Alexander Smirnov Shared an Already-Debunked Fox News Hoax with His FBI Handler

There’s a mistake that many people covering the Alexander Smirnov case make. This is one example, but similar examples appear everywhere (including in claims made by Democrats in Congress yesterday).

Parnas noted the recent indictment of former FBI informant Alexander Smirnov, who is accused of providing false intelligence about the president and his son during the 2020 presidential campaign. Prosecutors said the information Smirnov shared about the Bidens came from “officials associated with Russian intelligence” and that he was peddling “new lies that impact U.S. elections after meeting with Russian intelligence officials in November.”

The error is in claiming that prosecutors have said that the false claims Smirnov made in 2020 came from Russian intelligence.

Prosecutors have said that Smirnov attributed claims made last September in his FBI interview to Russian spies. That’s the claim that the Russians recorded calls that Hunter Biden made from a hotel in Kyiv.

51. The Defendant also shared a new story with investigators. He wanted them to look into whether Businessperson 1 was recorded in a hotel in Kiev called the Premier Palace. The Defendant told investigators that the entire Premier Palace Hotel is “wired” and under the control of the Russians. The Defendant claimed that Businessperson 1 went to the hotel many times and that he had seen video footage of Businessperson 1 entering the Premier Palace Hotel.

52. The Defendant suggested that investigators check to see if Businessperson 1 made telephone calls from the Premier Palace Hotel since those calls would have been recorded by the Russians. The Defendant claimed to have obtained this information a month earlier by calling a high-level official in a foreign country. The Defendant also claimed to have learned this information from four different Russian officials. [my emphasis]

The reference in the detention memo to Russian spooks, relied on by NBC to substantiate the claim, appears to be a reference to this story, one Smirnov told in 2023. David Weiss appears to be sure that Russian spooks really did tell Smirnov this; he used it to justify detention.

Thus, Smirnov’s efforts to spread misinformation about a candidate of one of the two
major parties in the United States continues. The Court should consider this conduct as well
when evaluating his personal history and characteristics. What this shows is that the
misinformation he is spreading is not confined to 2020. He is actively peddling new lies that
could impact U.S. elections after meeting with Russian intelligence officials in November.

I’m not entirely convinced Smirnov’s Russian spook buddies did tell him this.

After all, prosecutors laid out why it cannot be true that Russia really got recordings of Hunter in the hotel. Hunter has never been to Kyiv, much less this hotel.

If Russian spies actually told Smirnov this, it would either be false, intended to deceive Smirnov, or based on a deep fake.

But I also think it’s possible that, during the September interview, Smirnov started to realize that the FBI had caught him lying, and so invented the story — based on what I understand to be a widely-understood assumption about the Premier Palace — to appear to be useful to the FBI. When you’re a snitch, you’re generally safe doing whatever so long as you remain useful. So Smirnov may have just tried to protect himself by inventing something useful.

As I tried to show here, there’s actually some reason to believe he subsequently created a reporting trail retroactively on this, as if he hadn’t ever made this claim to his handler before his FBI interview and so had to report it prospectively to the handler to cover the claim he made to the FBI. The timeline shows that Smirnov attributed something to four Russian spies in September 2023, but then told his handler he learned it as if it were new in December 2023.

I don’t believe any court filings have yet attributed Smirnov’s false claim in 2020 to Russian spooks.

Indeed, he didn’t have the ties to Russian spies in 2020 he claims to have now. While Smirnov appears to have had ties to Russian Official 5 in 2020 — the guy he flipped for a different, probably Israeli, intelligence service in 2002 but didn’t tell his handler about until 2019 — and through him, Russian Official 6, many of his more senior ties to Russian spooks appear to post-date 2020.

A far more relevant tie in 2020 is his professed tie to Viktor Shokin, going back to 2016.

50. The Defendant told investigators that he had asked the then-Ukrainian President to arrange a meeting between himself and the then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General to talk about Burisma. The Defendant told investigators that this meeting occurred before the then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General resigned, which was early 2016. The Defendant also told investigators this meeting occurred before his meeting with Burisma Official 1 in the coffee shop in a German speaking country. The Defendant told investigators that after he met with the thenUkrainian Prosecutor General, he met with the then-Ukrainian President. The Defendant did not provide any of this information to the Handler in 2020.

Still, one way or another, I don’t believe any court filing tells us who got Smirnov to lie in 2020. It’s one reason I keep insisting that learning how Scott Brady came to look for him may be the most important investigative question, not least because David Weiss has an enormous disincentive to chase that down.

All the more so given the backstory to this photo, which appears in the indictment. After Smirnov promised his handler that he would prove Joe Biden had received a bribe, Smirnov told his handler this picture showed Joe and Hunter Biden with Mykola Zlochevsky.


Nancy Mace used the same photo in yesterday’s hearing in an attempt to corroborate serial fraudster Jason Galanis‘ story.

It’s actually not, at all, clear where the picture came from — I’m not even aware that it came from “the laptop.”

But it was first published by Tucker Carlson, then adopted by Fox News, as part of Rudy’s propaganda campaign in 2019, as impeachment began to roll out.

Don Jr posted it.

Then Trump referenced it on Xitter.

The claim was debunked repeatedly: by PolitiFact on October 8, by CNN, and then by USAT after it went even more viral after the release of “the laptop” in 2020 (and therefore after Smirnov’s claims).

And yet, even though this photo had gone viral in 2019, in conjunction with Trump’s impeachment rebuttal, Smirnov made the same claim again in May 2020.

And his handler either didn’t realize or didn’t care that Smirnov was recycling a widely debunked lie, nor is there any evidence the handler pointed out to Scott Brady that it discredited Smirnov’s other claims.

Sedition Hunters will tell you that the FBI is nowhere near as good at using facial recognition as they are (which may not be a bad thing). But the notion that an informant would share such a widely disseminated photo and no one at the FBI would figure out it had been used by Trump and his backers as part of a false propaganda campaign the year before?!?!


I’ll repeat again: the investigation into this attempt to frame Joe Biden needs to be removed from David Weiss’ purview and put in the hands of someone who’ll review how the FBI let itself get fooled by a widely disseminated piece of propaganda, and why the Attorney General ensured that such embarrassing propaganda got funneled to an ongoing investigation into Joe Biden’s kid.

Because this is just embarrassing.

Alexander Smirnov may have gotten the false claim he made in 2020 from Russian spies. He may have gotten it from Viktor Shokin.

Or maybe he just got it by watching Fox News.

Update: Noted that the USAT rebuttal came after Smirnov’s claims; the others came before.

Premier Palace: The Risk of Non-Russian Involvement in Alexander Smirnov’s anti-Biden Election Operation

Based on the transcript from the detention hearing, one reason Principal Senior Assistant Special Counsel Leo Wise failed to convince Nevada Magistrate Judge Daniel Albregts to detain Alexander Smirnov pretrial, is that in arguing Smirnov was a flight risk, Wise focused primarily on Smirnov’s ties to Russian intelligence, not other spy agencies.

That made it easier for Albregts to argue — repeating something Smirnov’s attorney, David Chesnoff, said — that Russian spooks are probably not too enamored of Smirnov right now, given the details included in court filings describing his reporting on Russian spies.

I — you know, I understand the concern about foreign intelligence agencies potentially resettling Mr. Smirnov outside of the United States/ his connections to them, but I think on some level that’s speculative as well because, as Mr. Chesnoff points out, I don’t know what Mr. Smirnov will be thought of in Russia/ but my guess is at this stage he probably thinks that’s not the most attractive place to go either if he was in fact inclined to go hide somewhere. So while I notice and note that that’s a concern and certainly raised by the Government that I should consider it, I just don’t know in the context of what’s happened in the last couple of weeks with his arrest and everything else that that is as grave a concern as the Government outlines.

This misunderstands the implied relationship of Smirnov to the Russians. For example, while Wise notes that Smirnov is not charged with spying (he’d have a tough time charging Smirnov with acting as a foreign agent without informing the Attorney General, given that the then-Attorney General was gleefully cheering what he was doing when he allegedly lied), he insinuates that Smirnov’s charged 2020 lie was part of a Russian influence operation.

