I Watched OAN’s Unhinged Ukraine Impeachment Special So You Don’t Have To

MANHATTAN, NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES - 2018/05/23: Donald Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani caught allegedly giving the finger to a crowd booing him - Hundreds of New Yorkers joined members of Rise and Resist to protest Donald Trump's visit to New York City  outside the Lotte New York Palace Hotel, where he's expected to participate in a roundtable on immigration and then attend dinner with supporters. (Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Rudy Giuliani (Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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December 18, 2019 6:01 p.m.
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Right-wing TV channel One America News has released its full, three-part series meant to reveal the “real” Ukraine story, starring Rudy Giuliani and a host of allegedly corrupt Ukrainian officials.

The three-hour-long, often disjointed special aims to debunk the facts behind the impeachment inquiry days before Congress votes on impeachment.

At its core, the series tells a story in which Giuliani has been unfairly smeared for trying to open a good-faith investigation into so-called Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. Along the way, the story goes, Giuliani stumbled upon head-spinning evidence that the Bidens are corrupt.

OAN host Chanel Rion managed to throw in some additional allegations — culled in part from Ukrainian politicians fighting off corruption allegations of their own — that Schiff himself is personally corrupt due to his investments in Franklin Templeton-run mutual funds.

The allegations don’t make sense, and frequently contradict themselves. Watching the series, it becomes clear that OAN failed to do basic research in numerous areas. For example, the documentary ties Ambassador Yovanovitch to the release of the so-called “black ledger,” a purported bribe ledger in Ukraine that named Paul Manafort, even though the document was made public months before she arrived at the post.

And yet, the documentary appears to be a key feature of Giuliani’s — and, by extension, his client, the President’s — ongoing attempt to gather useful political dirt, in spite of the fact that that effort has already led to the third impeachment in U.S. history.

Below are some takeaways from the three-hour long documentary.

Rudy wants to put Biden on trial

Throughout the series, Giuliani repeatedly calls for Joe Biden to be prosecuted, and criticizes the Justice Department for not doing so while imagining what charges he would bring — and how — were he to be in charge of the Biden case.

At one point, Giuliani muses that he could bring a “Hobbes Act extortion case” or a “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act” case against the Democratic frontrunner.

During a conversation with former Ukrainian general prosecutor Viktor Shokin in Kyiv, Giuliani also calls for the release of phone transcripts from conversations that Biden had with former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

“It will be very interesting to see the transcripts,” Giuliani says, after Rion accuses Biden of “illegally influencing” the Poroshenko administration.

The allegations are tailored to counter the impeachment inquiry

The documentary bills itself as an attempt to “destroy Adam Schiff’s baseless impeachment case against President Trump” and “expose Biden family corruption in Ukraine.”

The specific allegations that the series makes about Democrats echo those lobbed at President Trump by Congress.

At one point, Giuliani bemoans Biden’s ability to use his “office for bribery” while saying that the former Vice President appears to be immune from prosecution.

At another point, one-time Ukrainian diplomat Andrii Telizhenko drops the name of the alleged whistleblower whose August 2019 disclosure wound up spurring House Democrats to open an impeachment inquiry, accusing the supposed tipster of being part of an elaborate Obama White House conspiracy to thwart Trump.

But most of all, Giuliani and others use the allegations of corruption against Biden to justify Trump’s effort to withhold congressionally appropriated aid to Ukraine.

Trump, the argument goes, was obligated to “investigate” allegations of corruption, given that, in the documentary’s extended cinematic universe, it was Biden who misused $1 billion in U.S. government funds to extort Ukraine into dropping an investigation of his son.

The Ukrainian elite strikes back

Giuliani and Rion rely almost entirely on Ukrainian sources for their allegations.

They interviewed three Ukrainians in OAN’s D.C. office last month: Telizhenko, former Ukrainian MP and Mueller grand jury witness Andrii Artemenko, and Ukraine election commission chief Mykhaylo Okhendovskyy.

During OAN’s trip to Europe, the network interviewed former Ukraine prosecutors general Yuriy Lutsenko and Shokin, as well as Ukraine MP Andrii Derkach.

All of the Ukrainians interviewed had a grievance. They had lost something as a result of U.S. anti-corruption policy in Ukraine, or had a personal reason to oppose it. Okhendovskyy, for example, was named in the same “black ledger” that led to Paul Manafort’s resignation as campaign manager. Lutsenko and Shokin, by the same token, spent much of their careers as top Ukraine law enforcement officials fending off accusations from the U.S. that they were failing to investigate and prosecute high-level corruption.

Artemenko was stripped of his Ukrainian citizenship and has been unable to return to the country since 2017 after he was found to have delivered a peace plan to the Trump administration that would have seen Ukraine’s then-president removed. Both Telizhenko and Derkach are associated with Ukrainian law enforcement institutions that faced criticism from the same U.S. officials targeted in the documentary.

The OAN series provides a transparently self-serving forum for these aggrieved Ukrainians to make their case, frequently against the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv. Okhendovsky accuses the embassy of fabricating and releasing the “black ledger,” for example, while Lutsenko alleges that the embassy blocked his efforts to fight corruption in the country.

More to come

The final minutes of the documentary are arguably the most intriguing.

Rion tells the viewers that she has received hundreds of pages of documents and “text messages,” which OAN is working through.

She adds that Giuliani was analyzing the information himself before briefing Trump, the Senate, and DOJ on his conclusions.

Giuliani met with Trump on Friday, and reportedly told him the results of his travels. The former NYC mayor is also expected to release a report from the trip.

‘Self-licking ice cream cone’

The documentary is written in a surreal brand of stilted English. Rion comes up with bizarre monikers for different people involved, referring to Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) at one point as an impeachment “stooge,” and former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as a “damsel in distress.”

It only gets odder. Rion describes the tangled web of Ukrainian politics at one point as “transmogrifying into a self-licking ice cream cone,” and refers to House Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry as “gender-bent radicals.”

Giuliani, in Rion’s words, was smeared as a “tin-foiled mad hatter” for his role in propagating conspiracy theories involving Ukraine.

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