballard wanted what I had, so it didn’t take much to make a deal. I would put Ballard in touch with the right people for 20 percent of any deals he made with them.

Although there was some thrill associated with making such high-level deals, I was really in it for the money. I had just had my big fallout with Hudson Holdings and had filed the lawsuit, so I needed to get paid. I knew just where to go.

Nasirov was a major player in the Ukrainian government and eager to talk with Ballard in order to improve Ukraine’s relationship with Washington. Because Ukraine’s support of Obama and Clinton had greatly offended the new crop of Republicans, he was almost desperate to get on Trump’s good side.

So I arranged to meet Nasirov at one of Igor’s Kyiv nightclubs, Buddha Bar. I flew there on December 1, 2016 to spend a week in Ukraine. When I arrived at Buddha Bar, Igor told me that the first floor was closed for a private party, so I’d have to meet Nasirov upstairs.

These descriptions make for great color. And I don’t doubt Parnas’ claims that everyone else he was dealing with was wowed if not working with the mob.

But the descriptions are notable for two other reasons. They address some — but not all — of details publicly released from his investigation.

But then the descriptions stop.

For example, Nasirov is mentioned just five more times in the book after this long introduction. Parnas explains how, just after Trump encouraged his efforts to dig up dirt with Rudy, Nasirov gave him the introduction to Viktor Shokin.

It was in that kind of weather that I landed in Kyiv to find Shokin. It wouldn’t take long for him to turn up. Everybody who was anybody in Kyiv knew me or at least knew of me. If I put the word out that I wanted to see Shokin, it would get to him.

It didn’t take long, I got a call from Nasirov. Of course he knew Shokin, he told me, they were old friends. He’d be more than happy to take me to see him. Shokin had a place just outside Kyiv.

Then there’s acknowledgment that Nasirov ran against Zelenskyy (and Poroshenko) in 2019. And that’s it. He’s the guy who hooked Parnas — and through him, Rudy — up with Shokin, but Parnas never returns to that relationship. That’s important because, as a letter that Parnas’ attorney failed to properly redact revealed, Nasirov was identified as a subject of the investigation into Parnas.

One person who is never mentioned is Alexander Levin who, like Nasirov, shows up in the warrants targeting Parnas, whose name was exposed in that same Joseph Bondy letter after Rudy phones were seized. As Savage Librarian first noted, a person of the same name and roughly the same vintage was charged in 2021 and will soon stand trial for money laundering in association with a series of safe deposit thefts across Europe; this motion in limine provides a glimpse into his background.

And the mobsters? Most of them are replaced in the story by Rudy Giuliani, as if never the twain shall meet.

Parnas never describes when his association with a bunch of sketchy types ended, if they did. That’s especially notable given Parnas’ description of the men he met at Otisville (the same prison at which Michael Cohen did time).

Once I was introduced into the camp’s general population, I was surprised at how many of the guys I already knew. There were friends of friends, old acquaintances and guys I did business with. There were even some people from the old neighborhood — Jews, Italians and Russians. In fact, they had been watching the news and knew I was coming, so they put together a welcome-to-prison gift package to make my life a little easier. They bought me the things that they had found essential behind bars — toothpaste, slippers, a comfortable sweat suit and other useful items they had bought from the commissary.

Suffice it to say Parnas never makes it clear if — and if so when — he broke from the mobbed up old neighborhood or whether they had a role in his work for Donald Trump’s lawyer.


Which brings us to Parnas’ treatment of his co-defendant Igor Fruman, who is not from Brooklyn, but instead from South Florida, where all this went down.

As Parnas describes it, they were mutual acquaintances through Jewish charities until Igor reached out because of Parnas’ access to Trump.

I knew Igor Fruman through common friends. Born in Belarus, his family emigrated to Detroit when the USSR was shedding even more Jews, Igor was six years older than me and had moved to South Florida, where the Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian communities were tight. Still, he spent most of his time in Ukraine where he made his money.

I knew about Igor from various Jewish charities we were both involved in and mutual friends, but we weren’t really friends at the time. Igor became interested in me because of the pictures I was posting of myself with Trump on social media and because I was hosting events for Russians for Trump. Igor wanted to get deals done in the petroleum industry and thought I could help.

He owned two popular nightclubs in Kyiv, Mafia Rave and the more upscale Buddha Bar. Both places were very popular with well-heeled men from both the West and East. They mingled at Buddha Bar, got to know each other and made deals, often huge deals.

Parnas claims that Igor’s famous recordings of a few meetings with Trump — including a later one where Parnas offered up, in 2018, that Marie Yovanovitch was disloyal to Trump — were a surprise to him as well.

When I first started going to these events, I was all eyes and ears. All I wanted to do was learn. And to make contacts. My brain was recording everything so that I could sift through it all for what was valuable. I remember it all vividly, but I don’t have to — it was all recorded.

Although we weren’t officially allowed to take pictures or video, Igor surreptitiously caught it all on his phone without anyone realizing it. Even me.

All he had to do was keep the phone out of sight. Because of that, all his videos contain long shots of things like the backs of chairs, ceilings and water glasses. It was far more important to him to record what was said and who was there rather than it was to make it look any good. Back in Ukraine, he’d play the videos to important people in his bars. To the people there, Igor was just a nightclub owner. So, when he said that he was spending time with Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, nobody believed him. But with the videos, he could prove that he had access to the very top. It made for good business.


So, I was very excited to head to dinner at the Trump International.

Again, Igor managed to catch it all for posterity despite the usual warnings about using cameras or recording devices.

Playing to the audience, I mention that a lot of European countries are back-stabbing us. I knew he’d love that. The crowd falls silent and seems to be very interested in what I have to say. I discreetly mumble something about the U.S. taking over, then tell Trump that the biggest problem I saw for Ukrainian-American relations is the ambassador.

As Parnas describes it, the tie to Nasirov went through Igor’s mobbed up Ukrainian clubs.

I knew someone who might want to become an investor. It was Ukrainian politician Roman Nasirov, who I knew from Igor’s nightclubs. He was then Chairman of the State Fiscal Service of Ukraine (something like Secretary of the Treasury), and was considered the third-most powerful man in the Ukrainian government.

The tie Yuriy Lutsenko, who just happened to show up in New York after they reached out to Shokin for dirt on the Bidens, went through Igor.

And that’s when a gift dropped right into our laps. At the end of January 2019, about a week or so after we spoke with Shokin, I learned from Igor that one of his friends — Gyunduz Mamedov, the Prosecutor General of Crimea — was in New York on personal business with the current top prosecutor in Ukraine, Yuriy Lutsenko, and Glib Zagoriy, a member of the Ukrainian parliament and a pharmaceutical tycoon.

Igor was also friends with Andrii Artemenko, who in turn set them up with Andrii Derkach and Andrii Telizhenko.

In September, I got a call from Andrii Artemenko, who was a friend of Igor’s. He told me that he had some guys with real, hard evidence that would prove all of our theories once and for all. Naturally, I was intrigued. But once he told me that the guys were Derkach and Telizhenko, I told him that we were cool, I’d pass. Not long after, Giuliani text me and asked: “Who’s this Artemenko?” He had, of course, known Artemenko, but had a habit of forgetting names, especially Eastern European ones.

I told him not to deal with Artemenko, he was peddling Russian disinformation. In fact, I gave him other names of guys who were doing the same thing. Of course, I later learned that he was enthusiastically dealing with Artemenko, as well as Derkach and Telizhenko.

Parnas tells two stories about how they got set up with Dmitry Firtash, one in Paris, seemingly arranged by Firtash because of his legal plight.

He probably first called Manafort, but he was already out of the picture. By the time Firtash needed him, he was already serving time. So Firtash had instead retained American lawyers Lanny Davis and Dan Webb.

On a trip to Paris, Rudy and I had a meeting with a Ukrainian we knew from one of the bars my business partner Igor Fruman owned in Kyiv. Igor considered him a close friend, but he hadn’t seen him in a long time. Unbeknownst to us, he was Firtash’s right-hand man.

He introduced us to Firtash. We wanted to talk to Firtash because we knew that he was connected to Mykola Zlochevsky, owner of Burisma Holdings, Ukraine’s biggest oil and gas company. He told us that he had heard things about Hunter Biden, Joe Biden’s son, bad things. Things we might be interested in. He recommended that we talk to Firtash about it. He wasn’t the first person we talked to, but we believed that he had a great deal of pull with the Ukrainian government. We believed that he could get us what we wanted — a Ukrainian investigation of the Bidens.

He describes the second one to have taken place in Madrid (this may be wrong; it may be the same meeting), where they went after Paris (though they met Kholodnytskyi in Paris first).

After our meeting with Kholodnytskyi, we happened to run into another friend of Igor’s at our hotel in Madrid. Everyone knew him as Little Dimitri because he worked for Firtash and we didn’t want to confuse the two. We spoke about why we were there and how important it was for us to get any compromising information on Joe Biden. He told us that the guy we wanted to talk to was Firtash and that he could introduce us. He didn’t need to explain to us who Firtash was.

Parnas was definitely the one trying to network his way through Trump’s world, but at least as Parnas depicts it, the key Ukrainian relationships — first Nasirov, then Shokin, then Lutsenko, then Firtash, and through Artemenko, Derkach and Telizhenko — all went through Igor. Parnas’ explanation of the foreign donations from Andrey Muraviev also blames Igor for intermixing those funds with other funds.

If SDNY learned that (there’s no hint they did, or if they did, that they believed Parnas), you’d think they would have focused more closely on Fruman than on Parnas.

Instead, the investigation treated Parnas as the brainchild of all the crime.

A continued unpersuasive explanation for his Marie Yovanovitch attacks

Against this backdrop, Parnas’ explanations for taking out Yovanovitch are wildly unpersuasive.

In his congressional testimony, Parnas claimed that he was “smeared” by a plot to get rid of Marie Yovanovitch.

When I was arrested, I was initially accused of being involved in a plot to remove Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine whom Trump had fired in April 2019. I was smeared by this false information, and also untrue claims that I was fleeing the country.