MR. WISE: Understood, Your Honor. The defendant’s lies in this case have captured the national imagination. And while the — while the filing says they do not involve espionage, of course the charges do involve foreign intelligence services. The defendant claims to have met with Russian intelligence agencies on multiple occasions, and the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that Russian intelligence interfered in the 2020 election and continues to interfere in our elections by spreading misinformation.

What Wise didn’t emphasize, but which is no doubt the source of urgent concern, is that it’s not just Russian intelligence. As Wise addressed the limits of US extradition authority, he briefly noted there were other countries that, like Russia, would refuse to extradite Smirnov.

MR. WISE: These contacts make this defendant different from other defendants who merely have foreign ties, and they heighten the risk of flight dramatically. And that is because he can use these contacts with foreign intelligence services to flee and to resettle overseas, something I would again venture to say is almost unique in the presentation of a defendant being considered for the pretrial release.

THE COURT: So let’s say that happens. You don’t think that the Federal Government would have the ability to find him and take action to bring him back? You think that these Russian ties that you’re talking about are the type of people that would literally take him and secrete him from prosecution?

MR. WISE: If he were to resettle in Russian, we couldn’t extradite him. Russian won’t extradite under thesecircumstances. If he were to resettle in other — in third countries, we couldn’t extradite him. And so, yes, I think that is the case.

THE COURT: All right. Go ahead. I’ll —

MR. WISE: That’s even assuming we could find him. That’s even assuming we could find him.

For a dual Israeli citizen like Smirnov, those countries would, by law, include Israel. CNN reported last week that the FBI knew that Smirnov has also served as a source for Israel.

And while this is changing, those countries that would refuse extradition also likely include UAE, almost certainly another of the countries where Smirnov has been hanging out on mega yachts with Russian oligarchs.

Most of the details of Smirnov’s recent activity that David Weiss’ team chose to burn — and so the things that Albregts saw and Los Angeles Judge Otis Wright also received in their detention motion — does pertain to Russia.

The government put that reporting out of order in the detention memo, which obscures the timeline. I’m going to do the same, so as to first show the picture of Russian ties the government establishes. But as I’ll get to, those ties are built on two other relationships, relationships in Ukraine and Israel, that are critical to understanding Smirnov’s Russian relationships. [Note: I’ll be linking to the NV detention memo rather than the LA one; the declassified descriptions of his reporting are the same in both, but probably because of page limits, the LA one does not have most of the discussion about how Weiss intends to prove the case against Smirnov, which appears on pages 8-15 of the NV one.]

Here’s most of the timeline Smirnov gave his handler of how, along with discussing a way to end the Ukraine war, he also learned of a kompromat effort probably intending to use deep fake recordings of Hunter Biden. Note that the really interesting discussions post-date the September 27, 2023 FBI interview (marked in bold) at which Smirnov backtracked off some parts of his 2020 story and offered up details of another kompromat plan targeting the Bidens, which he already sourced in September 2023 to four Russian spies.

  • August 2023: Smirnov “had been introduced” to RI 2 (the unclassified report does not say, by whom), who was organizing a birthday party on his mega yacht that RO 2 would attend. At that point, the ties between two or three of the oligarchs involved and RO 2 are not yet clear.
  • September 27, 2023: Smirnov interviewed by different FBI agents, to whom he describes Premier Palace plan.
  • October 2023: Smirnov scores an invite to the birthday party on a Russian oligarch’s yacht in a Middle Eastern country (probably UAE). RO 1 and RI 1 were expected to attend.
  • October 2023: RO 1 is expected to attend the birthday party; Smirnov got a copy of RO 1’s passport.
  • November 2023: Smirnov has now met RO 1. RO 1 boasted that he has direct access to the “highest levels of the Russian government.” RO 1 is a top, unofficial representative to Country B. Smirnov got a picture of RO 1 in November 2023, while he was in Country A (meaning RO 1 stayed past the birthday party).
  • November 2023: RO 1 described the assassin teams in Ukraine, and offered to stop those efforts if Ukraine would stop targeting civilian family members of Russian officials living in Moscow. RO 1 also told Smirnov of plans for a winter attack in Ukraine and its intentions for that war.
  • December 2023: Smirnov attended a meeting at which RO 2 attended. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss a resolution to the Ukraine war. He had a separate conversation in which RO 1 told him about the kompromat operation at a “club” in a particular Ukrainian hotel, probably the Premier Palace. He explained they might use kompromat from the hotel in an election year operation. A Ukrainian government official later confirmed that kompromat operation was common knowledge.
  • December 2023: RO 1 and others tell Smirnov that RO 3 is the representative of RO 4, now listed as the former head of a particular unit of Russian intelligence.
  • January 2024: Smirnov told his handler he’d be traveling to Country A (probably UAE) to discuss a prisoner exchange between Ukraine and Russia with RO 1. [my emphasis]

Here are descriptions of the kinds of Russians with whom Smirnov was partying on mega yachts in the Middle East:

Russian Official 1: Son of former high-ranking RU government official, controls two groups of assassins, a RU representative to another country, ties to a particular RU intelligence service.

Russian Official 2: High-ranking member of specific RIS central to discussions of ending the Ukraine war. He has ties to both RI 1 (the senior member of a defense conglomerate) and RI 2 (the senior member of a RU steel company).

Russian Official 3: The representative of Russian Official 4.

Russian Official 4: Head of a particular unit of a RU intelligence service, ran a kompromat operation at a hotel, probably Premier Palace.

Russian Official 5: A Russian spy that Smirnov helped to flip for Country D, probably Israel. In 2019, RO 5 expressed some opposition to Putin.

Russian Official 6: RO 5 had familial ties to RO 6, a former high-ranking member of a Russian intelligence service. In 2019, RO 5 told Smirnov that RO 6 was also not happy with Putin, and said he RO 6 was close friends with RO 2.

Russian Individual 1: A high ranking member of a RU state-owned defense conglomerate.

Russian Individual 2: A high-ranking member of a RU steel company — the guy who owns the mega yacht that was in a Middle Eastern country in October 2023.

According to the timeline of reporting to his handler, Smirnov was just learning about the assassin teams in November and the Premier Palace kompromat plan in December, both from Russian Official 1, whom he describes first meeting in November.

But as the indictment describes, after Smirnov reportedly stood by all his reporting in a conversation with his handler in July 2023, when his FD-1023 first got released, in August, the handler turned over a bunch of things that made it clear Smirnov was lying.

43. On August 29, 2023, FBI investigators spoke with the Handler in reference to the 2020 1023. During that conversation, the Handler indicated that he and the Defendant had reviewed the 2020 1023 following its public release by members of Congress in July 2023, and the Defendant reaffirmed the accuracy of the statements contained in it.

44. The Handler provided investigators with messages he had with the Defendant, including the ones described above. Additionally, the Handler identified and reviewed with the Defendant travel records associated with both Associate 2 and the Defendant. The travel records were inconsistent with what the Defendant had previously told the Handler that was memorialized in the 2020 1023. The Defendant also provided email communications with both Associate 2 and Burisma personnel beginning in 2017 to the Handler, which the Handler reviewed with the Defendant and shared with FBI investigators. [my emphasis]

Remember: Scott Brady testified that they asked the handler about travel information in 2020 and (while Brady refused to address the particulars on follow-up), the result of that was a determination that the travel records corroborated the claim.

Mr. Brady. So we attempted to use open-source material to check against what was stated in the 1023. We also interfaced with the CHS’ handler about certain statements relating to travel and meetings to see if they were consistent with his or her understanding.

Q And did you determine if the information was consistent with the handler’s understanding?

A What we were able to identify, we found that it was consistent. And so we felt that there were sufficient indicia of credibility in this 1023 to pass it on to an office that had a predicated grand jury investigation.

Someone, or someones, are lying about the travel records corroborating Smirnov’s claims, either Brady and/or the handler.

Chesnoff — Smirnov’s lawyer — seems to plan to bring this handler down with Smirnov, because he revealed that Smirnov and the handler communicated via the handler’s private phone.

I can tell you. Your Honor, that there will be a vehement defense to the argument that in fact he was not truthful. He had this personal relationship with the handler. It was so personal, Your Honor, that he wouldn’t even call him on his FBI phone; he would call him on his personal phone. So we’re going to dig down once we start defending this case and we’re going to find out who knew what when.

