Former Rudy Giuliani amigo Lev Parnas may have revealed a staggering scandal on Wednesday, with Ukrainian gas billionaire Dmytro Firtash at the center.
The allegation is this: Trump and his legal team offered to have federal foreign bribery charges against Firtash dropped if the oligarch, described by federal prosecutors as an “upper-echelon” associate of the Russian mafia, helped Trump discredit the Mueller investigation and Joe Biden.
If corroborated, Parnas’ allegations would implicate Attorney General Bill Barr in the scandal in a deeper way than previously known, and would suggest that federal indictments are up for grabs as a bargaining chip for Trump’s political fortunes.
Chicago federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment against Firtash in March 2014, trapping him in Vienna, where he’s fighting an extradition warrant.
Since then, Firtash has waged an elaborate campaign to fight the charges and extradition, hiring a former Austrian minister of justice to represent him in court and, according to Parnas, striking a deal to feed politically useful information to Trump in exchange for having charges against him dropped.
“For Firtash, it was basically telling him that we knew his case was worthless here and that he’s being prosecuted for no reason and that basically it could get taken care of,” Parnas told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Wednesday.
Most of the drama played out last summer, after an Austrian court removed a final hurdle to Firtash’s extradition in June.
After an introduction via Parnas, Firtash hired Joe DiGenova and Victoria Toensing, two pro-Trump TV lawyers.
That agreement came at the price of $100,000 per month, on top of $1 million to finance the group’s activities. Parnas had a cut of $200,000 worked in for himself as an “interpreter.”
In his interview with Maddow, Parnas further drew Giuliani and Barr into the scheme. Both had existed on the periphery of the allegations, serving as potential conduits to Firtash’s goal of having the charges dropped.
But Parnas added new detail, alleging that Giuliani was present throughout and that Barr was on the phone with Firtash’s legal team and planned with them.
Asked about Barr, Parnas told Maddow he “was involved in lots of conversations that Joe DiGenova had with him in front of me, Rudy had with him in front of me, setting up meetings with Dimitry Firtash’s team. I was involved in that.”
Parnas said that the relationship appeared to have begun via The Hill columnist John Solomon, who told Giuliani, Toensing, and DiGenova that he “had some incredible information from the Firtash camp.”
“I think Lanny Davis gave it to him,” Parnas added. Davis told TPM that “Mr. Parnas was wrong.”
Parnas added that the initial information boiled down to an allegation that a Mueller investigation prosecutor, Andrew Weissmann, had offered Firtash a deal “that could blow up this investigation up the kazoo.”
Parnas appears to have been referring to an allegation, peddled by Solomon in July, that Weismann offered exactly the same arrangement in which Parnas claims to have been involved: “Give us some dirt on Donald Trump in the Russia case, and Team Mueller might make his 2014 U.S. criminal charges go away.”
Parnas negotiated with another character in the pressure campaign — former Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin — to have him submit an affidavit to Toensing and DiGenova accusing Joe Biden of corruptly interfering in a Ukrainian government investigation into his son, Hunter, and of corruptly preventing Firtash from returning to Ukraine.
There was no evidence to support Shokin’s assertions. But, they conveniently benefitted Firtash, who would be safe from a U.S. extradition warrant in his home country of Ukraine, and the Trump team, which wanted to see more dirt on Biden.
But in order for Parnas and his cohort to hold up their end of the bargain with Firtash, they would need cooperation from the Justice Department and Attorney General Barr.
Parnas claimed that while he “personally did not speak to him,” he overheard “lots of conversations” between Barr and DiGenova and Giuliani. Those, Parnas said, had to do with “setting up meetings” with Firtash’s team.
Those claims have not been corroborated. The Justice Department issued a statement calling Parnas’s allegations that Barr was involved in the scheme “100% false.”
But DiGenova and Toensing did met with Barr, according to a Washington Post report from October 2019, and asked him to drop the charges.
Barr reportedly “declined to intercede.”
The Justice Department has not denied that aspect of Barr’s involvement.
Firtash remains under the same indictment that was first issued under seal in 2013.