As my case continued, the Department of Justice decided they had no interest in Ukraine, sanitizing their marquee claims about Ambassador Yovanovich from my indictment. Instead, I was prosecuted for federal campaign finance and unrelated fraud charges.

In his book, Parnas would call what were primarily FARA charges “espionage” charges and vastly exaggerate the sentencing exposure either FARA or 18 USC 951 would bring.

By my read, this is a misstatement of what happened (one potentially necessitated by Parnas’ claim that SDNY was part of Bill Barr’s attempt to silence him and Igor or at least neutralize the threat the posed to Trump and Barr personally). By my read, the inclusion and then exclusion of the FARA charges had everything to do with the attempts to include Rudy in those charges and Barr’s tampering in that effort. There are probably a number of reasons why SDNY ultimately couldn’t pursue those charges: the corruption of Rudy’s phones, the provable role Trump had in this process, lasting damage Barr did, and Victoria Toensing’s attorney-client privilege with Dmitry Firtash.

But SDNY’s declination in no way debunks the claim that Parnas was involved in a plot to oust Yovanovitch. In his book he explicitly calls his attacks on Yovanovitch “slander.”

Nobody at the embassy knew what the game was. Yovanovitch was too professional to have said disrespectful things about the President, certainly not that he was going to be impeached. But I had been the source of a constant flow of slander against her. It was a big playground game. We’d go visit important people in Ukraine and tell them how bad Yovanovitch was. That would be followed by a visit by someone from the State Department who would tell the same people that we were lying. I would then double back and talk to the same people again, assuring them that Yovanovitch was anti-Trump and could be dangerous for Ukraine. Then the embassy staff would visit those same people again, telling them that we were nobodies who didn’t know what we were talking about. I had more time, so I usually got in the last word.

Parnas’ attempts to deny that there was a plot are important because, in Parnas’ telling, why he came to oppose Yovanovitch is inconsistent. As he describes telling Anderson Cooper in 2020, as he tried to avenge his arrest by cooperating in impeachment, he was reflecting the views of Republicans.

We discussed the Yovanovitch situation. He asked me if I had a problem with her. I told him I didn’t know her personally, but since the Trump people hated her so virulently, I came to the opinion that she had to go.

That’s, of course, nonsense. When Parnas targeted her in 2018, almost no Republicans would have heard of her.

He attributes the animus he expressed in 2018, which likely led Republicans to start examining Yovanovitch more closely,  to the opinion of “Ukraine’s wealthy and those who planned to be,” people Parnas implicitly describes to be aiming to cozy up to “power brokers in Russia.”

She was unpopular with Ukraine’s wealthy and those who planned to be.

They were well aware that any serious investigations would easily expose them and their alignment, if not outright fealty, to the power brokers in Russia, not their own country (including more than a few elected politicians). With my many connections in various fields, there was a consensus about Yovanovitch — she had to go. And, when they found out I was American, they couldn’t wait to tell me about how bad Yovanovitch was for Ukraine, without giving too many specifics, of course.

She was unpopular with Ukraine’s wealthy and those who planned to be. They were well aware that any serious investigations would easily expose them and their alignment, if not outright fealty, to the power brokers in Russia, not their own country (including more than a few elected politicians). With my many connections in various fields, there was a consensus about Yovanovitch — she had to go. And, when they found out I was American, they couldn’t wait to tell me about how bad Yovanovitch was for Ukraine, without giving too many specifics, of course.

The rest of the book describes a progression: Shokin blamed Yovanovitch for denying him a US visa whence he could plot against the Bidens, which led Rudy to blame Yovanovitch, which led Trump and his failson and John Solomon and everyone else to pile on.

But the actual people behind that original animus are never named, possibly because tying that animus to the mobsters and oligarchs with whom Parnas networked would substantiate a plot, just a different plot, than the one SDNY laid out.

Relatedly, Parnas suggests that Pete Sessions was already working on replacing Yovanovitch when Parnas repeated this story to him and donated that money that, Parnas claims, Igor had mixed in with their other funds. Parnas was just the mule for a letter to Trump.

In short, the campaign against Yovanovitch is presented as always-already in progress, even though there’s no evidence that it started in the US before that Parnas comment in 2018.

A different approach to Dmitry Firtash’s equities

This post is meant to set up one on Barr. We get there via Dmitry Firtash.

Parnas manages to focus more closely on Bill Barr’s role in all of this by expanding, from earlier instances, on how he describes the Firtash relationship.

When he wrote James Comer last year, he probed for a subpoena that would provide a way to breach any privilege claim.

Thereafter, as I became an interpreter between Firtash’s new legal team and Firtash, most of the conversations in which I participated were potentially privileged; however, I believe this information may be made available to the House Oversight Committee through a Congressional subpoena.

He didn’t get that subpoena.

When invited to testify without subpoena, Parnas made no mention of Firtash in his prepared congressional testimony. But in the hearing, Ro Khanna cued Parnas to describe his second-hand understanding that Barr was willing to trade campaign help for lenience from DOJ.

Ro Khanna: Did Bill Barr know that you were involved in getting this dirt?

Parnas: Absolutely. Bill, Bill Barr was informed of our investigation from the day he took office.

Khanna: Did you ever have a conversation with Bill Barr being lenient towards Dmitry, in Bill Barr’s role as Attorney General?

Parnas: I personally did not but I was witness to Victoria Toensing and Joe DiGenova, having a conversation with Bill Barr about Dmitry Firtash.

Khanna: What did they say to Bill Barr?

Parnas: Basically, they were telling him that the charges were false, and that he needs to drop the charges and, basically, end the case.

Khanna: And why did they tell him to drop the charges on this Russian [sic] oligarch?

Parnas: Because Dmitry Firtash was going to help us getting dirt on the Bidens, or whatever else the Trump campaign needed.

Khanna: So my understanding is you have the Trump campaign telling you to talk to a Russian [sic] oligarch to get dirt, on the President of the United States for political reasons, and then someone from the Trump campaign is talking to the Attorney General to drop the charges because this foreign national is helping get dirt on a political candidate?

Parnas: Absolutely.

Khanna: Did Bill Barr indicate any willingness to drop the charges?

Parnas: After the meeting that Victoria Toensing and Joe DiGenova had with DOJ, they came back and informed me that “we’re going to Vienna” because, to tell Dmitry Firtash everything is going to be okay.

While Parnas’ focus on Firtash at the hearing had the appearance of accident, Firtash is a central focus of Parnas’ book. The first pages of Parnas’ book describe meeting — alone, apparently — with Firtash, in what would be the penultimate visit to finalize a quid pro quo.

As my car approached its destination, I watched as a black — no doubt armored — Mercedes SUV with opaque black windows blocked the one-way street behind me. Closer to the massive iron gates in front of the property, another big black SUV blocked the road ahead.

It didn’t unsettle me at all, I’d been through the same routine on the previous trips I had made to this house and others like it. I also knew that the guys protecting Dmytro Firtash seriously outgunned anyone who might want to hurt him. And he was on our side.

As we turned down the only open lane toward the main building, we drove past a legion of security guards in black with dark sunglasses and AK-47s. Nothing out of the ordinary.

The chapter then maps out how, at a hush hush meeting at John Dowd’s in Chatham, MA, as news of the Perfect Phone Call started to break, Trump’s team promised to protect Parnas.

A black SUV with security took me to Chatham, Massachusetts, on the “elbow” of Cape Cod. Firtash paid for all of it. There was a conference call set up by Trump’s legal team at Dowd’s beach house. Dowd told me that the reason we met on Cape Cod was to keep the media away from me.


In Dowd’s home office, he set up a conference call with Giuliani, Jay Sekulow (another of Trump’s attorneys), Toensing and diGenova. There might have been other lawyers, but I didn’t hear any. Dowd laid out the plan, and it was simple: stonewall. He instructed us all not to say anything to Congress and not to worry about subpoenas because we’d only get letters requesting our appearance, which we could ignore. Trump, he said, would tell them to go fuck themselves and everybody else was to follow suit. [my emphasis]

So, even as Congress was investigating, Parnas continued to pursue the quid pro quo with Firtash. Parnas went from this meeting back to DC to tie up loose ends for the big Fox News reveal.

On October 6 (two days before the beginning of Yom Kippur), I flew to Washington to discuss the trip to Vienna with Giuliani and Toensing.

Giuliani told me that he wanted to meet Shokin and that it might also be a great idea to bring Fox News personality and ardent Trump supporter Sean Hannity to interview him.

That was a key part of the plan. Team Trump had not been very successful at getting our message into what Trump called “fake news” and the “lame stream media,” so we depended on Fox News and like-minded outlets for any publicity. Not only would millions of Americans see the interview, but it being on Fox News would lend us an air of credibility among many people.

Just before we left for Vienna, I received a phone call from Firtash warning me that Shokin had become anxious about the interview, and was threatening to back out.

I called Shokin. He answered, but he was tense, even panicky. He told me that he was sure “they” were going to kill him. He was absolutely convinced that he would be poisoned, just like Viktor Yushchenko, who had angered Putin while running for the Ukrainian presidency. There was no way, he said, that he would get on a plane no matter what.

Firtash told me not to worry. He’d see to it personally that Shokin was flown to Vienna safely and would be present for a live interview with Fox’s Hannity.

Part of the deal was that we’d also get Shokin’s sealed testimony to the Viennese court and the hard drive from the laptop Hunter Biden used when he was working in Ukraine. It was supposed to have come from Alexander Gorbunenko, who was CFO of Burisma when Hunter worked there. If there was any evidence of him doing anything illegal in Ukraine, we were sure we’d find it there.

This is the Lev Parnas post, not the Bill Barr post. We can discuss the potential significance of this — the inconsistency between John Paul Mac Isaac’s timeline and the FBI’s, Will Levi writing Barr that a laptop was on its way to him immediately after IRS got a warrant for the laptop ascribed to Hunter, the reported closure of the Mykola Zlochevsky investigation and the use of it to elicit Alexander Smirnov’s false bribery allegation, the limitations imposed on SDNY’s ongoing investigation into Rudy’s influence campaign, the Brady side channel, including Brady’s inquiries into investigations in Chicago, where the Firtash investigation was — in the Bill Barr post.