We may yet learn that all the texts in the indictment showing that Smirnov explicitly responded to a story about Andrii Derkach manufacturing dirt by slamming Joe Biden happened on the handler’s phone.

Given what I know of David Weiss’ sawdust-as-cocaine clown show thus far, my guess is they haven’t actually nailed down what this handler knew when, and what he meant when he said, “that would be a game changer.”

Indeed, what appears to have happened is that either the handler warned Smirnov or (more likely) Smirnov figured out, as his lies started crumbling in his September 2023 interview, that his story was in trouble, so tried to throw out new information to Weiss’ team to “help” their criminal investigation of the President and his son.

After the indictment describes the many things Smirnov said in his September 27 interview that thoroughly discredited the story, he describes Smirnov telling Weiss’ team that he already knew of the Premier Palace kompromat and advising them they should check Hunter Biden’s travel records, which they didn’t have to do to know that the Premier Palace kompromat was based on a lie.

51. The Defendant also shared a new story with investigators. He wanted them to look into whether Businessperson 1 was recorded in a hotel in Kiev called the Premier Palace. The Defendant told investigators that the entire Premier Palace Hotel is “wired” and under the control of the Russians. The Defendant claimed that Businessperson 1 went to the hotel many times and that he had seen video footage of Businessperson 1 entering the Premier Palace Hotel.

52. The Defendant suggested that investigators check to see if Businessperson 1 made telephone calls from the Premier Palace Hotel since those calls would have been recorded by the Russians. The Defendant claimed to have obtained this information a month earlier by calling a high-level official in a foreign country. The Defendant also claimed to have learned this information from four different Russian officials.

53. The Defendant told investigators that the four different Russian officials are all top officials and two are the heads of the entities they represent. These Russians said that conversations with Ukrainians about ending the war will include the next U.S. election. The Defendant told investigators he is involved in negotiations over ending the war and had been for the previous four months. According to the Defendant, the Russians want Ukraine to assist in influencing the U.S. election, and the Defendant thinks the tapes of Businessperson 1 at the Premier Palace Hotel is all they have. The Defendant told investigators he wants them to ask Businessperson 1 how many times he visited and what he did while at the Premier Palace Hotel.

54. Businessperson 1 has never traveled to Ukraine. The few Burisma Board meetings that Businessperson 1 did attend were all outside of Ukraine. [my emphasis]

In an effort to claim he was getting useful information about Hunter Biden, then, Smirnov offered up the Premier Palace story and sourced it, already, to four top Russian officials.

It’s totally unclear what Smirnov told his hander. Weiss’ team might be hiding that intentionally, or it may be the case that Smirnov didn’t tell his handler that he was involved in another election influence operation until months later, sourcing it from Russian spies he had or claimed to have met in the interim. But the record at least implies that he told Weiss’ team about the assassination teams and the Premier Palace in September, then found a way to source it anew over the next several months to RO 1, whom Smirnov claimed to have met for the first time on some oligarch’s yacht in October.

In the same interview, Smirnov also claimed that, sometime no later than 2016, he developed ties with Viktor Shokin and Petro Poroshenko.

50. The Defendant told investigators that he had asked the then-Ukrainian President to arrange a meeting between himself and the then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General to talk about Burisma. The Defendant told investigators that this meeting occurred before the then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General resigned, which was early 2016. The Defendant also told investigators this meeting occurred before his meeting with Burisma Official 1 in the coffee shop in a German speaking country. The Defendant told investigators that after he met with the thenUkrainian Prosecutor General, he met with the then-Ukrainian President. The Defendant did not provide any of this information to the Handler in 2020.

With all that in mind, consider the rest of the timeline, the stuff that happened (or that Smirnov claimed happened) before the reporting laid out above.

  • 1992 to 2006: Smirnov lives in Israel, where his family still lives.
  • 2002: Smirnov helps flip RO 5 at the behest of Country D (probably Israel).
  • October 1, 2010: Smirnov starts to serve as a source for the FBI.
  • 2016 or earlier: Smirnov has direct communications with Shokin and Petro Poroshenko.
  • 2019: Smirnov first tells his handler about flipping RO 5 in 2002.
  • January 2022: RO 5 set up a meeting helped introduce Smirnov to RO 2. Then, Smirnov set up a meeting between RO 2 and a high-ranking official of Ukraine.
  • January 2022: Smirnov asked RO 2 for a favor — to protect a Ukrainian associate during any Russian invasion. RO 2 told Smirnov that based on RO 5’s representation that Smirnov was a “good guy,” he’d protect Smirnov’s associate. (Note that the FD-1023 described that Alexander Ostapenko, the guy who introduced Smirnov to Burisma, worked in the Zelenskyy administration.) RO 2 also told Smirnov that there was a 99% chance that, rather than full-blown war, the invasion would only be a skirmish.
  • February 2022: Smirnov provides his handler the back story to his relationship with RO 5 and through him RO 2. When working in Country D (probably Israel) in 2002, Smirnov helped flip two spies, including RO 5, for Country D. Country D had caught RO 5 spying, but gave him 48 hours to leave the country rather than expelling him. RO 5 continued to provide Smirnov intelligence, but never anything adverse to Russia. In 2019, RO 5, whose wife is related to a former Russian spook, RO 6, had described what Russia might look like under different leadership. Smirnov never met RO 6, but once spoke to him briefly over a car speaker phone.
  • February 28, 2022: Smirnov’s partner buys a condo in Las Vegas, using his money, for $1,425,000.
  • December 2022: A RU spy (not any of the identified ones) tells Smirnov the identity of a Russian spy living outside of RU.
  • January 2023: Smirnov confirms, from a different non-identified RU spy, the first name of the RU spy living outside of RU.
  • May 2023: Smirnov participates in discussions to end the Ukraine war
  • By September 2023: Smirnov already claimed knowledge of the Premier Palace kompromat, sourcing that knowledge to four RU Officials, almost certainly one he described meeting in later months.

In other words, there are a bunch of things that lie behind all the reporting about parties with Russian oligarchs on yachts in (probably) UAE that Weiss’ team burned.

First, Smirnov’s entrée into Russian intelligence came by helping someone — probably Israel — flip RO 5, years ago, back in 2002. Smirnov may have thought he had flipped RO 5, but RO 5 never gave him any intelligence about Russia. In other words, in the process of flipping RO 5 for a country that likely is Israel, Russia learned that Smirnov was in the business of flipping people, and strung him along for years.

Smirnov allegedly lied about conversations with Zlochevsky in 2016 that implicated Joe Biden. But his currently operative story is that he had ties with Viktor Shokin from that period — someone who was absolutely central in the 2020 influence operation. It’s not clear that Smirnov ever revealed that to his handler, which surely would have changed the import of those texts sent in response to a story claiming there were secret recordings about Shokin’s firing.

That’s not the only important Ukraine tie. In January 2022, as Russia prepares to invade Ukraine, Smirnov used his tie to Russian spooks, the guy he thought he had flipped years before, RO 5, to meet RO 2. After brokering a meeting, Smirnov then asked for a favor, that Russia protect his associate when they invaded. Then, RO 2 lied about Russia’s intention.

That’s critical background to Smirnov’s claim to be involved in peace negotiations: His entire relationship with Russian spooks is built off a series of lies.

Then, finally, there’s the question of whether Smirnov retroactively provided reporting to cover up what he admitted to Weiss’ team in September: that for months, he had been part of an information operation that involved interfering in the US election and as part of that he had advance knowledge of a plan to frame Hunter Biden.


Weiss’ team has hinted that Smirnov’s entire relationship with Russian intelligence was built off that effort to flip RO 5 for another country, almost certainly Israel.

But they’re not telling us what they know, if anything, about Israel’s ongoing involvement with all this.

Rudy Giuliani Attacks Biden as SDNY Sifts Through His Comms for Ukraine Foreign Agent Investigation

Among the many Trump allies suggesting that the former President was better on Russian issues than the current, Rudy Giuliani attempted to attack President Joe Biden with a Tweet dripping with projection.

Just over four weeks ago, the Special Master Barbara Jones delivered the latest tranche of records seized from Giuliani’s phones to prosecutors in SDNY, the US Attorney’s Office that Rudy once led.

