There have been quite a few reports over the last several days about a possible criminal investigation into Donald Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, following the incarceration of the president's first personal attorney, Michael Cohen. As Rachel noted on last night's show, the Wall Street Journal's latest reporting on the scrutiny advances our understanding quite a bit.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are examining Rudy Giuliani's business dealings in Ukraine, including his finances, meetings and work for a city mayor there, according to people familiar with the matter.Investigators also have examined Mr. Giuliani's bank records, according to the people.Witnesses have been questioned about Mr. Giuliani since at least August by investigators, who also want to know more about Mr. Giuliani's role in an alleged conspiracy involving two of his business associates, the people said.
Those two associates, of course, are Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were taken into federal custody last week, following their alleged effort to funnel illegal Russian campaign contributions, which went to officials whose help they sought in removing Marie Yovanovitch from her post as the U.S. ambassador in Ukraine.
As for why prosecutors may be interested in Giuliani's bank records and business dealings in Ukraine, that's where the story gets a little tricky.
The WSJ noted, for example, a 2017 contract between Giuliani's company and the city of Kharkiv, a city in the pro-Russian eastern part of Ukraine. Giuliani's company was hired to "streamline municipal emergency services," and the financing for the contract reportedly came not from the city, but from Pavel Fuks, who'd become wealthy through Russian real estate deals.
The article added, "About a decade earlier, Mr. Fuks had negotiated with Mr. Trump to license the Trump brand for a tower that Mr. Fuks was building, with other partners, in the Russian capital's Moscow City, Mr. Fuks said at the time."
For reasons that aren't altogether clear, this is the same Fuks who paid the city contract for Giuliani's company. (Whether the city of Kharkiv ever received "streamlined municipal emergency services" is unclear.)
It's likely that details like these have contributed to investigators' interest in Giuliani's finances.
On a related note, there are still plenty of questions about the financial ties between Giuliani and the Ukrainian-American businessmen who were arrested last week. Reuters reported overnight on the purported $500,000 Giuliani was paid by Lev Parnas' company (which has an unintentionally funny name):
Giuliani said Parnas' company, Boca Raton-based Fraud Guarantee, whose website says it aims to help clients "reduce and mitigate fraud", engaged Giuliani Partners, a management and security consulting firm, around August 2018. Giuliani said he was hired to consult on Fraud Guarantee's technologies and provide legal advice on regulatory issues.Federal prosecutors are "examining Giuliani's interactions" with Parnas and another Giuliani associate, Igor Fruman, who was also indicted on campaign finance charges, a law enforcement source told Reuters on Sunday.The New York Times reported last week that Parnas had told associates he paid Giuliani hundreds of thousands of dollars for what Giuliani said was business and legal advice. Giuliani said for the first time on Monday that the total amount was $500,000.
Giuliani told Reuters he's confident the half-million dollars he received did not come from "any questionable source," though the Republican lawyer "declined to say whether the money had been paid directly to him by Fraud Guarantee or from another source."
The Daily Beast's Sam Stein, an MSNBC contributor, joked this morning, "If I'm following this correctly, Rudy has spent months arguing that Hunter Biden was paid an absurd amount of money based on political connections and not actual professional skill, all while being paid half a million dollars for his political connections."