I’ve got cautions about Parnas’ credibility, and SDNY repeatedly said he was lying about all this (and Parnas sustains some of what SDNY surely treated as lies — for example about Yovanovitch — in this book). But Barr’s a liar too, he affirmatively prevented SDNY from learning some of this, and his own actions are consistent with what Parnas claims.

It’s about motive.

Parnas’ motive has always been transparent. For all his claims to be cured of membership in the Trump cult, that would never have happened if Rudy and Trump and John Dowd hadn’t reneged on their promise to protect him.

I was led into a room where Dowd was sitting behind a table and Downing was standing beside him. Immediately, I started asking questions. I wanted to know why I was still behind bars while Igor was free. I wanted to know what Trump was going to do for me.

Suddenly, Dowd slammed his fist down on the table and shouted at me: “Who do you think you fucking are? Trump is President and he will do whatever he damn well wants to do!”

But in a book that engages in a lot of casual mob-talk, I want to know about the evolving treatment of Firtash.

Firtash had a real attorney-client relationship with Victoria Toensing, however corrupt (Lanny Davis is no better). And for years, Parnas respected that (in part, presumably, because it kept SDNY away from this material, though the statute of limitations on these activities have not quite expired).

I’m all in favor of hearing this story. But what does Firtash feel about it?


Fridays with Nicole Sandler

Welcome to the Good Friday – Happy Birthday Marcy edition of Fridays with Nicole Sandler.

This weekend will be a bit quiet due to holiday observations and celebrations.

SDNY Rules: A Tale of Three Fraudsters

I was thinking, as I was watching last week’s Hunter Biden impeachment hearing that there ought to be a pause where someone could explain how Southern District of New York works (or doesn’t) with cooperators.

After all, two of three witnesses in the hearing, Jason Galanis and Lev Parnas, had been convicted of fraud by SDNY.

Galanis claimed (after 2:01 and his opening statement) that he tried to implicate Hunter in his crimes, only to have those inquiries be “quashed” on order of SDNY.

Parnas claimed, both in his opening statement and then in an exchange with Ro Khanna (after 2:28), that he was arrested to shut him up.

Parnas specifically said that he and his attorney tried to reach out to Scott Brady.

Parnas did not mention SDNY, though both pretrial and during sentencing, SDNY described that Parnas attempted to proffer testimony but SDNY was unimpressed with Parnas’ candor.

As SDNY wrote in one of those filings, “public spectacles, leaks, and social media postings could undermine his credibility and diminish his value as a potential cooperating witness.” They also disputed whether Parnas was telling the full truth.

I have questions myself, as Parnas (in his hearing statedment) claimed he had been “smeared” by allegations that he tried to get Marie Yovanovitch fired.

I was initially accused of being involved in a plot to remove Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine whom Trump had fired in April 2019. I was smeared by this false information.

It wasn’t false! Here’s how Parnas, in his book, describes telling Trump that Yovanovitch had to go in 2018.

She was unpopular with Ukraine’s wealthy and those who planned to be. They were well aware that any serious investigations would easily expose them and their alignment, if not outright fealty, to the power brokers in Russia, not their own country (including more than a few elected politicians). With my many connections in various fields, there was a consensus about Yovanovitch — she had to go.


In fact, more of the Ukrainians I knew were complaining about her than they were about Putin or the war. When I pressed them on what really made Yovanovitch a problem, they told me that she had been saying terrible things about Trump.

So, at the table, I started to tell him about her. Where we start is … we gotta get rid of the ambassador, I tell him.

At times, in his book, Parnas is quite oblique about whom he was dealing with in Ukraine who might have said such things (though elsewhere the memoir is quite clear he was working with mobsters and oligarchs). And given that Parnas alleged in the hearing that Pete Sessions, whose letter calling for Yovanovitch’s ouster Parnas personally delivered to Trump, was involved in his actions, he was tacitly admitting that Yovanovitch’s firing was a part of it. Effectively Parnas appears to be packaging this as all derivative of Trump’s efforts, starting later in 2018, to get dirt on Hunter Biden. And the reason Parnas was ultimately not charged with FARA for those efforts likely has as much to do with Rudy Giuliani’s corrupted phones and Victoria Toensing’s JD as anything else.

SDNY has rules about what it demands from cooperators. That requires coming clean on all criminal exposure.

And that’s important background to efforts to hold Trump accountable.

SDNY laid some of this out in its Michael Cohen sentencing memo, years ago.

With respect to Cohen’s provision of information to this Office, in its two meetings with
him, this Office assessed Cohen to be forthright and credible, and the information he provided was
largely consistent with other evidence gathered. Had Cohen actually cooperated, it could have
been fruitful: He did provide what could have been useful information about matters relating to
ongoing investigations being carried out by this Office. But as Cohen partially acknowledges, it
was his decision not to pursue full cooperation, and his professed willingness to continue to provide information at some later unspecified time is of limited value to this Office, both because he is under no obligation to do so, and because the Office’s inability to fully vet his criminal history and reliability impact his utility as a witness.

Indeed, his proffer sessions with the SCO aside, Cohen only met with the Office about the
participation of others in the campaign finance crimes to which Cohen had already pleaded guilty.
Cohen specifically declined to be debriefed on other uncharged criminal conduct, if any, in his
past.4 Cohen further declined to meet with the Office about other areas of investigative interest.
As the Court is undoubtedly aware, in order to successfully cooperate with this Office, witnesses
must undergo full debriefings that encompass their entire criminal history, as well as any and all
information they possess about crimes committed by both themselves and others. This process
permits the Office to fully assess the candor, culpability, and complications attendant to any
potential cooperator, and results in cooperating witnesses who, having accepted full responsibility
for any and all misconduct, are credible to law enforcement and, hopefully, to judges and juries.
Cohen affirmatively chose not to pursue this process. Cohen’s efforts thus fell well short of
cooperation, as that term is properly used in this District.5

For this reason, Cohen is not being offered a cooperation agreement or a 5K1.1 letter. Within the confines of the SCO investigation itself, the Office does not dispute that Cohen’s
assistance to the SCO was significant. But because Cohen elected not to pursue more fulsome
cooperation with this Office, including on other subjects and on his own history, the Office cannot
assess the overall level of Cohen’s cooperation to be significant. Therefore, the Office submits
that, in fashioning a sentence on its case, the Court afford Cohen credit for his efforts with the
SCO, but credit that accounts for only a modest variance from the Guidelines range and does not
approach the credit typically given to actual cooperating witnesses in this District.

4 At the time that Cohen met twice with this Office, through his attorneys, he had expressed that he was considering – but not committing to – full cooperation. Cohen subsequently determined not to fully cooperate.

5 Cohen’s provision of information to the Office of the New York Attorney General (“NY AG”) warrants little to no consideration as a mitigating factor. This Office’s understanding is that the information Cohen provided was useful only to the extent that he corroborated information already known to the NYAG. More importantly, Cohen provided information to the NY AG not as a cooperating witness who was exposing himself to potential criminal or civil liability but instead as a witness who could have been compelled to provide that testimony. Fulfilling that basic legal responsibility voluntarily does not warrant a reduced sentence – particularly when one waits until he is charged with federal crimes before doing so.

Similarly, this Office’s understanding is that the New York State Department of Taxation and Financial Services (“NYSDTF”) subpoenaed Cohen for information about the payment of his own state taxes, and any claimed “cooperation” with NYSDTF appears to consist solely of providing that entity information that they would otherwise have obtained via subpoena.

Cohen’s failed SDNY cooperation may become an issue in today’s NYDA hearing on Trump’s fraud to cover up the Stormy Daniels hush payments. Judge Juan Merchan will review the dispute regarding NYDA’s efforts to get the Cohen file from SDNY, which Christopher Conroy laid out in this declaration. The short version is that NYDA provided Cohen’s SDNY related materials, but not the tax records otherwise collected from SDNY or Mueller-related 302s that SDNY did not yet have.

But in both cases, with Cohen and Parnas, any cooperation came amid Bill Barr’s efforts to shelter Trump from implication in their crimes. And while I do think Parnas is engaged in some repackaging of his past actions, I also think there’s increasing evidence that Barr was worried about his own implication in Parnas’ crimes.

As we may see in Alvin Bragg’s case, this adds difficulty to using a witness like Cohen, whose candor might be questioned (but who, like Parnas, has receipts). Because Barr had a habit of making such things worse.

Lev Parnas Alleges Bill Barr Offered Dmitry Firtash Legal Relief if He “Played Ball”

Watching the latest James Comer hearing — in which two convicted fraudsters and someone who claims everything the FBI said he told them is false — is like sticking hot needles in my eyes.

To be fair, Tony Bobulinski has successfully filibustered Democratic questions. Though when Alexandra Ocasio Cortez asked him if he witnessed Joe Biden committing a crime, Bobulinski said that by meeting with Bobulinski, Biden was committing a crime.

Hopefully, Democrats will force Bobulinski to retract all the hearsay he has been peddling.

The only new claims in the hearing came from Lev Parnas.

He described some of what happened between Victoria Toensing and Bill Barr in 2019.

Ro Khanna: Did Bill Barr know that you were involved in getting this dirt?

Parnas: Absolutely. Bill, Bill Barr was informed of our investigation from the day he took office.

Khanna: Did you ever have a conversation with Bill Barr being lenient towards Dmitry, in Bill Barr’s role as Attorney General?

Parnas: I personally did not but I was witness to Victoria Toensing and Joe DiGenova, having a conversation with Bill Barr about Dmitry Firtash.

Khanna: What did they say to Bill Barr?

Parnas: Basically, they were telling him that the charges were false, and that he needs to drop the charges and, basically, end the case.

Khanna: And why did they tell him to drop the charges on this Russian [sic] oligarch?

Parnas: Because Dmitry Firtash was going to help us getting dirt on the Bidens, or whatever else the Trump campaign needed.

Khanna: So my understanding is you have the Trump campaign telling you to talk to a Russian [sic] oligarch to get dirt, on the President of the United States for political reasons, and then someone from the Trump campaign is talking to the Attorney General to drop the charges because this foreign national is helping get dirt on a political candidate?

