In an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Wednesday night, Rudy Giuliani's associate Lev Parnas said he sought to broker a deal with Ukrainian energy tycoon Dmytro Firtash.
He claimed that he wanted US corruption charges against Firtash dropped in exchange for information that would damage the credibility of the Mueller probe, and help digging up dirt on Joe Biden.
Firtash has been fighting extradition from Austria since March 2014 at the request of US authorities. He has strenuously denied bribery charges that have been filed against him.
He was regarded as a key ally of pro-Russian Ukrainian President Yanukovich before his ouster, and has been accused of links to "top tier" organized crime by prosecutors in the US.
In an explosive interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Wednesday, indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas discussed at length what he says was a previously unknown attempt to secure the help of a Ukrainian oligarch in the hunt for damaging information on top Democrat Joe Biden.
Parnas spelt out an attempt to broker a quid-pro-quo with oligarch Dmytro Firtash, in which he apparently requested that an extradition order for him to return to the US was quashed in return for information that would damage the Mueller probe — and Biden's chances of being elected president in 2020.
"In order for us to be able to receive information from Firtash, we had to promise Firtash something. So for Firtash it was telling him his case was worthless here and that he's being prosecuted for no reason and basically to get taken care of."
He said that he had been informed that Firtash had information indicating that a Mueller investigator was involved in "illegal stuff," and attempted to secure that information. The effort eventually came to nothing.
—Laura Rozen (@lrozen) January 16, 2020
"It was all connected, at the end of the day the agenda was to make sure the Ukrainians announce a Biden investigation."
Firtash has denied helping Parnas, or other Trump allies seeking information that would damage Biden's candidacy ahead of the 2020 elections.
—The Moscow Project (@moscow_project) January 16, 2020
In hand-written notes released by the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday, Parnas described playing a role in Firtash replacing former Clinton adviser Lanny Davis with pro-Trump attorneys Victoria Toensing and Joe DiGenova last July.
Firtash told the New York Times that he replaced his legal team to help his chances of obtaining a meeting with Attorney General William Barr.
In his interview Wednesday, Parnas described Barr as "basically on the team" — or a member of the group of Trump officials enlisted in the shadow Ukraine foreign policy. The Justice Department described the accusation as false in a statement to MSNBC.
Toensing and DiGenoava did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.
Parnas' key link to the White House, Giuliani, also allegedly sought to solicit Firtash's support.
Mark Lennihan/AP; House Intelligence Committee
A photograph obtained from Parnas' legal team and published by The Washington Post shows Parnas, fellow Florida businessman Igor Fruman, and Giuliani in a cigar bar in Paris in May with an associate of Firtash.
According to the report, Giuliani was involved in the bid to broker contact with members of Firtash's circle in several European capitals.
"I never met him"
Giuliani has denied meeting the oligarch.
"I never met him. I never did business with him," he said of Firtash, in a statement to the Post.
He said he had contacted an attorney working for Firtash to establish if he had evidence relevant to his investigation into corruption in Ukraine.
"I asked some questions about him because I thought he might have some relevant information," Giuliani told The Post. "I determined that he didn't."
Who is Dmytro Firtash?
So who is Dmytro Firtash, and why was Parnas — as he claims — sent to enlist him in the shadowy mission in Ukraine that has resulted in Donald Trump becoming only the third president in history to be impeached?
Firtash is one of Ukraine's richest men, and made his fortune in the energy sector, brokering the transfer of Russian gas into Ukraine.
According to analysts, his role working closely with Russia's Kremlin-controlled energy sector would only have been possible with Russian President Vladimir Putin's approval.
A leaked diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks in 2010 quoted Firtash as claiming he got his start in business with the help of notorious Russian mafia kingpin Semion Mogilevich.
"He acknowledged ties to Russian organized crime"
"He acknowledged ties to Russian organized crime figure Seymon Mogilevich, stating he needed Mogilevich's approval to get into business in the first place," the leaked cable said.
US prosecutors have also accused Firtash of mob ties, describing him in a 2017 court filing as an "upper-echelon [associate] of Russian organized crime."
He was widely seen as one of the most powerful backers of Ukraine's pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich, before he was ousted in the Maidan revolution by Ukrainians seeking an end to corruption and foster closer ties to the West.
In 2014, Firtash was arrested in Austria after the FBI filed charges against him, alleging corrupt business practices. Firtash has been fighting extradition ever since.
He has strenuously denied the charges against him, and allegations of links to organized crime.
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