While the scope of the review exceeds the scope of the known warrants, those known warrants target Rudy’s role in getting Maria Yovanovich fired in 2019 as part of an effort to get campaign dirt on Joe Biden.

Indeed, for six of Rudy’s devices, the latest review focused on the period from December 1, 2018 through May 31, 2018, which would cover the following events.

Late 2018: Rudy Giuliani participates in a Skype call with the former top Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was ousted from office after multiple Western leaders, including former Vice President Joe Biden, pressed for his removal. Leaders complain Shokin was failing to tackle corruption. It’s around this time that Giuliani says he first learned of a possible Biden-Ukraine connection.

January 2019: Giuliani meets in New York with the top Ukrainian prosecutor at the time, Yuriy Lutsenko. This is when, Giuliani says, his investigation into the Bidens began.

A man named Lev Parnas has said he attended the meeting with Lutsenko and arranged the call with Shokin. Parnas told NPR he attended at least two meetings Giuliani had with Lutsenko. Parnas and an associate, who also worked with Giuliani, are later arrested and charged with violating campaign finance law in a separate matter.

March 31: The first round of presidential elections take place in Ukraine. Zelenskiy, a comedian who once played a president on television, comes out ahead of incumbent President Petro Poroshenko. The race goes to a runoff.

April 7: In an interview on Fox News, Giuliani, unprompted, brings up a Biden-Ukraine connection. He says that while investigating the origin of the Russia investigation, “some people” told him “the story about [gas company] Burisma and Biden’s son.” Giuliani suggests that as vice president, Biden pressed to remove Shokin because he was investigating Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that had Biden’s son Hunter on its board for several years. There is no evidence to support this claim.

April 21: Zelenskiy is elected president of Ukraine and Trump calls to congratulate him. A White House readout of the call says Trump “expressed his commitment to work together with President-elect Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people to implement reforms that strengthen democracy, increase prosperity, and root out corruption.”

April 25: Trump calls in to Sean Hannity’s TV show and says he has heard rumors about Ukrainian “collusion.” He tells the Fox News host he expects Attorney General Bill Barr to look into it. “I would imagine he would want to see this,” Trump says.

May 6: Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine and an Obama appointee, ends her assignment in Kyiv. According to the whistleblower complaint filed against Trump, she had been “suddenly recalled” to the U.S. by senior State Department officials a week earlier.

Giuliani later says in an interview that she was removed “because she was part of the efforts against the President.” Yovanovitch tells Congress that she learned from the deputy secretary of state “there had been a concerted campaign against me, and that the Department had been under pressure from the President to remove me since the Summer of 2018,” according to prepared remarks reported by multiple outlets.

May 9: Giuliani tells The New York Times he will travel to Ukraine “in the coming days” to push for investigations that could help Trump. Giuliani says he hopes to meet with President-elect Zelenskiy to push for inquiries into the origins of the Russia investigation and the Bidens’ involvement with Burisma.

“We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do,” Giuliani tells the Times.

“There’s nothing illegal about it,” he says. “Somebody could say it’s improper. And this isn’t foreign policy — I’m asking them to do an investigation that they’re doing already and that other people are telling them to stop. And I’m going to give them reasons why they shouldn’t stop it because that information will be very, very helpful to my client and may turn out to be helpful to my government.”

Among the members of Congress criticizing Biden, Tulsi Gabbard voted present to impeach Trump on his related extortion attempt; virtually all Republicans voted not to impeach Trump, including Biden critics Paul Gosar and Scott Perry. Of Republican Senators, just Mitt Romney voted to convict the President.

Trump was not serious about Ukraine. He viewed it as nothing more than a political football. Almost his entire party backed him in that effort.

And his former attorney, wailing on Twitter about the ‘CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER” posed by “mentally deteriorating [men], who [were] of limited intelligence even before [] dementia” remains under criminal investigation as an unregistered agent of Russian-backed Ukrainians for his role in politicizing Ukraine.

The Significance of the Trump-Firing-Masha Recording

Yesterday morning, ABC and then Daily Beast revealed that there was a recording of the April 2018 meeting where Lev Parnas got Trump to say he would fire Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch simply by suggesting she was bad-mouthing Trump. Then, last night, Parnas’ lawyer Joseph Bondy appeared on Rachel Maddow’s show again, and provided more details of the recording.

It is about 1:40 hours long, and the firing reference comes after 40 minutes.

Bondy’s interview made two things clear:

  • By April 2018 — when Trump’s administration made Javelin missiles available to Ukraine provided that they not use them against Russia, reportedly in exchange for Ukraine’s halt to any cooperation with the Mueller inquiry — Trump was interested in how vulnerable Ukraine could be made by withdrawing US support. Half an hour, Parnas told Trump Ukraine could resist the Russian incursion without US help, based on what, we don’t know.
  • Lev Parnas probably did not fully comply with the HPSCI subpoena.

I’m as interested in the claimed story about how the recording came about.

Igor Fruman — the guy whose deep connections in Ukraine, including with some mobbed up businessmen, Parnas claims to have networked through — made the recording. That led most people to assume that Fruman released it, and therefore is cooperating, something for which there is no support.

There are at least three other possible sources for the recording.

First, SDNY seem to be suggesting that Parnas and Fruman were working for an as-yet unnamed Ukrainian to get Masha fired. That makes all the smiling pictures that the men posted with Trump and other powerful Republicans feel like a kind of reporting system, perhaps the same one Maria Butina was using. Such social media posting would be a good way to make it clear to whoever is footing the bill for such an operation that the grifters are obtaining the meetings promised. If so, the recording (and other similar ones) might serve a three-fold purpose:

  • It can serve as blackmail against Trump and others, just as it’s being used now
  • It collects intelligence about the security around Trump (Fruman reportedly took a video of the two of them entering the meeting)
  • It assures the paymaster of this operation that he’s getting what he paid for

Remarkably, we don’t yet know what Ukrainian was allegedly paying the grifters. It could be Dmitro Firtash (who last fall gave Parnas’ wife “a loan” that she could use to buy a house that, because it’d be in Florida, could not be seized as forfeiture). Given that Kevin Downing was involved in Parnas and Fruman’s defense, it could be any of Ukrainians who paid Paul Manafort after he entertained a plan to carve up Ukraine on August 2, 2016, which include Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akmetov, the former of whom used a straw donation to attend Trump’s inauguration. Or it could be one of the dodgy businessmen around Fruman. All had and have an incentive to try to reverse Ukraine’s efforts to combat corruption, and so would value the removal of Masha. [Update: I’m missing two other obvious candidates — Yuriy Lutsenko and Viktor Shokin — though much of the reporting on their interest in taking her out focuses on 2019 efforts that are more closely tied to dirt on the Bidens. Update: Fixed where the allegation that a Ukrainian was directing their efforts.]

Any of those people might have reason to release the recording. In the same way that Oleg Deripaska was pushing FBI to investigate Paul Manafort even as he was using Manafort’s desperation to try to coerce him to become his asset again, including to carve up Ukraine, anyone trying to compromise Trump can use his efforts to beat impeachment to make him more reliant on Ukrainian discretion about any deals they’ve made. Plus, by making Trump’s corruption and compromise clear even as Republican Senators vote against doing anything about it, it ensures that every single federally elected Republican has been implicated in this operation. So it’s possible the recording came from the paymaster.

It’s also possible it came from SDNY’s notoriously leaky FBI. The ABC reporters who first released it include DOJ beat journalists, so it would make sense that they’d have FBI sources. But I doubt it, not least because an FBI source would have had reason to leak it before yesterday.

But there is another possibility: that Parnas was the source, but he and Bondy lied about it early in the day (and okayed its release while Bondy was on MSNBC’s set, with a natural alibi he expressly noted), to create a cover story for releasing the recording without admitting that Parnas had not fully complied with the HPSCI subpoena but was belatedly, just yesterday, providing a copy of the recording to HPSCI. Bondy claimed it had been on Parnas’ iCloud all the time, but he had forgotten he had it.

Bondy was more aggressively questioned last night, in part by Chuck Rosenberg and Maya Wiley. But neither confronted Bondy on reports that, in discussions with SDNY last month, he had maintained Parnas’ claim that he was innocent of the existing charges against him: that he was paid and directed by the still-unnamed Ukrainian to get Masha fired. Neither raised that prosecutors have repeatedly said they expect to file more charges against the grifters, likely including (because FBI likely obtained a FISA order against one of them) foreign agent charges, which undercuts Bondy’s claim that Parnas is not seeking a cooperation deal because the existing charges against him don’t have that serious a sentencing range.