Parnas: Absolutely.

He claimed that after Toensing had met with Barr, Rudy told him that Firtash would be okay if he played ball.

Parnas also claimed that his attorney reached out to Scott Brady in 2020, but got no response.

Remember that Brady looked into investigations into all the oligarchs from whom Rudy had been soliciting dirt in 2020, including Firtash, as well as Igor Kolomoisky. A reported investigation into Mykola Zlochevsky had been shut down by then — around the same time as Barr’s Chief of Staff sent him a text, the day after FBI obtained a warrant for Hunter Biden’s laptop, telling him a laptop was on the way.

Parnas repeated his past claims that Barr had him, and only him, arrested to shut him up. He also said that bank documents John Solomon shared with him had come from the FBI.

Update: Fixed honorary Irish spelling of AOC’s name.

How One New Hampshire Voter and One Politico Journalist Refused to Hold “a Pig … a Womanizer … [an] Arrogant Asshole” Accountable

Politico has an interesting profile of a two-time Obama voter, who will today become a three-time Trump voter, New Hampshire voter Ted Johnson.

It demonstrates that Johnson is driven by the very same false beliefs that Scott Perry is, which I laid out here.

Johnson admits that Trump is a pig. He even admits some concern about Trump’s stolen documents — before he parrots the false claims he learned on Fox News about that investigation.

And the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case in Florida? It’s the one that gives Johnson a modicum of pause. “You don’t f— around with classified material. Whoever advised him he could have that — he should have gave that s— up,” he said. “But he was being the stubborn, arrogant person that he is.” And he added, “I didn’t like the way the FBI did it. The raid was ridiculous. And that just emboldened me.”

But nevertheless Johnson will vote for the pig … womanizer … arrogant asshole today because he believes that Trump will bring accountability.

“And trust me, the guy’s a pig, he’s a womanizer — arrogant a—–e,” Johnson said of Trump. “But I need somebody that’s going to go in and lead, and I need somebody that’s going to take care of the average guy.”

“But is taking care of the average guy and breaking the system the same thing?” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “Because they’re all in it for themselves.”

“And if you break the system, what does that look like?”

“Accountability,” he said.

Go read it. It’s precisely the dynamic that I’m preparing to write about: how Trump trained people like Scott Perry and Ted Johnson to hate rule of law while calling that disdain for rule of law “accountability.”

But while you’re reading it, watch journalist Michael Kruse’s own blindspot. For much of the article, Kruse lets Johnson babble on, voicing his false beliefs about Trump’s legal woes.

Kruse largely lets Johnson spout those false beliefs unchallenged. But he pushes back when Johnson raises Hunter Biden.

Sort of.

Johnson started talking about “Russia-gate” and “Biden’s scandals” and Hunter Biden. What, I wondered, did Hunter Biden have to do with Nikki Haley? “She’s not going to hold anybody accountable for what they’ve done,” Johnson told me. “People need to be held accountable. That’s why you’ve got to break the system to fix the system,” he said. “Because it’s a zero-sum game right now. And to be honest with you, the Democrats are genius. They did anything they could do to win and gain power, even if they lie, cheat, steal. … What they’re doing is they’re destroying the country. Who could bring it back?” He answered his own question: “Trump’s the only one.” [my emphasis]

Rather than contest Johnson’s premise that Joe Biden has scandals, Kruse instead challenges Johnson as to what Hunter has to do with Nikki Haley.

Then later in the story, Kruse himself raises Hunter Biden as the counterpart of accountability to Trump.

“Accountability is accountability. But they’re throwing so much stuff at this guy, and it’s almost like I’m rooting for him,” he told me. “This is a whole system of government going after one man who, probably, I bet, right now, 85 million people want to be president.”

“But accountability is accountability,” I said.

“Accountability is accountability,” he said.

“Whether it’s Hunter Biden or Donald Trump,” I said.

“But do I trust the system?” he said. “I don’t.”

Kruse himself, who has actually been pretty sympathetic to Joe Biden in the past, likens the President’s son’s alleged crimes to Trump’s coup attempt.

Now, perhaps Kruse allowed Johnson to make all these false claims uncontested simply to let him talk. It’s a useful interview. I shouldn’t gripe.

But adopting Hunter Biden as the counterpart of accountability for Trump is itself a false claim. It’s why I spend so much time calling out shoddy dick pic sniffing stenography.

The record shows that even if everything Republicans allege about Hunter Biden were true (and at this point, DOJ has let statutes of limitation on FARA crimes expire without charges, so it seems that in going-on-six-years of looking, DOJ never substantiated FARA crimes), his actions still wouldn’t come close to those of Paul Manafort, whom Trump pardoned with nary a whisper.

Perhaps a better response to Johnson’s complaints about Hunter Biden would be a question about Trump’s decision to pardon Manafort for doing far worse? How is that accountability? Manafort is the quintessential sleazy insider and he gets a pass.

Plus, the record shows that Trump’s crimes are not a mirror of Hunter’s; rather, Trump’s crimes cannot be dissociated from the charges against Hunter.

The record shows that Trump started pushing Rudy Giuliani and Lev Parnas to gin up an investigation into Hunter Biden no later than December 2018, at such time as Joseph Ziegler was struggling to come up with some excuse to turn non-payment of taxes into a criminal case.

The record according to Johnathan Buma shows that before DOJ opened a grand jury investigation into Hunter Biden, FBI agents on the investigation enthusiastically accepted dirt on Hunter Biden from two Ukrainians that Buma would acknowledge were part of an influence operation.

The record shows that four days after Joe Biden announced he was running for President, DOJ decided the grand jury investigation into Hunter Biden would be in Delaware, where Joe might one day become a target, rather than Washington DC or Los Angeles, where any tax crimes would have happened. Ziegler first claimed, then backed off a claim, that Bill Barr made this decision personally.

The record shows that the first IRS supervisor on this case documented what he viewed to be problems with the predication of it and ongoing political influence into it.

The record shows that Donald Trump extorted Volodymyr Zelenskyy in an attempt to get an investigation into Hunter  Biden and his father. In that same conversation, he asked Zelenskyy to work with both his personal attorney and with Bill Barr to gin up such an investigation.

The record according to Chuck Grassley shows that even while Trump was claiming to care about Burisma corruption, his DOJ shut down an investigation into Mykola Zlochevsky, one that had been opened while Joe Biden was Vice President and Hunter was on the board of Burisma. Grassley says DOJ shut that investigation down in December 2019.

The record shows that the day after DOJ obtained a warrant to access a laptop obtained from John Paul Mac Isaac, Barr’s chief of staff texted him to say, “laptop on way to you.”

The record shows that days later, Bill Barr set up a dedicated channel by which Rudy Giuliani could share dirt he had obtained, including from a known Russian spy and almost certainly from Burisma, such that it could be laundered into the investigation into Hunter Biden.

The record shows that that process resulted in DOJ obtaining an informant report describing a conversation with Zlochevsky. Remarkably, the FBI neglected to write down what date that conversation happened even though that’s how they validated that it did occur, but it almost certainly dates to the period when DOJ was shutting down an investigation into Zlochevsky. The informant report recorded a claim of bribery of Joe Biden that conflicted with claims Zlochevsky had made just months earlier, when DOJ was (per Chuck Grassley) still investigating him.

The record shows that FBI made Steve Bannon associate Peter Schweizer an informant so he could pitch Hunter Biden dirt leading up to the 2020 election.

The record shows that Trump bitched Bill Barr out about the Hunter Biden investigation shortly after the October 14, 2020 NYPost story on the hard drive from Hunter Biden. Days later, Richard Donoghue ordered the Hunter Biden investigators to accept a briefing about that bribery allegation.

The record shows that, shortly before David Weiss used the FD-1023 obtained during the course of Scott Brady’s effort to launder dirt into the Hunter Biden investigation to justify reneging on the plea deal he had agreed to, Bill Barr described being personally involved in the handling of it.

The record shows that, the day after Trump hosted Tony Bobulinski at a Presidential debate, Bobulinski told the FBI things that conflict with his own communications.

The record according to Cassidy Hutchinson shows that shortly after that Bobulinski interview with the FBI, he had a secret meeting with Mark Meadows at which Trump’s Chief of Staff handed Bobulinski something that might be an envelope.

The record shows that, in the same call where Trump threatened to replace Jeffrey Rosen if he didn’t start endorsing Trump’s claims of voter fraud, he also criticized the handling of the Hunter Biden case.

The record shows that Trump repeatedly, publicly, demanded criminal charges against Hunter Biden, including in the January 6 speech that set off an insurrection.

The record shows that when Trump first learned he’d be indicted, he raised pressure on the Hunter Biden investigation.

The record shows that on the day Hunter’s plea deal was released, Trump complained three times, twice suggesting Joe Biden was implicated in this plea deal.

“Wow! The corrupt Biden DOJ just cleared up hundreds of years of criminal liability by giving Hunter Biden a mere ‘traffic ticket.’ Our system is BROKEN!



The record shows that, among the other complaints and false claims Trump made about Hunter’s prosecution, one targeted David Weiss and demanded a death sentence.

Weiss is a COWARD, a smaller version of Bill Barr, who never had the courage to do what everyone knows should have been done. He gave out a traffic ticket instead of a death sentence. . . .

The record shows that when Trump attacks people on social media, they get threats, often so bad as to uproot their entire lives.

The record also shows that former President Trump’s words have real-world consequences. Many of those on the receiving end of his attacks pertaining to the 2020 election have been subjected to a torrent of threats and intimidation from his supporters. A day after Mr. Trump’s “IF YOU GO AFTER ME, I’M COMING AFTER YOU!” post, someone called the district court and said: “Hey you stupid slave n[****]r[.] * * * If Trump doesn’t get elected in 2024, we are coming to kill you, so tread lightly b[***]h. * * * You will be targeted personally, publicly, your family, all of it.” Special Counsel Br. 5; see United States v. Shry, No. 4:23-cr-413, ECF 1 at 3 (Criminal Complaint) (S.D. Tex. Aug. 11, 2023). The Special Counsel also has advised that he has received threats, and that a prosecutor in the Special Counsel’s office whom Mr. Trump has singled out for criticism has been “subject to intimidating communications.” Special Counsel Mot. 12.

