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Guest Editorial: Three Men Hold Key to Impeachment Inquiry

 

TheLiberalOC was offered this opinion piece by Kenneth F. McCallion, a former federal prosecutor and expert in Russian organized crime, racketeering and counterintelligence operations. McCallion has represented former Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and U.S. businesses in Ukraine and in the op-ed below he weighs in on the next steps that should be taken in the impeachment inquiry.

In Trump Impeachment Inquiry, Three Men May Hold The Key to Unlocking The Truth
By: Kenneth F. McCallion 

After watching Robert Mueller’s rather lackluster July 24
performance before the House Judiciary Committee on TV, Trump must have felt
ecstatic that he had somehow survived a two-year investigation by the Special
Counsel’s office relatively unscathed. He had proved again that he was indeed
the indestructible Teflon Don, he
was ready to go on the offensive: first to root
out and pillory the original perpetrators of the “Russia hoax,” and then to
neutralize his most likely 2020 Democratic opponent: Joe
Biden.    

When Trump spoke with Ukranian President Zelensky the following
day, July 25, 2019, Trump was holding all of the cards, and both of them knew
it. Ukraine desperately needed the U.S. military aid that had already been
appropriated by Congress. The anti-tank Javelin missile systems promised to
Ukraine would be the nation’s best defense against further Russian incursions
into the eastern part of Ukraine known as the Donbass, which pose an
existential threat to the survival of Ukraine as a democratic and
Western-leaning bulwark against Russian expansionism. 

As we now know from the whistleblower complaint and other
sources, about one week before the fateful phone call, Trump had placed a hold
on the release of U.S. military assistance until Zelensky agreed to grant Trump
two political favors. The favors had nothing to do with legitimate issues
involving U.S. foreign policy and everything to do with the mutual Trump/Putin
agenda of finally proving that the hoax about alleged Russian interference in
the 2016 presidential election originated in Ukraine. Trump and Putin wanted to
prove that it was all a witch hunt, part of a Clinton/deep state conspiracy to
unfairly tarnish both Trump and Russia. They also wanted to drive a stake
through the heart of Joe Biden’s third presidential bid. 

Just as the hugely successful disinformation campaign against
Hillary Clinton and her democratic “deep-state” colleagues originated in the
troll farms and hacking operations of the GRU and other Russian intelligence
operations, there is a strong likelihood the investigation that Trump and his
political bag-man Rudy Giuliani were so vigorously (and unlawfully) urging the
Ukrainians to purse also originated from Russian intelligence sources operating
in Ukraine. 

The two Soviet-born businessmen and political operatives alluded
to in the whistleblower complaint, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are at the
center of the Trump/Giuliani effort to turn the Ukrainian government into an
appendage to the Trump 2020 campaign. These two relatively obscure South
Florida businessmen were, until recently, in practical financial ruin. But,
after making a $350,000 contribution (of questionable origin) to a Trump Super
Pac, they rose to the highest levels of Republican political circles over the
past two years: featured in photographs with Trump at the White House, visiting
Trump’s Mar-A-Largo, and attending meetings and breakfasts with Don Jr. and
other top-drawer Republican politicians and political operatives. 

A joint investigation by the Organized Crime and Corruption
Reporting Project (OCCRP) and BuzzFeed News details how Parnas and Fruman were
instrumental in recruiting Giuliani and Trump in the campaign – supported by
Russian intelligence operatives and their pro-Russian Ukrainian allies – to
oust the highly accomplished and successful U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie
Yovanovitch, on the grounds that she was disloyal to Trump and was too much of
an anti-Russia hardliner.   

Parnas and Fruman have claimed they were only passing along
information to Giuliani and Trump, but are vague as to the origins of the
information. But with Trump’s poll numbers lagging, he was eager to take the
bait so he could further his narrative around the Russia hoax. Even better:
dragging the Bidens into the mess by pinning the origins of the probe on
Obama-era dealings. Strong arming the Ukraine President into supporting the
Russian/Trump talking point seemed like a low-risk/high-reward gambit,
especially since the transcript of the conversation between the two presidents
would be locked away in a top secret server. Trump could not possibly have
anticipated the highly credible whistleblower complaint that described the July
25 phone call to a tee, or that it would actually find its way to Congress and
the public. 

Trump’s July 25 request for a Ukrainian investigation aimed to
revive the conspiracy theory that the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, while
investigating the DNC’s computer hack, created evidence to frame Russia for the
hacks in order to discredit Trump’s surprise win in 2016. This theory then
morphed into a belief that the DNC server, which had never actually been turned
over to the FBI (only a copy was provided) had been spirited out of the U.S.
and landed in Ukraine, due to the machinations of CrowdStrike co-founder Dmitri
Alperovitch, who is often misidentified as a wealthy Ukrainian oligarch lined
to billionaire George Soros, when in actuality he is a Russian-born U.S.
citizen.  

By directing Ukraine to concoct evidence that the DNC server had
been hidden away in Ukraine by Democratic deep staters, Trump was seeking both
to breathe life into the discredited theory that the “Russia probe” was a hoax
from the get-go, and that Trump’s 2016 election was won fair and square since
he got little or no help from Russia.

Which brings us back to Fruman and Parnas. Although they are
U.S. citizens, they both have deep ties to Russian/Ukrainian organized crime
groups, particularly those located in the Black Sea resort of Odessa, where
organized criminal groups have long dominated the city and surrounding region,
and where Russian intelligence operatives have successfully insinuated themselves
into virtually all aspects of political, financial, and business life. They
were therefore ideally positioned to go between Russian intelligence operations
and Giuliani.

This much is clear: Parnas, Fruman, and Giuliani should all be
subpoenaed to appear before one or more of the relevant congressional
impeachment committees so they can be questioned under oath regarding their
sources for the dangerous nonsense and disinformation that Trump was feeding
Zelensky during the July 25 phone call. If these sources prove to be Russian
intelligence operatives or pro-Russian Ukrainians secretly working to return
Ukraine to the Russian orbit, then this will go a long way in establishing that
Trump, with the willing assistance of Giuliani and others, is once again obediently
following the Russian playbook handed him by Vladimir Putin in the hopes of
pulling off another stunning victory in 2020, no matter what the cost to our
democracy. 

_____________________________________________
Kenneth F. McCallion is a former federal
prosecutor and expert in Russian organized crime, racketeering and
counterintelligence operations. He has represented former Ukraine Prime
Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and U.S. businesses doing business in Ukraine. His
latest book is “Treason & Betrayal:
The Rise and Fall of Individual One”
(Bryant
Park Press 2019).

 

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