In March 2019, Rudy Giuliani’s associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, along with Harry Sargaent III, approached Andrew Favorov, a senior executive at Ukrainian state gas company Naftogaz, with a plan to have him replace Naftogaz’s chief executive officer Andriy Kobolyev, according to the Associated Press. Parnas and Fruman reportedly told Favarov that they wanted to partner with him in a new venture exporting liquefied gas into Ukraine. Sargaent reportedly told Favorov that President Trump, whom he claimed to have met at Mar-a-Lago, fully supported the gas-sales plan.
Giuliani’s Associates “Shakedown” Energy Company Executive
Favorov recounted details of the meeting with Parnas, Fruman and Sargaent to two individuals who spoke to the Associated Press, including Dale W. Perry, an American managing partner at Energy Resources of Ukraine. Perry told the Associated Press that Favorov perceived the interaction as a shakedown. Favorov also told Mr. Perry and the other individual that Parnas told him Trump planned on replacing then-U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch with someone open to aiding their business interests.
Perry told the Associated Press he was so concerned about what he heard from Favorov that he told State Department official Suriya Jayanti about it and separately gave a detailed memo to another unnamed State Department official at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.
CREW requested copies of communications from the State Department related to Parnas, Fruman, Sargaent, Naftogaz, and the removal of Yovanovitch from her position. CREW also requested copies of Perry’s communications with Jayanti and the memo he provided to the State Department.
The requested records would shed light on how the State Department responded to information it received concerning an alleged effort by American businessmen to shake up the management of Ukraine’s state gas company and that the U.S. Ambassador would be replaced with someone “more open to aiding their business interests.”
Energy Secretary Perry Gets Involved
When Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko lost his reelection bid to Volodymyr Zelensky, the businessmen’s plan had a problem. But efforts to install a “friendlier” management team at Naftogaz continued as Energy Secretary Rick Perry made clear during meetings with Ukrainian officials, including President Zelensky, that he wanted members of the gas company’s supervisory board replaced. According to the Associated Press, one of Secretary Perry’s candidates for the board included one of Secretary Perry’s past political donors. It is unclear if Secretary Perry’s advocacy for the replacement of Naftogaz board members was related to the plans promoted by the three businessmen. Giuliani refused to discuss with the Associated Press whether he helped his associates as they sought business with Naftogaz. When asked by Politico if he knew about Secretary Perry’s push for changes to the Naftogaz board, Giuliani said, “I may or may not know anything about it.” Secretary Perry has acknowledged speaking to Giuliani about Ukraine.
CREW requested records on communications from the Energy Department between Secretary Perry, Giuliani, Parnas, and Fruman.
The requested records might clarify what role Giuliani, who is not an employee of the U.S. government, played in Secretary Perry’s interactions with the government of Ukraine and may have had in influencing American policy in Ukraine. The requested records would also clarify whether Secretary Perry’s reported efforts to prod changes to the Naftogaz board have any relation to Giuliani’s associates’ efforts to make changes at the company for their own business interests.
“Disloyal” Ambassador Yovanovitch is Removed
In May 2018, Parnas and Fruman committed to raise $20,000 for then-Rep. Pete Sessions and Parnas met with him, where he told the congressman that Yovanovitch was “disloyal” to Trump. On the same day that Parnas posted a photo on Facebook about his meeting with the congressman, Sessions sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recommending he consider firing Yovanovich. A year later, Yovanovich was prematurely removed from her post.
CREW requested records of Pompeo and Sessions’ correspondence regarding Yovanovich, as well as other letters related to her that Pompeo has reportedly received.
The requested records would shed light on how Pompeo and the State Department responded to concerns about a “concerted campaign” against an ambassador who was recalled early from her position despite being informed that she “had done nothing wrong.” The requested records also would provide insight into how Pompeo responded to congressional requests to “personally defend” a diplomat who was the target of “outrageous efforts” to “impugn” her.
Giuliani’s Associates Arrested for Campaign Finance Crimes
On October 10, Parnas and Fruman were arrested for campaign finance crimes, which apparently were carried out, at least in part, for “their own personal financial interests and the political interests of Ukrainian government officials, including at least one Ukrainian government official with whom they were working.” The indictment specifically mentions Parnas’s efforts to remove or recall Yovanovich, which also was conducted partially “at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials.”
According to the Tampa Bay Times, among those receiving donations from Parnas and Fruman was Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The day before DeSantis endorsed Trump, the governor received $50,000 from the businessmen. DeSantis has since returned the donation, following the investigation into Ukraine. News reports show video and photo evidence of him hugging the men.
CREW requested communications from DeSantis’s office between DeSantis and the two businessmen. These communications could shed light on the extent of Parnas and Fruman’s interference in U.S. elections and explain the relationship between DeSantis and the businessmen.