The record shows that investigators in the Hunter Biden case were, just like prosecutors on Trump’s own cases, threatened in response to manufactured political outrage. That includes David Weiss himself. Here’s how former AUSA Lesley Wolf described those threats.

My desire to serve my community and my country, such a great source of pride, has recently come at significant cost. As a private person, the once routine and mundane details of my life have become the subject of public interest in an invasive and disturbing manner. Far worse, I’ve been threatened and harassed, causing me to fear for my own and my family’s safety.

I mentioned earlier that I recently left the U.S. Attorney’s Office. My decision to do so long predated and was unconnected to the baseless allegations made against me. In fact, I agreed to stay with the office months longer than planned because of my belief that my family and I were safer while I remained an AUSA.

I have no doubt that after today the threats of harassment and my own fear stemming from them will heighten. This not only scares me, but as someone who loves this country, it also breaks my heart.

We are living in a day and age where politics and winning seem to be paramount, and the truth has become collateral damage.

In short, the record shows that Trump was always a part of the Hunter Biden investigation.

I think the record is pretty clear that Hunter Biden owned a gun for 11 days during the worst days of his addiction. The record is pretty clear that as he tried to rebuild his life, it took several years to straighten out his taxes — but less time than it took Roger Stone to straighten out his taxes, even while the rat-fucker was using a shell company to shield his funds from the IRS.

But the story of Hunter Biden’s alleged crimes — the things that Michael Kruse seems to think mirror Trump’s 91 felony charges — is a story that cannot be told (or should not, were journalism engaged in a responsible pursuit), without also telling the story of Trump’s extortion, Rudy’s consorting with Russian spies, Bill Barr’s hijacking of DOJ for partisan purpose, Bobulinski’s seemingly inconsistent story and whatever role the secret meeting with Meadows had in that story, and Trump eliciting dangerous threats against every participant in the legal system who does not bow to his will, including on this case.

I get that journalists believe that the story of Hunter Biden is a story of DOJ holding Biden’s family member accountable for what they gleefully report are real crimes.

But it is, no less than that, a story of Trump crimes, including, possibly, under two statutes that prohibit this kind of pressure explicitly, 26 USC 7217 and 26 USC 7212. The story of Hunter Biden’s prosecution is the story of Trump’s successful going-on-six-year effort to hijack rule of law to target Joe Biden, an effort that builds on years of similar conduct targeting Hillary Clinton.

I’m grateful that Kruse has depicted Johnson’s nonsensical beliefs in all their absurdity. It’s an absolutely critical step in underestanding how Trump taught Republicans to hate rule of law.

But another step is in unpacking how journalists have come to reflexively equate Hunter Biden with Donald Trump, how journalists have come to simply ignore the five years of corruption that Trump and his lawyers engaged in to get us here, how journalists are not remotely curious about details in the public record about this case.

The reflexive equation of Hunter Biden with the President who targeted him for over five years is an equation every bit as manufactured by Donald Trump as Ted Johnson’s pathetic belief that Trump brings accountability rather than the opposite.

In Rudy Giuliani Affidavit, SDNY Hung Up the Perfect Phone Call

Consider this: The April 21, 2021 warrant affidavit showing probable cause for the search of Rudy Giuliani’s home, office, and devices did not mention the Perfect Phone Call between Donald Trump and Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

It could have done so. Earlier warrant affidavits targeting Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, starting with a bunch obtained on October 21, 2019, included it.

On July 25, 2019, President Trump spoke to Ukrainian President [Zelenskyy]. According to a memorandum of the call, which the White House released publicly, President Trump noted that “[t]he former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news.” He also praised a “very good prosecutor,” which appears to be a reference to [Lutsenko,] who was still in place at that time following [Zelenskyy’s] election but subsequently removed from office, or possibly [Shokin,] the former prosecutor.

While SDNY did not release the affidavit for a December 10, 2019 warrant focused exclusively on the Foreign Agent charges, this same reference did appear in an affidavit to obtain the contents of Lev Parnas’ Instagram account the same day.

In context of the potential FARA charges tied exclusively to the firing of Marie Yovanovitch, the paragraph showed that Trump had been persuaded by Rudy Giuliani’s lobbying not just that Yovanovitch “was bad news,” but that the prosecutors behind the effort to oust her, Yuriy Lutsenko and/or Viktor Shokin, were “very good.”

Moreover, the paragraph is particularly relevant evidence in the affidavit targeting Rudy. Far more specifically than the (much earlier) affidavits targeting Lev Parnas, the Rudy affidavit describes that Rudy lobbied Trump to fire Yovanovitch at least three times (the affidavit clearly identifies two instances: once on February 16, 2019, and again on March 22) and lobbied Mike Pompeo at least twice (once on February 8 and again when the White House forwarded his packet of disinformation in March) before he and Parnas turned to a press campaign involving John Solomon to get her ousted.

Yet the only public affidavit targeting Rudy, unlike several targeting Lev Parnas, excluded the paragraph showing the extent of Rudy’s influence.

There may be a perfectly banal explanation, such as an attempt, relatively early in Merrick Garland’s tenure, to minimize the extent to which this was about Trump personally. Or, the Perfect Phone Call might embody some of the uncertainty, noted explicitly in the affidavit, about whether Rudy was targeting Yovanovitch to get contracts with Lutsenko, or whether he was doing it only to get disinformation, to benefit Trump, on Hunter Biden. Given the high likelihood that data seized in this search was also used in other, undisclosed investigations into Rudy — DOJ may not yet have had a January 6 warrant targeting Rudy, but in June 2021, DOJ took overt steps in the investigation into an anti-Hunter Biden film that Rudy plotted — the silence about the Perfect Phone Call may simply reflect the boundary line between investigative prongs. That is, maybe the Perfect Phone Call appears in another affidavit.

The anti-Hunter film was, reportedly, an investigation into possible foreign support. As this table, which compares the scope of investigation in three warrants for substantially the same Foreign Agent investigation, shows, the funding of Rudy’s shenanigans shifted focus over the course of the investigation.

The warrants include:

  • October 21, 2019, 19 MJ 9832, obtained days after Parnas’ arrest, as SDNY obtained warrants to expand the scope of the investigation to incorporate its expanding Foreign Agent focus
  • December 10, 2019, 19 MJ 11500, obtained days after Rudy met with Andrii Derkach, which would have been a natural follow-on investigation to the Parnas investigation, but which Barr moved to EDNY to protect Rudy’s ability to solicit dirt from Russian agents to help Trump’s 2020 campaign
  • April 21, 2021, 21 MJ 4335, obtained on Lisa Monaco’s first day as Deputy Attorney General, when SDNY finally obtained approval for warrants targeting Rudy’s home and devices

In October 2019, DOJ wasn’t looking closely at how the Ukraine caper was funded. In December 2019, it made up two bullets of the warrants, permitting the seizure of:

  • Evidence of any funds sent into any account controlled by or associated with [redacted] or Giuliani, or any instructions to send such funds. (c)
  • Evidence of money, actions, or information requested by, or offered or provided to Parnas, Fruman, Giuliani, or [Toensing] by any Ukrainian national in connection with efforts to remove [Yovanovitch], including but not limited to any Ukrainian investigation of [Burisma Holdings] Ltd., [Hunter Biden], or potential interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (e)

That December 2019 focus on funding may have reflected details about Lev Parnas that SDNY had only just discovered. In an unsuccessful bid to have Parnas detained pretrial submitted the day after DOJ obtained that December 10 warrant targeting Lev Parnas, SDNY laid out what it had learned about the funding of the Ukraine caper.

Parnas poses a significant risk of flight for several reasons, the chief among which are his considerable ties abroad and access to seemingly limitless sources of foreign funding. Parnas has extensive and significant international ties, particularly in Ukraine, the country of his birth. Over the past two years, Parnas traveled repeatedly to Ukraine, and met with numerous Ukrainian government officials, including officials at the very highest level of government. More broadly, Parnas has traveled abroad more than twenty times over the past four years, including on a nearly monthly basis in 2019. Parnas took circuitous travel routes that obscured his final destination, such as by departing the U.S. for one country, but returning from a different country on a different airline. Parnas traveled internationally by private jet as recently as this year; bank account records from Account-1 show that Parnas spent more than $70,000 on private air travel in September 2019 alone.


In addition, Parnas’s close ties abroad include connections to Russian and Ukrainian nationals of nearly limitless means, including [Andrey Muraviev] and a Ukrainian oligarch [Dmitry Firtash] living in Vienna who is currently fighting extradition to this country. Parnas has proven adept at gaining access to foreign funding: in the last three years, Parnas received in excess of $1.5 million from Ukrainian and Russian sources. In sum, given Parnas’s significant, high-level connections to powerful and wealthy Ukrainians and at least one Russian national, he could quickly and easily flee the United States for Ukraine or another foreign country, and recoup the security posted to his bond. It is difficult to overstate the extreme flight risk that Parnas poses.


  • Between August and October 2019, Parnas received $200,000—not $50,000, as he told Pretrial Services—from the Law Firm into Account-1, which was held in Svetlana Parnas’s name, in what appears to be an attempt to ensure that any assets were held in Svetlana’s, rather than Lev’s, name.5 A portion of this money existed in Account-1 at the time that Parnas submitted his financial affidavit, and, to the Government’s knowledge, does so today, underscoring that Parnas continues to mislead the Government and the Court about his financial condition.
  • Parnas failed to disclose, in describing his income to the Government and Pretrial Services, the fact that in September 2019, he received $1 million from a bank account in Russia into Account-1. While the majority of that money appears to have been used on personal expenses and to purchase a home, as discussed below, some portion of that money existed in Account-1 at the time Parnas submitted his financial affidavit.
  • At the time of his arrest, Parnas had at least $200,000 in an escrow account, in connection with his intended purchase of a property located in Boca Raton, Florida, which was listed for sale at approximately $4.5 million. The escrow account was funded with $200,000 from Account-1 in September 2019. Parnas did not disclose this asset (either the property or the funds in the escrow account) to either Pretrial Services or the Government. It is unclear whether Parnas proceeded with this real estate purchase or received the funds back from the escrow account.