Bondy offered some explanation for why Parnas had not searched his iCloud because he had to make sure SDNY had gotten their evidence first. That sounds like a load of baloney. After all, SDNY would have been able to obtain Parnas’ iCloud account with a warrant to Apple (given that Apple decided not to encrypt iCloud after previously considering it, that means some really damning information on Trump is just sitting on a server in Cupertino or somewhere). The recording was over 18 months old when Parnas was arrested. So SDNY had had it, likely, for some time. Moreover, SDNY had told Parnas they had their discovery collected on December 3, which means Bondy could have provided this record — and anything else that was always available to Parnas — even before the phone records. Bondy now is claiming that Parnas was injured with a delay in discovery, because it delayed his ability to cooperate with HPSCI, which is totally undermined by any admission that Parnas had never even searched his iCloud (and still may not have) for information related to the HPSCI subpoena.

All of which suggests Parnas is trying to carefully manage what he’s sharing with HPSCI, presumably focusing on the latter period of his work to get Masha fired, when he could claim to be doing Rudy Giuliani’s bidding, and not the earlier part, when prosecutors claim he was working for some Ukrainian. For better and worse, that likely means that Rudy is at least partly a victim of Parnas, someone who was desperate and weak and easily manipulated into doing really stupid things — just like Trump — who could then be claimed as the real actor behind this operation.

In a sane world, both parties would take a step back and agree that our quisling President and his fawning lackeys were an easy mark. We’d talk about how to unwind whatever damage Trump has done to himself and the country.

But we don’t live in a sane world and Republicans are about to defend Trump’s right to be manipulated by grifters and spies as his Constitutional prerogative.

Trump HJC Defenders Claim Ukraine Aid Withheld To Fight Corruption While Rudy Rounds Up Fired Corrupt Ukrainians To Help Trump

Just as the House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing was getting underway today, Inside Defense published yet another debunking of one of the central Republican defenses of Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine by pointing out that the Defense Department, back in May of this year, certified that Ukraine had made sufficient progress in fighting corruption so that the defense assistance funds designated for Ukraine could be released. Once they later learned that the White House had blocked the funding, they never got a good explanation:

The senior Pentagon official who certified in May that Ukraine should receive $250 million in U.S. military aid because it had made sufficient progress combating corruption said today he never got a “very clear explanation” from the White House as to why the funds were delayed over the summer.

“In the weeks after signing the certification I did become aware that the aid had been held,” John Rood, the under secretary of defense for policy, told reporters this morning.

“I never received a very clear explanation other than there were concerns about corruption in Ukraine,” he continued.

Rood was the person in charge of determining whether Ukraine had made sufficient progress:

Rood said he learned of the White House hold on the aid, which was part of a larger $400 million assistance package, “significantly after May,” when he certified that Ukraine had made sufficient anti-corruption progress to receive the aid.

“It was a requirement under the law that we certify that and I was the person that certified it,” he said.

Despite the fact that this has been widely known for months, Republicans continued to claim that Trump was very concerned about corruption in Ukraine and that was the only reason he withheld the aid.

And yet, also around the time the hearing started, we also learned of yet another foreign trip for Rudy Giuliani in his world tour aimed at protecting Trump against impeachment. As usual, Marcy was way ahead of this move, asking yesterday if Yuriy Lutsenko, Viktor Shokin, and Konstantin Kulyk were the three former Ukrainian prosecutors who had provided statements to John Durham in Bill Barr’s “investigations” aimed at protecting Trump. In what can only be seen as confirmation of her suggestion, the New York Times told us this morning that Rudy met Lutsenko yesterday in Budapest and was in Kiev today to meet with Shokin and Kulyk:

Even as Democrats intensified their scrutiny this week of Rudolph W. Giuliani’s role in the pressure campaign against the Ukrainian government that is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, Mr. Giuliani has been in Europe continuing his efforts to shift the focus to purported wrongdoing by President Trump’s political rivals.

Mr. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, met in Budapest on Tuesday with a former Ukrainian prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, who has become a key figure in the impeachment inquiry. He then traveled to Kyiv on Wednesday seeking to meet with other former Ukrainian prosecutors whose claims have been embraced by Republicans, including Viktor Shokin and Kostiantyn H. Kulyk, according to people familiar with the effort.

Even Ken Vogel, who had the lead byline on this story, has to admit that these former prosecutors are corrupt:

The former prosecutors, who have faced allegations of corruption, all played some role in promoting claims about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a former United States ambassador to Ukraine and Ukrainians who disseminated damaging information about Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in 2016.

Isn’t that interesting? We are being asked to believe that Trump withheld aid Ukraine desperately needed in its war with Russia because of his concerns about corruption. And yet, as Team Trump is doing its best to protect him, they feel that his best defense lies with some of the most corrupt of those Ukrainian officials who have been removed from office. They have provided statements that Bill Barr is likely depending on in his investigation and we learned in today’s Times article that Rudy was also traveling with a team from a wingnut media organization to film a “documentary” providing a “Republican alternative to the impeachment hearings”.

Let’s take a look at just how corrupt these three OAN stars are. First, Lutsenko. USA Today reported on a criminal investigation of him on October 1:

Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) opened criminal proceedings against Yuriy Lutsenko over his possible abuse of power, the government agency said.

It said that Lutsenko and other former lawmakers may have conspired to “provide cover” for illegal gambling businesses in Ukraine. Lutsenko disputes the allegations.

And if that’s not enough, it appears that Lutsenko was also involved in the ouster of former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch:

The unnamed Ukrainian official referenced in a federal indictment as directing a plot to oust the then-U.S. ambassador is Ukraine’s former chief prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, according to a U.S. official familiar with the events.

According to the source, Lutsenko is the Ukrainian official who prosecutors say urged two associates of Rudy Giuliani to push for the removal of Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was forced out in May.

The associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested Wednesday night as they prepared to board a one-way flight out of the country at Dulles Airport near Washington, D.C.

So Lutsenko helped the efforts to oust a very important ambassador who was doing good work and was so corrupt in general that he not only got fired but had a criminal case opened against him, and yet he’s one of the prime targets of Team Trump when they are trying to mount their final defense against impeachment.

But Shokin is even more corrupt. Recall that the false Trump claim is that Shokin was fired for investigating Hunter Biden. The truth is pretty much the opposite:

At the heart of Congress’ probe into the president’s actions is his claim that former Vice President and 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden strong-armed the Ukrainian government to fire its top prosecutor in order to thwart an investigation into a company tied to his son, Hunter Biden.

But sources ranging from former Obama administration officials to an anti-corruption advocate in Ukraine say the official, Viktor Shokin, was ousted for the opposite reason Trump and his allies claim.

It wasn’t because Shokin was investigating a natural gas company tied to Biden’s son; it was because Shokin wasn’t pursuing corruption among the country’s politicians, according to a Ukrainian official and four former American officials who specialized in Ukraine and Europe.

Shokin’s inaction prompted international calls for his ouster and ultimately resulted in his removal by Ukraine’s parliament.

It comes as no surprise then, that Shokin’s “depostion” was central to John Solomon’s propaganda campaign in favor of Trump.

But what about Kulyk? It turns out that Kulyk is the first person mentioned in a Washington Post story that ran on Sunday informing us on the real progress Zelensky is making against corruption and that this progress comes at the risk of angering Trump:

By the end of this month, more than 500 Ukrainian prosecutors will be out of their jobs as part of sweeping professional reviews under Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Among the prosecutors heading for the exit: a key Kyiv contact for Rudolph W. Giuliani.


Now that Zelensky’s reform push is underway, some of those Giuliani-linked officials are in the crosshairs.

A prosecutor named Kostiantyn H. Kulyk is one of the first.

Zelensky’s new prosecutor general, Ruslan Ryaboshapka — “100 percent my person,” Zelensky told Trump in July — last week gave a dismissal notice to Kulyk, a key player in the effort to provide Giuliani with political ammunition of dubious accuracy. Kulyk denies meeting Giuliani, but former associates say he prepared a seven-page dossier that his boss later passed along to the former New York mayor. Kulyk did not respond to a request for comment.

