There is only one scandal. On broad terms, that scandal is how easily Donald Trump is manipulated by anyone appealing to either his ego or his pocketbook. In a more narrow sense, there’s only a single scandal because the same people behind the Russia scandal are also the ones that set up the Ukraine scandal.
In the spring of 2017, as the Russia scandal was just kicking into high gear, the name Dmytro Firtash began popping up in connection with onetime Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and a string of miraculous, highly-profitable business moves. Firtash has been long regarded as being in the top echelon of Russian organized crime, was under indictment in the United States, and had been fighting a lengthy battle to avoid extradition from his temporary home in Vienna. Then a funny thing happened: The effort to extradite Firtash went quiet. Even requests about his status from Republican senators stopped getting any response. Finally, June 2019, brought word that Firtash had raked in an astounding $1.5 billion just while sitting in place, fighting off what increasingly seemed like an nonexistent effort to bring him to justice.
With all that cash in the bank, it shouldn’t be surprising that Firtash had some money left over for projects: Projects like weaving together conspiracy theories with the express purpose of luring in Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump. Projects like bribing a former Ukraine prosecutor to make up lies about Joe Biden.
When Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested at Dulles International Airport, it wasn’t surprising to find that they had one-way tickets to Vienna. They were going home to Firtash, and the recently indicted pair weren’t just funneling thousands of dollars to Trump’s campaign. As Bloomberg reports, Firtash’s bag men began working on making up Biden dirt over a year ago. To make the Giuliani-Trump connection, Firtash brought in Trump fans Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing as his new attorneys. That move seems to coincide quite closely with the sudden silence over efforts to extradite Firtash from Vienna. Firtash also set up Lev Parnas to work with diGenova and Toensing, so that by the time Parnas began peddling the idea that he could produce “evidence” against Biden, Team Trump was also deeply interwoven with Team Firtash.
And no one was more willing to play for both sides than Rudy Giuliani. As it turns out, the whole basis of the “case” Giuliani has been selling, the “confession” from a Ukrainian prosecutor that Giuliani took to The New York Times and which the Times in turn made into page one news, was bought and paid for by Dmytro Firtash.
It’s easier to understand how the demands Trump and Giuliani were making on Ukrainian officials—including exonerating Manafort, calling the DNC hack an inside job, and absolving Russia of involvement—came about when everything that Giuliani has been pitching appears to have originated through an oligarch with close ties to Vladimir Putin.
The whole Russian scandal happened because Donald Trump and his associates were ready suckers for the idea that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton. With the Ukraine scandal, it seems that the very same people took the very same approach, and Trump was still ready to bite.
What did Firtash do to get on the bad side of U.S. officials in the first place? The Ukrainian oligarch was indicted in 2014 for bribing Indian officials to get control of titanium needed by airline manufacturers. He knows bribery. His bail was set at $174 million, but considering the rate at which he has continued to accumulate dollars, that seems almost like spare change.
Giuliani has claimed that he “never met” and “does not know” Firtash. But he certainly knows the oligarch’s lieutenants. And there remains the mystery of why Giuliani himself was planning to fly to Vienna just hours after having lunch with Parnas and Fruman. Giuliani has said the fact that he was planning to fly to Vienna less than a day after his cohorts were busted with Vienna tickets in hand is purely coincidence. But it’s one hell of a coincidence.
If Giuliani didn’t know Firtash, he certainly knew a lot of people who did know the Ukrainian oligarch in exile. In fact, he knew a lot of people who were being paid by Firtash, and those people seem to have worked long and hard to create the conspiracy theories that Giulani trotted out to the Times. That includes providing Giuliani with his one “witness” … who has since, rather inconveniently, retracted his story.
Giuliani’s associations with Firtash go way past happenstance, and miles beyond coincidence. What comes next is enemy action.