In an appearance on Michael Cohen’s podcast last month, Parnas addressed how various Ukrainian, Russian, and American oligarchs were funding his and Rudy’s efforts; he says it’ll also appear in his forthcoming book.

The warrant targeting Rudy 17 months later doesn’t reveal what SDNY had learned about the funding in the interim, nor does it sustain the focus on how this was all funded. It states with some certainty that in spite of two rounds of discussions of retainer agreements with Lutsenko and others, Rudy never got any money from them.

Based on my involvement in this investigation and my review of text messages, it appears that Giuliani was referring to the execution of [redaction] retainer agreement and the wiring of funds. However, based on my review of bank records, it does not appear that [redacted] wired funds to Giuliani at that time, or any subsequent time.

As NYT emphasized in their report on these warrants, the later warrant does describe that Rudy needed the money.

6 Based on my review of a financial analysis prepared based on bank records and public reports, it appears that around this time, Giuliani had a financial interest in receiving a retainer agreement from [redacted] Specifically, in May 2018, Giuliani left his former law firm and its substantial compensation package. Based on my review of a financial analysis of bank records that have been collected to date (which may not include all of Giuliani’s checking and credit card accounts), on or around January 25, 2018, Giuliani had approximately $1.2 million cash on hand, and approximately $40,000 in credit card debt. By contrast, on or around January 25, 2019, right before he met with [redacted] Giuliani had approximately $400,000 cash on hand in those same accounts and approximately $110,000 in credit card debt. By on or around February 16, 2019, his account balances had dropped to approximately $288,000 and his credit card debt remained over $110,000.

Perhaps because of what SDNY claimed were Parnas’ efforts to obscure his travel, the December 2019 warrant (for which, remember, it did not release the affidavit) added a bullet point, seemingly an afterthought unmarked by a letter, authorizing seizure of evidence that the men were hiding meetings with Ukrainians.

Evidence of efforts or attempts to conceal meetings with individuals acting on behalf of or associated with any Ukrainian national or government official. (no letter)

By contrast, the April 2021 affidavit targeting Rudy was interested in one single trip: His February 2019 trip, with Parnas, to Warsaw.

Evidence relating to a trip by Rudolph Giuliani to Poland in February 2019.(5)

As the affidavit describes, there was good reason to believe Rudy’s public claims about the trip — made in the days after the Perfect Phone Call was released — were lies, because immediately after the meeting, Rudy drafted a retainer shortly after the meeting and started lobbying Trump and Pompeo.

7 Based on my review of public reporting, I have learned that according to an article published on September 29, 2019 in Reuters, Giuliani admitted that he met [Lutsenko] in Warsaw in February 2019 after first meeting him in New York in January, but that the meeting with [redacted] in Warsaw was “really social . . . I think it was either dinner or cigars after dinner. Not opportune for substantive discussion.” However, this does not appear to be accurate, as described herein, Giuliani circulated a draft retainer agreement between [2 words redacted] and [redacted] (a firm owned by [Toensing] and her husband, [Joe DiGenova]) only five days after meeting with [redacted] and communicated with Parnas and [redacted] about lobbying [Pompeo] and Trump to remove [Yovanovitch] on the same day, and in the days following, his meeting with [redacted].

The reference to Lutsenko in that Reuters story is minor; far more of the story focuses on who paid for Rudy’s galivanting — again, a topic dropped in the later known warrant.

One of the key questions is who financed Giuliani’s globe-trotting as he pursued unsubstantiated allegations that Biden had tried to fire Ukraine’s then chief prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, to stop him investigating an energy company on which his son Hunter served as a director.

“Nobody pays my expenses,” Giuliani said in an interview with Reuters on Friday. “What does it matter if I’m getting paid for it. Isn’t the real story whether he (Biden) sold out the vice presidency of the United States, not whether I got paid for it?”

The singular focus on that Warsaw meeting — a meeting that took place at an event designed to undermine Obama’s Iran Deal, which Rudy attended in conjunction with MEK (former NJ Senator, Robert Torricelli, with whom John Solomon has a past, also attended with MEK) — is all the more interesting given the temporal scope of the warrant.

The other two warrants I adress here were dictated by dates of collection. Because the October 21 warrant authorized an expanded search of materials obtained months earlier, its temporal scope necessarily ended at the collection date, May 16, 2019. Because the December 10 warrant authorized an expanded search of materials seized from the search of Parnas and Fruman’s residences (primarily Parnas’ — by this point, SDNY seemed to be scrutinizing Parnas far more closely than it did Fruman), its temporal scope necessarily ended on that collection date, October 9, 2019.

But the Rudy warrant extended long past the last overt act, the firing of Yovanovitch, described in the warrant, to December 31, 2019. Here’s how the FBI justified that:

To the extent materials are dated, this warrant is limited to materials created, modified, sent, or received between August 1, 2018, and December 31, 2019. Materials going back to approximately August 2018 are relevant to understand Giuliani’s relationship with Parnas and information he was provided in the fall of 2018 relating to, among other things, Ambassador [Yovanovitch] and Ukraine. Materials created, modified, sent, or received after approximately May 2019, when the Ambassador was removed from her post, through the end of December 2019, during which time Giuliani traveled to Europe to meet [Lutsenko] with are relevant because based on my review of the Prior Search Warrant Returns, it appears that Giuliani continued to make public statements about Ukraine and the Ambassador.

Thus, it rationalized extending the warrant’s temporal scope through December 2019 — a temporal scope that would include the trip for the anti-Hunter Biden documentary, on which Rudy again met Lutsenko, but also met known Russian asset Andrii Derkach and others who would later be deemed Russian assets — based on Rudy’s continued focus, vaguely, on Ukraine (as well as Yovanovitch).

But it’s not clear whether FBI would be able to access details of Rudy’s meeting with Derkach, as opposed to Lutsenko, with this warrant. The long redaction in this bullet point shields who else, in addition to Parnas and Lutsenko, was included in the scope of the known warrant.

In other words, though the temporal scope of the warrant would permit FBI to review information about Rudy’s later meetings with Lutsenko, in association with which trip Rudy also met a series of Russian assets, nothing unredacted in the warrant permitted FBI to seize information about that later meeting (or about the anti-Hunter Biden documentary).

For that matter, nothing unredacted in the April 2021 warrant explicitly permits the FBI to seize information about Rudy’s attempts to dig up disinformation targeting Hunter Biden and his father, even though the warrant affidavit likely mentions such efforts at more than twelve times (one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve).

Still, as I’ve noted repeatedly, by the time Judge Oetken approved the Special Master process that Rudy himself had demanded, Special Master Barbara Jones was instructed to review all content post-dating January 1, 2018, a temporal scope significantly broader than the one laid out in the warrant. And according to her reports, while for some devices she focused more nearly on the timeframe of the Ukraine caper, those she reviewed first, she reviewed through the date of seizure.

We still know just a fraction of the story about how Bill Barr obstructed the investigation into Rudy Giuliani’s Ukrainian influence peddling — and the degree to which that let Rudy get rid of phones before the investigation would have otherwise developed (for example, the warrant describes that Rudy replaced a phone used with his main phone number on the date the House started subpoenaing records in advance of impeachment). That is, even though SDNY took aggressive investigative steps on Lisa Monaco’s first day as Deputy Attorney General, it was likely already too late.

Update: Back in real time, I posited that the first time Rudy pitched Mike Pompeo on firing Marie Yovanovitch was done while in Trump’s presence.


Below, every bullet is a known warrant. The ones not linked were described in a passage that failed to be fully redacted in a Lev Parnas filing.

  • January 18, 2019, 19 MJ 1729: Yahoo and Google content

May 15, 2019: Marie Yovanovitch firing public

  • May 16, 2019, 19 MJ 4784: iCloud content
  • August 14, 2019, 19 MJ 7593: Yahoo and Google content since January, with expanded focus
  • August 14, 2019, 19 MJ 7594: Unknown warrant
  • August 14, 2019, 19 MJ 7595: Existing Yahoo and Google content, with expanded focus

September 25, 2019: Disclosure of Perfect Phone call

October 9, 2019: Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman arrested

  • October 17, 2019, 19 MJ 7595: Actual authorization of the warrant approved in August
  • October 21, 2019, 19 MJ 9829: iCloud content since May
  • October 21, 2019, 19 MJ 9830: Unknown warrant
  • October 21, 2019, 19 MJ 9831: Devices from Dulles
  • October 21, 2019, 19 MJ 9832: Existing iCloud content for expanded focus
  • November 4, 2019: Warrant for Rudy’s iCloud
  • November 4, 2019: Warrant for Rudy’s email
  • November 4, 2019: Warrant for Victoria Toensing’s iCloud
  • November 6, 2019: Warrant for Yuriy Lutsenko’s email

December 5, 2019: Rudy meets with known Russian asset, Andrii Derkach

  • December 10, 2019, 19 MJ 11500: Stuff seized from residences for foreign agent focus
  • December 10, 2019, 19 MJ 11501: Instagram
  • December 10, 2019, Warrant for Roman Nasirov’s email
  • December 13, 2019, Warrant for Victoria Toensing’s email

December 14, 2019: Barr aide texts him: “Laptop on way to you”

January 3, 2020: Barr establishes dedicated channel to ingest Rudy’s dirt

January 17, 2020: Jeffrey Rosen makes Richard Donoghue a gatekeeper for all Ukraine-related investigations

  • February 28, 2020: iPhone of Alexander Levin
  • March 3, 2020: iPad of Alexander Levin
  • March 20, 2020, 20 MJ 3074: Fruman iCloud content obtained with October 21, 2019 warrant to cover earlier periods

June 20, 2020: Barr fires Geoffrey Berman

November 2020: SDNY denied authority to seek devices of Rudy Giuliani

January 2021: SDNY denied authority to seek devices of Rudy Giuliani

  • April 13, 2021: Cell site data for Rudy and Toensing

April 21, 2021: Lisa Monaco sworn in

  • April 21, 2021, 21 MJ 4335: Rudy’s office, residence, and devices
  • April 21, 2021: Victoria Toensing iPhone

Rudy Giuliani’s Scott Brady Interview Doesn’t Appear in His Warrant Affidavit

I’m about to do a larger post on some of the warrants targeting Rudy Giuliani and Lev Parnas, but first I want to make a point about the April 21, 2021 warrant targeting Rudy.