And so Team Trump has decided that in order to protect Trump in relation to actions that they claimed were part of a fight against corruption in Ukraine, corrupt Ukrainians are needed in order to produce a narrative that will exonerate him. The Post summed it up well:

Trump’s views of Ukraine — and his demands to investigate the Biden family — were largely shaped by Giuliani, his personal lawyer. The theories and opinions that were passed to Giuliani came from some of the very officials whom Ukrainian activists claim are prime corruption culprits in their own system.

By relying on these corrupt Ukrainians to support their arguments, Trump, Giuliani and Barr are proving that under the Trump Administration, the US courts corruption in order to advance the personal and political future of its President, at great risk to the strategic interests of the US.

Are Kulyk, Lutsenko, and Shokin the Three Ukrainians that Show Bill Barr Is Part of the Conspiracy?

As part of DOJ’s extensive efforts to obstruct any investigation into Trump’s role in the Ukrainian conspiracy, they have made narrow denials that Bill Barr had an active role in the investigation in the wake of the July 25 call, while admitting that three Ukrainians volunteered information to John 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.”

DOJ made that statement on September 25. Yet no reporter has yet obtained the names of the three Ukrainians who offered information to John Durham.

There’s a possible clue in the Impeachment Report released by HPSCI today. It describes three Ukrainians — Yuriy Lutsenko, Viktor Shokin, and Konstantin Kulyk — retaining Victoria Toensing back in April.

Beginning in mid-April, Ms. Toensing signed retainer agreements between diGenova & Toensing LLP and Mr. Lutsenko, Mr. Kulyk, and Mr. Shokin—all of whom feature in Mr. Solomon’s opinion pieces.81 In these retainer agreements, the firm agreed to represent Mr. Lutsenko and Mr. Kulyk in meetings with U.S. officials regarding alleged “evidence” of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, and to represent Mr. Shokin “for the purpose of collecting evidence regarding his March 2016 firing as Prosecutor General of Ukraine and the role of Vice President Biden in such firing, and presenting such evidence to U.S. and foreign authorities.”82 On July 25, President Trump would personally press President Zelensky to investigate these very same matters.

While Kulyk is (or was) technically still part of the Ukrainian government at this time — he is reportedly being fired in Volodymyr Zelensky’s efforts to clean up Ukraine’s prosecutors office — Rudy always cites three people to support his conspiracy theories about Ukraine.

If these three men already have shared information with Durham, it would be proof that the investigation is about collecting disinformation, not evidence.

Which is probably part of the reason Barr is claiming to doubt the outcome of the IG investigation. Because without any predicate for an investigation into the origin of the investigation into Trump, it becomes clear that it’s nothing but the use of DOJ resources to further a conspiracy to help Donald Trump get reelected.

Paul Manafort Is the Linchpin in Russia’s Effort to Recorrupt Ukraine

Yesterday, a vague NYT report described Senators and their staffers being briefed that Russia was behind the effort to blame the 2016 hack on Ukraine.

Russian intelligence officers aimed part of their operation at prompting the Ukrainian authorities to investigate the allegations that people in Ukraine tried to tamper with the 2016 American election and to shut down inquiries into corruption by pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, according to a former official.

One target was the leak of a secret ledger disclosed by a Ukrainian law enforcement agency that appeared to show that Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s onetime campaign chairman, had taken illicit payments from Ukrainian politicians who were close to Moscow. He was forced to step down from the Trump campaign after the ledger became public in August 2016, and the Russians have since been eager to cast doubt on its authenticity, the former official said.

Intelligence officials believe that one of the people the Kremlin relied on to spread disinformation about Ukrainian interference was Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who had ties to Mr. Manafort. After his ouster from the campaign, Mr. Manafort told his former deputy later in 2016 that Ukrainians, not Russians, stole Democratic emails. Mr. Deripaska has broadly denied any role in election meddling.

The Deripaska role in this may partly explain the vagueness about the briefing. At least per FOIA redactions made in August, there was an ongoing investigation pertaining to Deripaska at the time.

The article is not vague about one thing: the purpose for the disinformation campaign, which (in addition to permitting Trump to deny the role Russia had in getting him elected) has to do with Ukrainian internal politics. Russia wants Ukraine to investigate people that, the conspiracy theories go, “tried to tamper in the 2016 American election and to shut down inquiries into corruption by pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.”

This explains the nature of the campaign: Rudy’s disinformation packet (including the John Solomon articles that come from his efforts) target Sergii Leshchenko, NABU, and the Anti-Corruption Action Centre. None of those entities should be the focus of an American smear campaign, to say nothing of an impeachment defense. But painting Joe Biden’s efforts to combat Ukrainian corruption as the opposite and dropping the name of George Soros was sufficient to recruit Donald Trump into ordering his Administration to pursue the effort and enticing the fragile-minded Devin Nunes into chasing the conspiracy like a puppy. The US had been using the leverage it had over Ukraine to push it to address corruption. This disinformation campaign appealed to Trump’s weaknesses to get him to reverse that policy, creating conditions to expand corruption, even while tainting the newly elected President elected on an anti-corruption platform.

Still, Paul Manafort is a key part of that. That’s partly because Manafort continues to protect Trump and at least one of his associates — in part by lying about a meeting on August 2, 2016 where he discussed his ties with both Deripaska and pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarchs as well as carving up Ukraine to Russia’s liking. It’s also because legitimate concerns raised in 2016 about Manafort’s corruption one of the two main ways Ukrainians commented on the election (the other involves criticism of Trump’s comments on Crimea, comments he has since disavowed under oath). The claim — which is false on several levels — is that because Leshchenko publicized the Black Ledger, it led to Manafort’s resignation (Leshchenko has published a second piece making this clear). And, as I and Leschenko keep noting, Manafort knew he was in the Black Ledger months before it became public. If anyone should be held responsible for any taint the publication of his inclusion in the Black Ledger, it’s him; if it was a problem, he should have disclosed that problem to the candidate.

With all that said, then, I want to note something that happened with Rudy’s disinformation packet, which I unpacked in detail here. As I noted, there are two versions of three sets of notes from January 2016, one of a phone interview with Viktor Shokin conducted on January 23, 2019, and two of an in-person interview with Yuriy Lutsenko conducted in NY on January 25 and 26. The first set appears to be what Rudy gave Pompeo. The second may reflect Pompeo’s notes on them, which include some proofreading, stars for emphasis, remarks on timing.

But as I noted, the original version appears to have come with underlines already included.

The only annotation added to that section was to circle Leshchenko’s name (which is not transliterated as he does it, so this could either be emphasis or one of several really nitpicky notations of errors in the notes).

The reason I’m interested in this is because, while the passage has a bunch of errors (for example, the size of the Black Ledger is wrong, the allegation against Yovanovitch is invented, Leshchenko released something else, that’s not how US media got the story), it does make it clear that Manafort was in the Ledger. That is, even disinformation (which Lutsenko has since recanted) designed to help Trump includes the allegation that Manafort was in the Ledger. It also asserts that Manafort was laundering money through Kyrgyzstan, which is also true.

Furthermore, nothing here refutes the validity of the Ledger more generally.

That might not be clear to someone reading quickly, of course, because of the way the other details were underlined.

Which is why it is all the more inexcusable that Republicans — including but not limited to Rudy and Devin Nunes — continue to suggest that Manafort was unfairly tainted by the ledger, as happened in this exchange between Nunes and David Holmes last week.

Nunes: [Leshchenko] provided widely known as the black ledger, have you ever heard of the black ledger?

Holmes: I have.

Nunes: The black ledger, is that seen as credible information?

Holmes: Yes.

Nunes: The black ledger is credible?

Holmes: Yes.

Nunes: Bob Mueller did not find it credible, do you dispute what Bob Mueller’s findings were? They didn’t use it in the prosecution or in the Report?

Holmes: I’m not aware that Bob Mueller did not find it credible. It was evidence in other criminal proceedings. Its credibility was not questioned in those proceedings.

