Giuliani Pursued Business in Ukraine While Pushing for Inquiries for Trump

  • In Politics
  • 2019-11-27 19:37:19Z
  • By The New York Times

As Rudy Giuliani waged a public campaign this year to unearth damaging information in Ukraine about President Donald Trump's political rivals, he privately pursued hundreds of thousands of dollars in business from Ukrainian government officials, documents reviewed by The New York Times show.

Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, has repeatedly said he has no business in Ukraine, and none of the deals was finalized. But the documents indicate that while he was pushing Trump's agenda with Ukrainian officials eager for support from the United States, Giuliani also explored financial agreements with members of the same government.

His discussions with Ukrainian officials proceeded far enough along that he prepared at least one retainer agreement, on his company letterhead, that he signed.

In an interview Wednesday, Giuliani played down the discussions. He said that a Ukrainian official approached him this year, seeking to hire him personally. Giuliani said he dismissed that suggestion but spent about a month considering a separate deal with the Ukrainian government. He then rejected that idea.

"I thought that would be too complicated," Giuliani said. "I never received a penny."

Giuliani's shadow diplomacy campaign in Ukraine on behalf of the president is a central focus of the current House impeachment inquiry. At the same time, a federal criminal investigation into Giuliani is examining his role in the campaign to oust Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, and whether he sought to make money in Ukraine at the same time he was working against her, according to people briefed on the matter.

Prosecutors and FBI agents in New York City are examining whether Giuliani was not just working for the president but also doing the bidding of Ukrainians who wanted the ambassador removed for their own reasons, the people said. It is a federal crime to try to influence the U.S. government at the request or direction of a foreign government, politician or party without registering as a foreign agent. Giuliani did not register as one, he has said, because he was acting on behalf of his client, Trump, not Ukrainians.

Giuliani has not been accused of wrongdoing.

The federal inquiry focused on Giuliani grew out of the case against two of his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were arrested on campaign finance charges last month. Alongside Giuliani, Parnas and Fruman worked to pressure Ukraine into announcing investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Parnas and Fruman have pleaded not guilty to the campaign finance charges.

Spokesmen for the U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey S. Berman, whose prosecutors are handling the case, and the FBI declined to comment.

The documents reviewed by The Times portray an evolving effort over the course of several months by Giuliani and lawyers close to him to consider taking on various Ukrainian officials or their agencies as clients.

One of the documents, a proposal signed in February by Giuliani, called for the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice to pay his firm $300,000. In return, Giuliani would help the government recover money it believed had been stolen and stashed overseas.

In another unsigned draft proposal that was not on letterhead, Giuliani looked to enter into a similar deal with Yuriy Lutsenko, who was then Ukraine's top prosecutor. At the time, Giuliani had been working with Lutsenko to encourage investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election.

Giuliani was critical of Yovanovitch, whom he and other Republicans have said was opposed to the president. Giuliani's moves against her, however, were also aligned with the interests of Lutsenko, who had butted heads with the ambassador.

Ultimately, Yovanovitch was removed from her post in May, and Lutsenko was replaced in August after a new Ukrainian president took office.

The Times could not determine whether the documents it reviewed comprise the entirety of the efforts by Giuliani and other lawyers to represent Ukrainian government officials.

The documents date to mid-February, when a draft proposal said Giuliani would represent Lutsenko "to advise on Ukrainian claims for the recovery of sums of money in various financial institutions outside Ukraine." It called for Lutsenko to pay $200,000 to retain Giuliani Partners, Giuliani's firm, and a husband-and-wife legal team aligned with Trump, Joseph E. diGenova and Victoria Toensing.

The proposal came a few weeks after Giuliani met at his office in New York with Lutsenko to discuss Ukrainian corruption. Lutsenko told Giuliani and others about payments involving Joe Biden, Hunter Biden and Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian company that had named the younger Biden to its board, according to a memo summarizing the meetings.

An updated proposal was circulated Feb. 20, along with instructions on how to wire money to Giuliani Partners. This version made no mention of Lutsenko but instead sought $300,000 from the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice and the Republic of Ukraine. The proposal was signed by Giuliani, but not by the justice minister at the time, Pavlo Petrenko.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Justice said Wednesday that it did not enter into any contracts or make payments to Giuliani.

In March, a document proposed that the Ukrainian justice ministry would hire Toensing and diGenova for asset recovery. But it said that the General Prosecutor's office, run by Lutsenko, would pay $300,000 to Giuliani Partners.

Several later draft retainer agreements involved Toensing and diGenova but did not reference Giuliani.

In April, Lutsenko reappeared as a potential client in some new versions of documents, along with one of his deputies. Under the proposals, which were signed only by Toensing and printed on her law firm's letterhead, she and diGenova would represent the officials "in connection with recovery and return to the Ukraine government of funds illegally embezzled from that country."

Asked for comment by The Times, a spokeswoman for Lutsenko, Larisa Sarhan, on Wednesday referred to an interview Lutsenko gave to a Ukrainian news outlet confirming that aides to Giuliani had asked him to hire a lobbying company. He did not specify which company.

Lutsenko told Ukrainska Pravda he had been seeking a meeting with William Barr, the U.S. attorney general, and was in touch with unnamed advisers to Giuliani. "In the end, they said the meeting would be impossible unless I hired a company that would lobby for such a meeting," Lutsenko told the news outlet, adding that he declined to do that.

The proposed April agreement between Lutsenko and Toensing and diGenova also referenced another assignment: helping the Ukrainians meet with U.S. officials about "the evidence of illegal conduct in Ukraine regarding the United States, for example, interference in the 2016 U.S. elections."

The proposals noted that Toensing and diGenova might have to register as foreign agents under U.S. law.

"We have always stated that we agreed to represent Ukrainian whistleblowers," Mark Corallo, a representative for the law firm of Toensing and diGenova, said in a statement Wednesday. Corallo said the business proposals were "unaccepted" and the lawyers never represented the Ukrainians. "No money was ever received, and no legal work was ever performed," he said.

In another agreement signed by Toensing in April, the client would have been Victor Shokin, the top Ukrainian prosecutor before Lutsenko. Shokin was ousted after critics, among them Joe Biden, said he was soft on corruption.

Shokin did not respond to a request for comment.

Shokin had also spoken with Giuliani and his associates in January, via Skype. In the call, Shokin asserted that U.S. officials applied pressure on the Ukrainian government to kill an investigation of Burisma and that he was fired after Biden accused the prosecutor of being corrupt, according to a memo summarizing the discussion.

Toensing proposed that, for $25,000 a month, she and her partner represent Shokin "for the purpose of collecting evidence regarding his March 2016 firing as Prosecutor General of Ukraine and the role of then-Vice President Joe Biden in such firing, and presenting such evidence to U.S. and foreign authorities."

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

© 2019 The New York Times Company


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