It doesn’t once mention Rudy’s January 29, 2020 interview with the Pittsburgh US Attorney’s office.

It sources Rudy’s own claims about his activities to a series of articles, interviews, and Tweets.

But the affidavit never once mentions that Rudy Giuliani sat for a 4-hour interview with the Pittsburgh US Attorney and nine other people on January 29, 2020.

NYT first disclosed the interview in this December 2020 article.

Mr. Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert J. Costello, asked the Justice Department for a meeting to discuss what he felt was explosive information about Hunter Biden that he had gathered from people in Ukraine and elsewhere, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

In response, Mr. Brady called Mr. Costello and offered to meet. Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Costello sent reams of documents to Pittsburgh, then traveled there on Jan. 29. They were picked up by F.B.I. agents and stopped for breakfast before meeting for nearly four hours at the local F.B.I. office with Mr. Brady and his top deputies on the inquiry, Stephen Kaufman and Ira Karoll, the person said.

Rudy described the interview at length in a letter claiming that the government should never have seized his devices (and revealing that SDNY requested, in both November 2020 and January 2021, to do so).

[I]n January 2020, counsel for Giuliani contacted high officials in the Justice Department, to inform them that Giuliani wanted to provide evidence for their consideration about the Ukraine. Within a day, the United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Scott W. Brady, contacted Giuliani’s counsel and offered to hold a meeting in Pittsburgh with both the United States Attorney’s office personnel and the FBI. Mayor Giuliani immediately accepted, and a meeting was scheduled for January 29, 2020.

On January 29, 2020, Mayor Giuliani and his counsel, flew to Pittsburgh at their own cost, where they were met by agents of the FBI and transported to FBI headquarters in Pittsburgh. Present at that meeting were the United States Attorney, the First Assistant United States Attorney, the Chief of the Criminal Division, and two additional Assistant United States Attorneys (“AUSA’s”) from the Western District of Pennsylvania. The FBI was represented by the Special Agent in Charge (“SAIC”) of the Pittsburgh FBI, the Assistant Special Agent in Charge (“ASAIC”), and three other special agents of the FBI.

Prior to the meeting, Giuliani’s counsel had provided the Pittsburgh United States Attorney’s office with documents and an extensive outline of the subject matter to be discussed, so that the Government could be fully informed and prepared to ask probing questions. Giuliani began the meeting by making a presentation with handouts. During his presentation, and at the end of it, the Mayor and his counsel answered every question they were asked, to the apparent satisfaction of all of the Government officials in the room. In addition to the presentation, Giuliani provided the Government with the names and addresses of individual witnesses, both in the United States and in Ukraine, that could corroborate and amplify the information that the Mayor was providing. Subsequent to that meeting, and covering a period of months, counsel for Giuliani received a number of inquiries, discussions and requests from the First Assistant United States Attorney. All requests were granted and all inquiries were answered. [my emphasis]

At Scott Brady’s deposition before House Judiciary Committee, there was an extensive exchange about that interview — including regarding then-Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Seth DuCharme’s request that Brady sit in on the interview personally — which I first wrote about here.

And I’ll get copies for everyone. It’s very short. This is an email from Seth DuCharme to you, subject: “Interview.” The date is Wednesday, January 15, 2020. And, for the record, the text of the email is, quote, “Scott I concur with your proposal to interview the person we talked about would feel more comfortable if you participated so we get a sense of what’s coming out of it. We can talk further when convenient for you. Best, Seth.” And tell me if you recall that email.

A Yes, I do recall it.

Q Okay. And the date, again, is January 15, 2020, correct?

A That’s right.

Q So that was 14 days before the interview that you just described at which you were present, correct?

A Correct.

Q Does that help you recall whether this email between you and Seth DuCharme was referring to the witness that you participated in the interview of on January 29, 2020?

A Yes, it definitely did.

Q Okay. Just for clarity, yes, this email is about that witness?

A Yes, that email is about setting up a meeting and interview of Mr. Giuliani.

Q Okay. So the witness was Mr. Giuliani? That’s who you’re talking about?

A Yes.

Q Okay. And it was, in your judgment, important to get Mr. DuCharme’s opinion or, quote, “concurrence” about interviewing Mr. Giuliani. Is that fair to say?

A As I sit here, I don’t know if it was about interviewing Mr. Giuliani or just the logistics of where the interview would take place Pittsburgh, New York, D.C. It might’ve been about that.

Q So you needed Mr. DuCharme’s opinion about where the interview would be taking place?

A No, I didn’t need his opinion.

Q Oh. I’m just trying to

A Yeah.

Q understand, what was the reason, if you can recall, why you consulted with Mr. DuCharme about that particular decision, about whether or not you should interview Mr. Giuliani and any other aspect of that decision?

A Yeah, I I don’t know. I may have just been circling back to him, saying, “Hey, here’s the plan.” And he said, “Yeah, that sounds fine.”

Q Okay. Well, he also said that he would feel more comfortable if you participated, right?

A In that email, he did, yes.

Q Yeah. Was that consistent with what your experience with Mr. DuCharme was when you discussed interviewing Mr. Giuliani, or is there something unusual about the email?

A I don’t remember that there’s anything unusual. I would’ve sat in on that interview anyways, in all likelihood.

Q Okay. And just I don’t want to take this away from you, because I know you and I

A Oh, sure.

Q just have one copy. But just, again, what this email says is, “I concur with your proposal to interview the person we talked about.” And then he says, “Would feel more comfortable if you participated so we get a sense of what’s coming out of it.” Do you see that?

A Uhhuh.

Q Okay.

A Yes.

Q So what did he mean by “we”? Who was he referring to by “we”? Do you know?

A I don’t know.

Q Okay. Is it fair to infer that he is referring to the Attorney General and the Office of the Deputy Attorney General where he was working?

A I don’t know. Yeah, some group of people at Main Justice, but I don’t know specifically if it was DAG Rosen, Attorney General Barr, or the people that were supporting them in ODAG and OAG.

Brady would go on to concede there were a number of things — such as Rudy’s attempts to reach out to Mykola Zlochevsky and his possession of a hard drive of data from Hunter Biden — that Rudy never told the Pittsburgh US Attorney.

Q Okay. Then the other question I think that I have to ask about this is: This is a prior inconsistent statement of Mr. Zlochevsky that your investigation did not uncover, but it’s a statement that Mr. Giuliani was certainly aware of. Would you agree?

A Yes, if based on your representation, yes, absolutely.


Okay. And what I am asking you is, have you ever heard that during the course of your investigation that Mr. Giuliani actually learned of the hard drive material on May 30th, 2019?

A No, not during our 2020 vetting process, no.

Q Mr. Giuliani never shared anything about the hard drives or the laptop or any of that in his material with you?

Mr. [Andrew] Lelling. Don’t answer that.

Q Oh, you are not going to answer?

Mr. Lelling. I instruct him not to answer.

Q. He did answer earlier that the hard drive. That Mr. Giuliani did not provide a hard drive.

Mr. Lelling. Okay.

Mr. Brady. He did not provide it. We were unaware of it.

By his own telling, Rudy spent four hours telling a team of ten people about these matters, and yet this affidavit doesn’t mention that interview at all.

To be sure, in his book, Geoffrey Berman — who was likely fired for conducting this investigation — provides one explanation for why Rudy’s 302s wouldn’t be incorporated in any warrant affidavit targeting Rudy: because the FBI refused to share those 302s with the NY Special Agent in Charge, William Sweeney.

So in January 2020 he came up with a plan. He described this plan he had hatched as “an intake process in the field.” That made it sound almost normal. The Department of Justice, in order to deal with the large influx of evidence, was going to employ this tried-and-true method in order to keep it all straight! But in all my years as a prosecutor and defense attorney, I had never heard of “an intake process in the field,” and neither had my executive staff or Sweeney.

His plan was to run all Ukraine-related matters, including information that Giuliani was peddling about the Bidens, through two other districts. His choices were Rich Donoghue, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, who sat in Brooklyn; and Scott Brady, the US Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, in Pittsburgh. Donoghue would oversee all Ukraine-related investigations, and Brady would handle the intake of information from Rudy and his lawyer.

This scheme, notably, did not include me or SDNY, which, as the office running the Lev and Igor case, was well versed in all things Ukraine. Barr’s implication seemed to be that with such a fire hose of material coming in from Rudy and his lawyer, we needed to spread the work out. And we had to have some kind of traffic cop to keep it all organized and flowing in the right direction—which was to be Brady in Pittsburgh.

All of this, of course, was utter nonsense. If somebody has information about an ongoing case, they typically hire a lawyer and approach the office that’s involved. Regardless of the quality or veracity of the material, I wanted to see it. We were the office with the background to determine its value. And we certainly would have had our own questions for Rudy, because he was a close associate of the two guys we just indicted. What’s more, our office was only a taxi ride away for Rudy and his lawyer—Pittsburgh was a 350-mile trip for them.

We could have handled whatever information Rudy had. With more than two hundred fully capable attorneys, I would have found a couple more to throw into the mix if it came to that. But that’s not what was driving the attorney general’s machinations. I believe it was really an effort by Barr to keep tabs on our continuing Lev and Igor investigation and keep us segregated from potentially helpful leads or admissions being provided by Rudy.

This became immediately clear to me and to Sweeney when we tried to access the information Rudy was providing. Rudy and his lawyer met several times with Main Justice and then with Brady’s team in Pittsburgh. There were FBI reports of those meetings, called 302s, which we wanted to review. So did Sweeney. Sweeney’s team asked the agents in Pittsburgh for a copy and was refused. Sweeney called me up, livid.