Even in Rudy’s own disinformation, which is full of easily identifiable lies, it states clearly that Manafort was in the ledger and was laundering money (the latter allegation of which he has pled guilty to). And yet Republicans are still running around ignoring even their own manufactured dirt to pretend the accusations against Manafort were simply made up.

Perhaps that’s because, without Manafort, Trump’s own stakes in this go down substantially.

Timeline: How Rudy Made It Hard for Mike Pompeo to Show Any Leadership

American Oversight FOIAed the documents showing Rudy Giuliani’s campaign to smear Marie Yovanovitch and the Bidens at State. For some of these, this represents another instance where NGOs have successfully obtained documents refused to Congress, but many of these were turned over to Congress by State’s Inspector General Steve Linnick in early October.

I did a thread on the documents here, but wanted to lay out the timeline of what the documents include. What it shows is that Rudy Giuliani and Mike Pompeo spoke twice around the time Rudy delivered a packet of disinformation to the Secretary of State. When Rudy’s campaign started showing publicly, with response from other Ambassadors and Congress, Department of State blew off their concerns.

March 26-29: Rudy shares a packet of information with Mike Pompeo wrapped up with Trump and White House labels

The bulk of these records document Mike Pompeo talking with Rudy Giuliani twice — on March 26 and 29 — and appear to include the materials they talked about, the packet of disinformation Rudy sent to State. The March 26 call does not appear in some of the month-long metrics sheets (see PDF 43), which makes me wonder whether Rudy called out of the blue.

March 26, 9:49AM: S (Pompeo) speaking with Rudy

March 26, 9:53AM: S finished speaking with Rudy

Pages 59-100 appears to be the disinformation packet Rudy sent, as follows:

  • Cover sheet addressing the packet, ostensibly from the White House (59)
  • Trump Hotels cover sheets (60 and 73; 77 and 88)
  • Initial copy of Viktor Shokin notes (61-62)
  • One copy of Yuriy Lutsenko notes, with underlines on section Lutsenko interview (63-66)
  • Annotated copy of Shokin notes (67-68)
  • Annotated copy of Lutsenko notes, incorporating original underlines (69-72)
  • A list of names (including Sergii Luschenko) (74)
  • A March 2016 letter from George Kent on US Embassy in Ukraine letterhead responding to a query about how US assistance was spent, with a post-it titled “Solomon articles” (75-76)
  • Two timelines (in another Trump folder) with no headers or title, ostensibly laying out Obama Administration corruption; the second has a post-it querying about its source (78-87)
  • Four John Solomon articles: one dated March 20 claiming Lutsenko had opened an investigation into how the Black Ledger was released, claiming it was a plot to help Hillary; another dated March 20 reporting Lutsenko claiming Yovanovitch had given him a do not prosecute list; a third dated March 20 reporting Lutsenko’s claim he had opened an investigation into the Black Ledger release; the draft of the March 26 column sent to Lev Parnas, Joe DiGenova, Victoria Toensing, and claiming the US embassy had shut down an investigation into a Soros backed anti-corruption group; the March 26 draft was sent from an unidentified ProtonMail account to someone unidentified (89-100)

That packet seems to show that Solomon wrote his four articles smearing Yovanovitch and Democrats based in part on the notes Rudy took in meetings with Shokin and Lutsenko. The draft status of the last Solomon article suggests that they were shared sometime on March 26, before it was posted.

March 27, 11:28AM: Rudy’s assistant, Jo Ann Zafonte, emails Trump’s then personal assistant Madelein Westerhout, asking for a number for Pompeo

March 27, 11:52: Westerhout asks someone what number she can have.

March 27, 12:03: In response, State gives Westerhout the scheduler’s number.

March 28, 9:27AM: Rudy (apparently, himself) calls to confirm the call on March 29

March 28, 9:34AM: State Ops Center emails someone whose name is redacted to ask if there will be monitors on Rudy’s call to Pompeo

March 28, 9:37AM: The person with redacted name informs David Hale about the call

March 29, 8:14AM: State puts Pompeo through to Rudy on his unsecure cell phone

March 29, 8:18AM: The call ends

April 1, 1:30: Pompeo speaks to Nunes (in one case described as HPSCI “Chairman”) on a secure line

April 8-15: Bill Taylor and other Ambassadors write David Hale about the smear of Yovanovitch

Pages 2-22 show Bill Taylor and other Ambassadors sending a letter decrying the attack on Yovanovitch (it was organized by John Herbst) to David Hale. The letter explained that the attack would not only weaken “the structure of our diplomatic engagement,” but “weaken the alliance” with Ukraine, “making it harder to take effective action against corruption.”

Hale forwarded it to Counselor Thomas Brechbuhl and Philip Reeker, as an FYI. Later that day, Reeker sends Brechbuhl an email memorializing a meeting about the topic which is entirely redacted under a deliberation exemption. The next day, Herbst sent a copy to Brechbuhl and someone else, the latter of whom responded to the FOIA. Herbst explained, “As we offered David, we would be happy to provide further information…” Brechbuhl responded mid-day the next day saying, “Thank you for your concern and offer. It’s much appreciated” — a polite brush-off.

On April 15, Hale sends it to someone whose name is redacted saying, “Not sure what to do with this.”

April 12-Jun 11: State ignores the concerns of Steny Hoyer and Eliot Engel

Pages 27-31 and 34-37 involve an April 12 letter Steny Hoyer and Eliot Engel sent to Pompeo urging him to defend his diplomats, using Yovanovitch as the urgent example. Internally, State (including Charles Faulker, who has been ousted for corruption) note that the Congressmen will not make the letter public. But Mary Elizabeth Taylor, the Legislative Affairs Assistant Secretary, does ask that it be tasked and turned around quickly.

Nevertheless, Taylor does not respond until June 11, in a letter in which she deflects with the Congressmen, claiming that Yovanovitch was due to finish her assignment this summer, and the end of her service coincided with the presidential transition in Ukraine.


This doesn’t fit into the timeline at all, but pages 23-25; 32-33 include details Trident Acquisitions Chairman Edward Verona sent to Mike McKinley (these are included because he makes a reference to Yovanovitch) about a November 2018 visit to Ukraine.

The Proper Recipients for Lev Parnas’ Allegations Are the Ethics Committee and SDNY

CNN has a follow-up to Daily Beast’s story describing the jaunt Devin Nunes took to Vienna last December to dig up fabricated dirt on Joe Biden. It describes two things Parnas wants to share with HPSCI. First, Parnas wants to spill details about the Ukrainians, including Viktor Shokin, he set up Nunes with to pursue the Biden smear that has been the centerpiece of Trump’s impeachment defense.

“Mr. Parnas learned from former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin that Nunes had met with Shokin in Vienna last December,” said Bondy.


Bondy tells CNN that his client and Nunes began communicating around the time of the Vienna trip. Parnas says he worked to put Nunes in touch with Ukrainians who could help Nunes dig up dirt on Biden and Democrats in Ukraine, according to Bondy.

Parnas confirms something I noted: the timing, between the time Republicans got shellacked in midterm elections and the time Adam Schiff took over as House Intelligence Committee.

Bondy told CNN that Nunes planned the trip to Vienna after Republicans lost control of the House in the mid-term elections on Nov. 6, 2018.

“Mr. Parnas learned through Nunes’ investigator, Derek Harvey, that the Congressman had sequenced this trip to occur after the mid-term elections yet before Congress’ return to session, so that Nunes would not have to disclose the trip details to his Democrat colleagues in Congress,” said Bondy.

Additionally, he wants to describe the “team,” including Rudy, Victoria Toensing and Joe DiGenova, Nunes’ chief conspiracist Derek Harvey, and John Solomon, that got together at Trump International to advance these smears.

Bondy tells CNN that Parnas is also willing to tell Congress about a series of regular meetings he says he took part in at the Trump International Hotel in Washington that concerned Ukraine. According to Bondy, Parnas became part of what he described as a “team” that met several times a week in a private room at the BLT restaurant on the second floor of the Trump Hotel. In addition to giving the group access to key people in Ukraine who could help their cause, Parnas translated their conversations, Bondy said.

The group, according to Bondy,  included Giuliani, Parnas, the journalist Solomon, and the married attorneys Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing. Parnas said that Harvey would occasionally be present as well, and that it was Parnas’ understanding that Harvey was Nunes’ proxy, Bondy said.

