As far back as October 2018, a former U.S. attorney acting on behalf of Ukrainian interests tried to get federal law enforcement to bite on bogus political dirt about the Bidens and on whether Paul Manafort’s notorious Black Ledger was a forgery.
Bud Cummins, a former U.S. attorney in Arkansas, emailed the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York relaying a request for a meeting on the same topics into which President Trump would later demand Ukraine conduct investigations.
TPM has been investigating Cummins’ role in attempting to serve as an intermediary between certain Ukrainian interests and federal law enforcement. Cummins’ involvement has not been previously reported. However, Rudy Giuliani sent a letter on Saturday to Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC) claiming that a former U.S. attorney was ready to provide emails and memoranda about an attempt to get the FBI to investigate Biden and the list of Manafort bribes, called the Black Ledger.
Cummins confirmed to TPM Sunday morning that Giuliani’s letter was referring to him.
The meeting proposed by Cummins would have been between Ukraine’s then-prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, and Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman. Lutsenko waged a campaign to push out Marie Yovanovitch, the then-U.S. ambassador in Kyiv, in part by spreading the same allegations that he had sent to Cummins. Lutsenko has emerged as the figure who also channeled dirt to Giuliani as it made its way into the U.S. media ecosystem.
The email proposing the meeting, which Cummins said he sent on Oct. 4, 2018, laid out allegations about Hunter Biden and his work for Burisma, and that the Black Ledger was falsified, Cummins told TPM in a phone interview.
Cummins said that he received the information about Hunter Biden and Manafort from two intermediaries of Lutsenko in September 2018.
“The information I gave to them was a request to meet with Lutsenko,” Cummins said, adding that he had a brief phone call with Berman and sent three follow-up emails after the information was sent.
Speaking over the phone Sunday morning, Cummins expressed to TPM a mixture of dismay that Berman broke off contact and mild embarrassment at having dealt with Ukrainians whose motivations he admitted he did not understand. Cummins added that when he sent the email to Berman he “wasn’t advocating for the legitimacy of any of this.”
“At the time, I didn’t know a whole lot about Ukraine. I didn’t make any real attempt to vet this.” He added “I didn’t care, that wasn’t my job” in a discussion of what may have been motivating Lutsenko.
Lutsenko and a spokesperson for Lutsenko didn’t immediately return requests for comment. Berman’s office declined to comment.
Cummins told TPM that he had tried to signal to Berman that he was not vouching for the credibility of the allegations themselves. He said that he suggested to Berman that Lutsenko could “delegate some investigators to meet with some line [prosecutors] in his office,” referring to Berman.
Cummins called the lack of response from the Manhattan federal prosecutor a “breathtaking double standard,” given how the Mueller investigation “targeted” President Trump.
A former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Cummins was one the federal prosecutors fired by the George W. Bush administration during the U.S. attorneys scandal. A New York Times editorial at the time described Cummins as “one of the most distinguished lawyers in Arkansas” who is “respected by Republicans and Democrats alike.” Cummins was pushed out of office in favor of a deputy to Karl Rove.
In 2016, Cummins served as chair of Donald Trump’s campaign in Arkansas, then as a Trump whip at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. He went on to serve on the Trump administration transition team.
Cummins said that he believed that “mistrust of the FBI” was what led the Ukrainians to seek a back channel to the Justice Department. He said that his Ukrainian interlocutors — who he declined to name — apparently went to him because they believed the “FBI in Ukraine had either wittingly or unwittingly become the pawns of the ambassador and secretary of state and vice president, and they cannot be trusted.”
Cummins declined to say if his actions were related to work for any particular client. Public records show he previously registered as a lobbyist for former Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko.
Cummins likened the request to being approached by a woman who had had her purse stolen in Central Park, and then taking her to a police officer. “I was trying to report a crime,” he said.
Giuliani claimed in his letter to Graham that while Marie Yovanovitch was ambassador to Ukraine, “visas were denied to many who possessed evidence of Democrat, embassy and Biden corruption. Some witnesses went even so far as to hire a lawyer and as far back as October 2018, presented the United States Attorney’s office with their information about Ukrainian falsified information to affect the 2016 election and the exercise of influence by Joe Biden, in exchange for payments to Hunter Biden and Devon Archer. This lawyer was suspiciously never contacted again.”
“Now,” Giuliani continued in his letter to Graham, “he is willing to share with you memoranda and e-mail. I would add that he also is a well respected former United States Attorney.”
Cummins told TPM he spoke to Giuliani by phone in the last few days, and that while he is not prepared to approach Congress on his own he would comply with any subpoena issued by the Senate.