“Geoff, in all my years with the FBI I have never been refused a 302,” he said. “This is a total violation of protocol.”

Sweeney asked Jacqueline Maguire, his special agent in charge, to reach out to the acting head of the FBI’s office in Pittsburgh, Eugene Kowel, to request the 302s and related information. A few days later Kowel got back to Maguire and repeated what Brady had told him about the 302s: “It’s not my job to help the Southern District of New York make a case against Rudy.” [my emphasis]

Yet SDNY had to wait until Bill Barr was long gone before they got approval to serve this warrant. How is it possible that in the month and a half since Merrick Garland came in, SDNY had never gotten permission to read the 302s from Rudy’s “cooperation” in Pittsburgh?

Related: In related news, in a request for a delay in responding to Hunter Biden’s lawsuit against Rudy and his former attorney now creditor Robert Costello, it appears they are represented by the same firm.

Jim Jordan Says Trump’s Years of Blowing Off Subpoenas May Merit Impeachment

In another ploy to get journalists at dick pic-sniffing right wing outlets like JustTheNews and NBC to air false claims, Jim Jordan and James Comer sent the White House a letter demanding any communications the White House had with Hunter Biden or his lawyers about blowing off a subpoena that — the letter itself notes — was issued before the chairmen obtained support of the House to issue impeachment subpoenas.

They base their claim that the President knew his son was going to blow off a subpoena on a misrepresentation of what Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said later that day: that the President was familiar with what his son was going to say.

Look, as you know, Hunter Biden is a private citizen, and so I certainly would refer you to his representatives. Look, the President was certainly familiar with what his son was going to say, and I think what you saw was from the heart from his son. And you’ve heard me say this, you’ve heard the president say this, when it comes to the president and the first lady, they’re proud of him continuing to rebuild his life. They are proud of their son.

Perhaps Jean-Pierre was suggesting Joe Biden knew Hunter would say things like, “James Comer, Jim Jordan, Jason Smith, and their colleagues have distorted the facts,” a true statement similar to comments Joe himself has made. Perhaps Jean-Pierre’s comment meant that Joe Biden knew his son would say that Jordan and Comer, along with Jason Smith, “ridiculed my struggle with addiction [and] belittled my recovery,” something consistent with her own focus on his recovery. Given Jean-Pierre’s observation that “what you saw was from the heart,” perhaps she was referring to Hunter’s tribute to his parents’ love:

During my battle with addiction, my parents were there for me. They literally saved my life. They helped me in ways that I will never be able to repay. And of course they would never expect me to. In the depths of my addiction, I was extremely irresponsible with my finances. But to suggest that is grounds for an impeachment inquiry is beyond the absurd. It’s shameless. There’s no evidence to support the allegations that my father was financially involved in my business because it did not happen.


They have taken the light of my Dad’s love — the light of my Dad’s love for me and presented it as darkness.

There is nothing in her statement that confirms foreknowledge that Hunter would blow off the subpoena, something conceded in the letter that her statement only, “suggests that the President had some amount of advanced knowledge that Mr. Biden would choose to defy two congressional subpoenas” [my emphasis].

Nevertheless, serial liar Comer and subpoena scofflaw Jordan use Jean-Pierre’s statement to insinuate that Joe Biden has committed what they themselves call a potentially impeachable offense of dissuading a subpoena recipient from complying with it.

Later on December 13, when asked whether President Biden had watched Mr. Biden’s statement, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated that President Biden was “certainly familiar with what his son was going to say.”11 Ms. Jean-Pierre declined, however, to provide any further details about the President’s actions or whether the President approved of his son defying congressional subpoenas.12 Nonetheless, Ms. Jean-Pierre’s statement suggests that the President had some amount of advanced knowledge that Mr. Biden would choose to defy two congressional subpoenas.

Under the relevant section of the criminal code, it is unlawful to “corruptly . . . endeavor[] to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any investigation or inquiry is being had by . . . any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress[.]”13 Likewise, any person who “aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures” the commission of a crime is punishable as a principal of the crime.14

In light of Ms. Jean-Pierre’s statement, we are compelled to examine the involvement of the President in his son’s scheme to defy the Committees’ subpoenas.


[T]he fact that the President had advanced awareness that Mr. Biden would defy the Committees’ subpoenas raises a troubling new question that we must examine: whether the President corruptly sought to influence or obstruct the Committees’ proceeding by preventing, discouraging, or dissuading his son from complying with the Committees’ subpoenas. Such conduct could constitute an impeachable offense.

11 Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and NSC Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby. White House Briefing Room (Dec. 13, 2023).

12 Id. 13 18 U.S.C. § 1505 (Obstruction of proceedings before departments, agencies, and committees).

14 18 U.S.C. § 2(a).

Once you wade through all the bad faith and misrepresentation, this is a breathtaking development: Donald Trump’s most vigorous defender in Congress, Jim Jordan, someone who himself defied a subpoena to cover up Trump’s actions, has accused Donald Trump of committing an impeachable offense.

There are a slew of ways that Donald Trump, “prevent[ed], discourag[ed], or dissuad[ed]” witnesses from complying with subpoenas, during both his impeachments, the January 6 Committee, and elsewhere. Most famously, during the first impeachment, for example, Trump attorney Jay Sekulow got Trump to permit Trump attorney John Dowd to represent Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. In a response to a subpoena that was very similar to the pre-impeachment vote subpoena sent to Hunter Biden, Dowd made a bunch of claims about attorney-client relationships that, with the exception of the tie to Dmitry Firtash, have since been disproven, all in an attempt to deprive Congress of their testimony. While Parnas eventually cooperated with impeachment, neither Fruman nor Rudy did. Indeed, Trump’s entire Administration blew off the inquiry.

Trump did the same with the January 6 inquiry. Trump attempted to pressure Cassidy Hutchinson about her testimony. Even better documented, Robert Costello described that Trump’s lawyer instructed him to withhold materials about a meeting involving a bunch of lawyers but also Mike Flynn based on an attorney-client privilege claim. On Jordan’s logic, Trump should join Bannon in his 4-month contempt sentence for that intervention.

In short, while Comer and Jordan manufactured the claim that President Biden knew Hunter was going to blow off a subpoena, the evidence that Trump has ordered everyone in his orbit to do the same for years is overwhelming.

Once you argue that instructing people to blow off subpoenas merits impeachment, you’ve made the case for a third Trump impeachment.

Comer and Jordan have already surfaced far more evidence supporting an impeachment of Donald Trump than Joe Biden. Three major examples are:

  • Ties between DOJ access and dirt on Hunter Biden: In response to Comer’s allegations about Hunter and Joe Biden, Lev Parnas has renewed allegations he made in the past, much of which are backed by known communications and the recently released warrants from SDNY. Of particular note, he described that Rudy floated access with Trump’s DOJ in exchange for dirt on the Bidens with both Yuriy Lutsenko and Dmitry Firtash. Parnas also claimed that when he attempted to fly to Vienna on October 9, 2019, he believed he would retrieve content stolen from a Hunter Biden laptop.
  • Efforts to funnel Rudy Giuliani’s dirt to the investigation into Hunter Biden: Chuck Grassley revealed that during his first impeachment, when Trump was emphasizing the import of investigating Burisma corruption, his own DOJ shut down a 3.5-year old investigation into Mykola Zlochevsky. Testimony from Scott Brady enhanced what we already know about the dedicated channel Bill Barr set up days later for dirt Rudy had obtained, including from known Russian agents. Of particular import, Brady revealed that he mined the recently closed Zlochevsky investigation to obtain informant testimony about how Zlochevsky changed his story about Joe Biden during the course of impeachment. Brady and Gary Shapley both provided new details of how that information got shared with the Hunter Biden investigative team, with Brady submitting interrogatories about what they were investigative and getting David Weiss’ intervention to brief the information they obtained. Ultimately, after Trump yelled at Bill Barr about the Hunter Biden investigation, Richard Donoghue ordered the Delaware investigators to accept the FD-1023 memorializing Zlochevsky’s changed story about Biden; Bill Barr confessed that he was involved in this process. In short, Jordan and Comer, with an assist from Grassley, have confirmed many of the suspicions that drove the first impeachment.
  • Trump’s involvement in Tony Bobulinski’s inconsistent FBI testimony: The disgruntled IRS agents released Tony Bobulinski’s draft interview report (from the same day as the briefing about Zlochevsky’s changed Biden claims), key claims in which are not backed by previously unreleased communications. The disclosure of testimony that Hunter Biden alleges to be false comes even as Cassidy Hutchinson’s book describes a secret meeting Mark Meadows had weeks after that FBI interview, at which Trump’s chief of staff handed Bobulinski something that could be an envelope.

Thanks to Comer and Jordan — with an important assist from Grassley — Republicans have exposed that Trump has been corruptly involved in the Hunter Biden investigation — the Hunter Biden investigation they’re using to impeach Joe Biden — from the start.

But this letter is different.

Comer and Jordan never admitted that all the rest — all the evidence that Trump corruptly ginned up an investigation into Joe Biden’s kid — merited impeachment. They have claimed the opposite, even in the face of Grassley’s stunning claim that Trump’s DOJ shut down an investigation into Zlochevsky opened when Biden was Vice President.

But here, at long last, they’re admitting that Trump’s years-long efforts to stonewall Congress may merit impeachment.

Mind you, the outlets that believed this letter was newsworthy didn’t mention that fact. Instead, they treated Jordan’s stunning hypocrisy as if it were a good faith intervention. They didn’t even mention that Jordan himself blew off a subpoena to protect Trump!

We know why John Solomon — implicated himself in all these events — pretended this was all good faith. Solomon doesn’t pretend to be anything but a pro-Trump propagandist.

But NBC has no excuse. Either it is too stupid to recognize that this Jordan letter is the height of bad faith … or it is too addicted to dick pic-sniffing clicks to explain all that to their readers.

At some point, Jim Jordan’s confession that Donald Trump really did deserve impeachment becomes the story.

Update: I should have included Luke Broadwater — the NYT scribe who can’t do basic things like test the provenance of documents — in the right wing outlets that simply parroted Jordan’s garbage.