Solomon confirmed the meetings to CNN but said that calling the group a team was a bit of a mischaracterization. Solomon said that connectivity happened more organically, and that his role was only as a journalist reporting a story.

A detail Parnas offers that is probably not true is that Nunes was working off John Solomon stories.

Parnas says that Nunes told him he’d been partly working off of information from the journalist John Solomon, who had written a number of articles on the Biden conspiracy theory for the Hill, according to Bondy.

That timing doesn’t work, as the key Solomon stories came out after the December trip. This appears to be an attempt on Parnas’ part to hide his role not just in translating the stories, but concocting them.

The story has generated a lot of excitement among the left, with people calling to give Parnas’ attorneys exactly what they’re looking for, a date with HPSCI.

That would be a mistake.

I say that for several reasons. First, this is part of a larger disinformation campaign, in which Parnas is a key player. He is legally fucked and has little downside to share just part of his information, while leaving the key bits (such as who is behind the larger campaign) obscured. His lawyers no doubt want to wring immunity from HPSCI to screw up the SDNY case.

But thus far, particularly given HPSCI’s narrow focus, Parnas’ story doesn’t help the impeachment case much. Moreover, it risks inserting disinformation into a thoroughly credible story of corruption. More importantly, it would make most Republicans  even more defensive, as members of HPSCI came under scrutiny, making it less likely rather than more they’d support impeachment.

Finally, Schiff has gotten nowhere with his demands for the documentary backup to these stories. Thus, HPSCI would be at a distinct disadvantage in trying to suss out what was true and bullshit in Parnas’ claims (in the same way that both HPSCI and SSCI did not have the key details on Don Jr’s involvement in 2016 events, which is why he would meet with them but not Mueller).

The proper place in Congress for these allegations is the Ethics Committee. Schiff has the ability to ask all three staffers and Nunes to step down from the committee until such issues are adjudicated, where they would be pursued in private, tamping down the polarizing aspect of this.

And, too, these allegations also belong in FBI, where they already are, with investigators whose subpoena power actually works. Anything that would undercut that effort would backfire in the long run.

The Ellipses and the Recordings, Plural, of Joe Biden

Before I get into the NYT report on Alexander Vindman’s testimony that the White House removed damning things from the transcript of the July 25 call, I want to note something from his opening statement. At the end of his description of who he is and what he does, Vindman warned that the impeachment inquiry should carefully balance the need for disclosure against national security concerns.

Most of my interactions relate to national security issues and are therefore especially sensitive. I would urge the Committees to carefully balance the need for information against the impact that disclosure would have on our foreign policy and national security.

Then, when discussing the July 25 call, Vindman emphasized that, because the transcript is in the public record, “we are all aware of what was said.”

On July 25, 2019, the call occurred. I listened in on the call in the Situation Room with colleagues from the NSC and the office of the Vice President. As the transcript is in the public record, we are all aware of what was said.

I was concerned by the call. I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine. I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained.

Yet immediately following his statement that “we are all aware of what was said,” Vindman asserts that the call was about investigating the Bidens and Burisma. But Burisma doesn’t appear in the TELCON. It is one of the things that, according to the NYT, the White House removed — where it says “the company” in this passage — and he recommended it be put back in.

I understand and I’m knowledgeable .about the situation. Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament; the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate, who will be approved, by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. [my emphasis]

NYCSouthpaw had said once this had to be a reference to Burisma — he was absolutely correct.

According to NYT, the ellipsis in this passage of the TELCON,

Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it …

… Took out a reference to Joe Biden talking about getting Viktor Shokin fired.

The omissions, Colonel Vindman said, included Mr. Trump’s assertion that there were recordings of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. discussing Ukraine corruption,


The rough transcript also contains ellipses at three points where Mr. Trump is speaking. Colonel Vindman told investigators that at the point of the transcript where the third set of ellipses appear, Mr. Trump said there were tapes of Mr. Biden.

Mr. Trump’s mention of tapes is an apparent reference to Mr. Biden’s comments at a January 2018 event about his effort to get Ukraine to force out its prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin. [my emphasis]

The NYT and other outlets have asserted that this is a reference to a video that Rudy Giuliani has been publicly shopping for some time, and it undoubtedly is that, at least.

But I want to suggest the possibility that it’s a reference to more.

The NYT goes to absurd lengths to make this appear as innocuous as possible, seemingly offering up the possibility that the words “the company” appeared because of a failure of the voice recognition software (though the TELCON itself notes that such a possibility would be marked by “inaudible” in the transcript).

It is not clear why some of Colonel Vindman’s changes were not made, while others he recommended were, but the decision by a White House lawyer to quickly lock down the reconstructed transcript subverted the normal process of handling such documents.

The note-takers and voice recognition software used during the July 25 call had missed Mr. Zelensky saying the word “Burisma,” but the reconstructed transcript does reference “the company,” and suggests that the Ukrainian president is aware that it is of great interest to Mr. Trump.

Which is one reason I find it notable that the NYT suggests the reference to recordings refers solely to a single publicly known recording of Biden even though both times they refer to Vindman’s testimony, they refer to tapes or recordings, plural.

The thing is, there are undoubtedly are tapes, plural, of Biden talking about firing Shokin. Indeed, in the recording in question, Biden even says that he had already gotten a commitment from Petro Poroshenko to fire Shokin.

I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor. And they didn’t.

So at the very least, there are the US versions of prior communications in which Biden would have emphasized the importance of firing Shokin. And there may well be other recordings reflecting that the ask happened, for example of Poroshenko talking to Arseniy Yatsenyuk about it. Given that getting Poroshenko to act on corruption was a key focus of Obama’s policy, it would have been a key focus of SIGINT collection. So if we had the ability to collect such conversations, we would have done so. And if we did, those recordings would still be sitting at NSA available to anyone with the need to know.

Trump would have legal access to all of that and, given his focus on Ukraine and “corruption,” an excuse to pull it up. Given that this purported concern about “corruption” is part of the official, stated policy of the US, it is not at all crazy to assume that his aides have pulled existing intercepts pertaining to past discussions of corruption and if they did, they would have, by definition, involved Joe Biden, because he was the one Obama tasked to take care of such issues.

And if there were — and if Trump’s comment reflected knowledge of that — it would explain two other details.

First, Vindman clearly doesn’t think all of the details about this call should be aired publicly. It’s certainly possible that he just didn’t want it to become public that Zelensky had parroted Trump’s demand to investigate Burisma. As I noted, by releasing the transcript, Trump has already made it clear that he succeeded in corrupting Zelensky, who ran on a platform of ending corruption. Revealing that Zelensky was literally repeating the script that Gordon Sondland had dictated for him would make that worse.

It’s also possible that whatever the other two ellipses in the TELCON hide are things he believes should remain secret. Vindman certainly would know what those ellipses hide, even if he didn’t recommend adding those details back in, and surely got asked about it yesterday.

But a national security professional like Vindman would also want to keep any details about intercepts classified. Even just the fact — not at all controversial but not something spoken of in polite company — that the US was sitting on records of Poroshenko’s resistance to dealing with corruption would be the kind of thing Vindman might want to keep secret.

Again, it may be that Vindman’s concerns about airing this dirty laundry involve nothing more than an effort to minimize the damage already done to Zelensky. But it may reflect more specific concerns about sources and methods.

And if the original transcript did reflect sources and methods, it might provide an excuse for John Eisenberg to insist it be stored on the Top Secret server. Again, his decision to do so may extend no further than a desire to cover up the President’s crime. But if the call reflected more sensitive collection, then it would need to be stored on a more secure server. That also might explain why everyone else — except the whistleblower, who wasn’t on the call — treated these details as Top Secret.

The existing TELCON does not hide that Trump was discussing right wing propaganda with Zelensky. So there would be no reason to remove Trump’s reference to another piece of right wing propaganda. But the treatment of it suggests that the TELCON as released removed classified information (the document is titled “Unclassified,” suggesting that if the TELCON included the statements reflected in the ellipses, it’d be Classified). In which case, there may be other recordings, recordings that are classified and aren’t known to every frothy right winger spouting propaganda.

For some reason, the NYT thinks Trump referred to more than one recording of Biden talking corruption. It is not at all unreasonable to imagine he knows of classified recordings.